October 01, 2005
Irshad Manji Left Guilt and Likoudnik Agitprop
Although this is an immensely tardy comment, I must thank eerie for the reference to The Globe & Mail letter from Tarek Fateh, which drew my attention to Irshad Manj's odd statement or claim regarding Muslim guilt in regards to the Holocaust. I confess I know Irshad (a fine name I may add) only by the few articles on her book & her articles and interviews. Rather simply, her book isn't available to me in this non-anglo environment.
This aside, I found her assertion of Muslim guilt in re the Holocaust bizarre. Factualy it is - well - a surreal stretch. Let me preface this by noting that one can fairly accuse the Islamic world pre-Israel and after of a number of sins against its Jewish minority, some worse than others and sometimes quite as awful as what Europe pre-Holocaust managed to effect. However, real complicity in the Holocaust proper is not one of them.
I note rather simply that in the only Arabo-Muslim lands (I acknowledge being ignorant of the Balkan situ, but in any case it would seem to me that the Muslim Bosniacs were distant second fiddles to the Croats & Serbs) under Nazi control North Africa, Muslim authorities refused to collaborate with Vichy French authorities attempts to round up and deport Jews to the Nazis (although Tunisia under direct Nazi occupation apparently managed to send some native Jews with French collaboration). Most famous of course was the Moroccan Sultan's principled stand as "Amir al-Mouminine" - Commander of the Faithful - against Vichy, saving in a very literal sense one of the region's largest Jewish communities. (Of course one has to admit that Morocco is one of those odd places where locals embrace "their Jews" (although imperfectly with a combined generic anti-jewish sentiment leading to a peculiar pride in local "arabo-berber" jews loyal to the nation - Morocco being the only nation I have been where I have heard locals claim Arabic speaking Jews as Arabs - I recall a convo where I commented on an Israeli -with a Yemani accent- being interviewed in Arabic on an ArabSat, saying that that Israeli spoke quite good Arabic; the response was without hesitation 'of course, he's an Arab.' ) and are genuinely angry if anyone attacks them - the 2003 bombings produced very real revulsion for the idea a fairly widely cherished social peace).
It is no accident that there are so many North African Jews in Israel and elsewhere, it is because when the chips were down they were protected from the Nazis. Looking to Europe - even indirectly occupied Europe - one does not find too many enlightening stories likes this, although one can easily exaggerate for there is also a dark history of popular violence in the urban areas.
None of this excuses the idiocies that most of the Arab & related world (although again far less so in North Africa) inflicted on its Jewish minority, nor to deny that even in North Africa there was discrimination, outbreaks of mob violence although nothing like Russian pogroms. However, discrimination is not genocide. Let us say that again: discrimination is not genocide and operationaly even the dhimma was liberal relative to European attitudes to religious minorities until the late 19th century.
Further, one has to note the actual behaviour under pressure. I ask myself, would we in the Anglo Saxon world have had the character, given contemporaneosly equivalent prejudices, to stand up to an occupier - leaving aside the the double issue of the double occupation - although I think the question of the dynamic of colonial occupation explains much about what actually ocurred. Little sign of support for the Nazis where Nazi control via Vichy was effective, some signs of collaborationism where Allied rule made "enemy of my enemy" politics attractive.
There appears to be two unattractive streams of politics ongoing at present to rather illogically tie the Islamic world to the Nazis (as opposed to treating that world's real and proper sins). The first, a largely Left as I read it in Manji's statement, is a juvenile desire to connect to "the biggest" sins. Seems typically Left-North American to me, bloody overly confessional "I'm dysfunctional too" ism. Something I personally detest.
The second seems rather darker to me, and derives from a hard-line "likoudnik" type Israeli driven narrative to connect present enemies (Arab-Islamic world in the hardest views) with The Great Enemy (Nazis) in a seamless whole of united evil for the dual purpose of having a motivating nationalist narrative to override opposition and simultaneously deeply discredit their opponents (i.e. The Islamic World).
The absurd assertion that the Ikhouane - Muslim Brothers were a wing of the Nazi party and the blowing up of the meaning and role of the Mufti of Jerusalem, and bizarre assertions that Muslims carry a complicity in the Holocaust (simply not their sin, they have others) all flow into a narrative of agitprop intended to confuse Muslim-Jewish history & relations for the more familiar Xian - Jewish ones.
I would also suppose it makes selling the enemy easier if put in a ready made bad guy mold. Rather like the idiotic phrase, Islamo-Fascist (wierdly popular in the American Right - makes me think it has a similar origin), a phrase detestable for its stupidity and lack of analytical content.
As in the case of the contemptible idiot of a Larouche citer Pundita, users of these phrases and absolute distortions have a particular political agenda, and these distortive usages help sell the product.
All well and fine in the context of poiitics, but unfactual and sadly obscuring. To take an example, Euro style anti-Jewish libels - Elder Protocols of Zion type things. These libels -as Bernard Lewis documents- were unknown until the modern era in the Middle East-North Africa region, race libel against Jews having no sense in classical Islamic thought.
Probably the first step towards opening the door to this particular thought was ironically Colonial rule itself, and certainly colonial era "divide & conquer" helped, but that is perhaps another subject.
Regardless, the main point here is that Islamo-Jewish history, until Israel and colonial rule, had rather little to do with Europe except as receiving point for refugees expelled from Europe (one might write an interesting alternative history of the 1940s with an Ottoman regime rather than a colonial one - although the assumptions would be complex). One will not understand real issues through false, propagandistic connexions.
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Because there is no uniform Islamic collective, activities of Muslims and Muslim and Arab communities in the 1940s varied. From the Moroccan Sultan's legendary self-placing of the yellow star to the Mufti's active Nazi collaboration, the record is as miexd as any other. Though I do note that Europe's most Islamic society, Albania, protected Jews and harbored them to a high degree.
Most of it is agitprop, and Irshad Manji is just an habitual thoughtless Muslim-basher.
Posted by: matthew hogan at October 1, 2005 04:41 PM
Found this out today: her book is available in Arabic on her website, a free download.
Posted by: eerie at October 1, 2005 10:07 PM
pardon my ignorance, but did Jews flee from Spain to North Africa during the Inquisition?
Posted by: praktike at October 2, 2005 06:43 PM
regarding muslims and the holocaust .....The Mufto of Jerusalem Husseini, an relative of Yasser Arafat was a frequent and honored guest of Adolph Hitler in Germany.The Mufti Added hius effort to Hitlers plans by declaring A Jihad against the jews as a parrallel effort to hitlers plans.
Posted by: joel shoot at June 9, 2006 01:56 AM
Praktike: Look here.
Posted by: dubaiwalla at June 9, 2006 05:18 AM
hajj amin al-husseini went to berlin & visited hitler once. his ideas to get german support against the british forces in mandate palestine did not lead to anything. that he may have been a distant relative to yasir arafat doesn't really mean shit unless you hold family members responsible for each other's actions. i'd be careful - who knows what reprehensible monsters YOU are related to.
on the OTHER hand ... morocco (under vichy rule from 1940-44) refused to participate in the nazi exterminate-the-jews scheme even though vichy france participated rather happily. the iranian ambassador to vichy france gave 500 french jews iranian passports and thus saved them from the nazis.
joel, i'm very sorry to tell you that life ain't black/white. and btw, next time do some better research before you come here sprouting 9th-rate propaganda.
Posted by: raf* at June 9, 2006 05:41 AM
Albanians, majority Muslim, sheltered escaping Jews in numbers disproportionate to other occupied populations.
Posted by: matthew hogan at June 9, 2006 07:25 AM
Interesting, L, thanks. The Islamofascist label was actually coined by Christopher Hitchens, I believe.
Posted by: SP at June 9, 2006 07:58 AM
Strange how the inflating of minor dealings between muslims and the Nazis is presented as scholarship but the overwhelming collaboration of Russian jews with Bolshevik terror is called anti-semitic when it's discussed.
Political correctness is either a good thing or it isn't.
Posted by: Shamil at June 9, 2006 07:58 AM
It is welcome to see some thoughtful commentary (it is nice to see some thought, period); much too often we encounter blind rhetoric with any semblance of reason entirely coincidental.
As far as Irshad Manji (and Tarek Fateh, as well),it is exceedingly rare to see any bit of self-criticism in the Islamic world (and takes a good deal of courage) so I, for one, can forgive any over-enthusiasm in that regard, as we need many more people like them.
The important point regarding islamic-nazi collaboration is to counteract the ridiculous claims made so often by muslim propagandists that islamic societies always treated their jewish (and other non-muslim) populations with perfect fairness.
As you point out, they were sometimes treated better, sometimes worse, but overall we must admit that they were generally treated as usually only a "tolerated" minority.
Did Europeans (or Americans) treat them any better?
Of course not; in fact sometimes it was far worse.
During the nazi regime, certainly the "collaboration" amongst catholics (and other christians) was a great deal more insidious.
But we must get beyond excusing our own behaviour by saying that others are just as bad, or that we were driven to our transgressions by the "provocation" of others (e.g. zidane).
We must take responsibility for our own actions.
Only thus can our principles have any meaning.
Posted by: hafeez mohammad at July 27, 2006 08:03 PM