Muslims Who Fought Against the ‘Real’ Fascists & Nazis
by Sheila Musaji
With the recent increase in the use of the misleading term Islamic Fascists it is important to point out a few facts. There may have been a few Muslims who cooperated with the Nazis/Fascists during the Second World War, but they were a small minority. Most Muslims followed the Qur’anic injunction:
“Oh you who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor; for God can best protect both. Do not follow any passion, lest you not be just. And if you distort or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (Quran 4:135).
As Mas’ood Cajee points out
A growing chorus of voices which exploits the Holocaust for political gain has been trying to smear Muslims — and Arabs in particular — with grand accusations of complicity in the Holocaust and support for the Nazis. These voices serve hawkish interests in Israel and the United States who wish to justify and legitimize continued war, violence, and yes — even genocide — against Muslims and Arabs. Identifying Muslims with and as Nazis eases the task of selling continued bloodshed to war-weary publics. Reading the books and op-eds of the smearers, one could almost conclude absurdly that the Nazi holocaust was an Arab Muslim and not a European Christian project. As evidence, the smearers usually trot out the pro-German Mufti of Jerusalem Amin Al-Husayni and the Bosnian Muslim SS “Handschar” division.
What these smearing Islamophobes don’t like to tell you: the “Mufti” was actually an appointee of the Jewish administrator of British Palestine who completed one measly year at Al-Azhar and betrayed the Ottoman Sultan to join the British. The much-vaunted “Hanschar” SS division — disbanded after a few months due to mass desertions — was the only SS division ever to mutiny.
There is a photo below of Bosnian Muslim anti-Fascist fighters.
Here is a photo of Hitler conversing with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo. Source
As I said in an article about the current common usage of the term “Islamic Fascists” - Islamic Fascists? Deceptive Labels & Propaganda are Counterproductive
In just the past few months there has been a rash of articles and blog entries that bring up and expand upon the sad fact that Amin el-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem collaborated with Hitler during WWII. This comes at the same time as President Bush’s use of the term Islamic Fascists appearing to validate a term used over the last few years among those determined to provoke a clash of civilizations. Whether the sudden proliferation in the use of this term (or its’ variants - Islamo-Nazi, Islamo-Fascist, etc.) and the articles attempting to find some connection with Islam and the Nazis and Fascists is simply a case of extremists feeding off of each other in our world of almost instantaneous communication, or is due to a calculated campaign is debatable, but the end result is an increase in Islamophobia and mutual distrust. Such stereotyping all too often leads to a dehumanization of the “other” and has historically been the precursor to isolation, discrimination, and violence. Such descriptions also blur distinctions and create an atmosphere in which the “enemy” becomes most or all Muslims.
Robert Duncan’s article “Islamic terrorism linked to Nazi fascists” on Renew America uses the Mufti/Hitler photo as justification for President Bush’s use of the term Islamic Fascists. Others who have jumped on this bandwagon are Jonah Goldberg in “The Swastica and the Scimitar”, Gene Pinkam, Alan Dershowitz, Timothy Furnish (who is opposed to the use of the term, but whose ‘reasons’ for that opposition still play into the same mindset, Daniel Johnson, etc. Little Green Footballs showed archival footage of Hitler and the Mufti, a number of blogs are referring to a photo of Hitler together with the Grand Mufti, and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross even stretches the Mufti’s aberrational behavior to include a generalized “Muslim World’s sympathy with the axis alliance”. And, the propoganda film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” is being shown across the U.S. and Canada and attempts to make this same connection.
Robert Spencer said “The misbegotten term “Islamo-fascism” is wholly redundant: Islam itself is a kind of fascism that achieves its full and proper form only when it assumes the powers of the state.” Spencer also said “The term “Islamo-Fascists” no more blames the religion of Islam than the term “Italian Fascism” blames Italy for fascism. It merely refers to those Muslims—who obviously really exist—who invoke Islam to justify violence and supremacism, whether they are invoking Islamic doctrines correctly or not.”
In fact, Spencer, and his partner Pamela Geller use the term “fascists” and “brownshirts” and “nazis” so often in relation to Muslims that it is for them commonplace. Another associate of Spencer and Geller in the Islamophobia industry, David Horowitz, even holds an annual “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” on college campuses.
This is a pointless attempt at justifying stereotyping and Islamophobia. Certainly there were some Muslims who were Nazis or Fascists, but they were a small minority compared to all of those who fought against the Nazis and the Fascists.
... The actual Nazi party originated in Germany, a predominantly Christian country. The actual Facists came out of Italy, another predominantly Christian country. The Nazis and Fascists were predominantly Christians. Christianity had a role in the rise and fall of the Nazi’s. The Vatican signed a concordat with Hitler’s Reich. The Catholic responses to Hitler were ambiguous at least. There are numerous photographs of Hitler with various Christian clergy including Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, the papal nuncio in Berlin, and with a Catholic Cardinal, Spanish and German Bishops giving Nazi and Fascist salutes, Cardinal Michael Faulhaber marching in a Nazi parade, the Reich Bishop Ludwig Muller, and many more that are still available. There are also numerous photographs of Christian symbols in Nazi artifacts. And, photographs of Nazi soldiers praying in churches. (One such photo at bottom of this page)
Hitler himself referred to Christianity as a foundation for his beliefs: “The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.” Source: My New World Order, Proclamation to the German Nation at Berlin, February 1, 1933
The Christian connection with the Nazis and Fascists was widespread and well-documented. The Muslim connection was minimal. And, just as there were Christians who resisted and fought against the Nazi and Fascist regimes there were also many Muslims who fought against this evil worldview.
The holocaust was a terrible stain on humanity, and there were villains and heroes everywhere. The Mufti of Jerusalem was one of the villains and will have to answer to God for his crimes.
The bottom line is that all of those who participate in, cooperate with, or do not speak out against evil (no matter what their religion) bring shame on the human race, and all of those who stand for justice and compassion give us all hope.
All too often the Muslim and Arab soldiers who fought with the Allies are the forgotten heroes. In the U.S. alone, over 15,000 Arab Americans served in WWII. You can see some photographs of Muslim soldiers buried in military cemeteries in Europe here. And, there are crescents among the crosses at Arlington military cemetery. In the French Military Cemetery in Rome, Italy, there are 1,888 burials. It is a modest cemetery for 1,700 French Expeditotionary Corps soldiers, mainly Moroccans and Algerians. The cemetery is at the end of a small road, Via dei Casali di S. Spirito. Most of the grave markers bear a Muslim crescent while some have crosses. All, however, bear the inscription “Mort pour la France”.
Arabs and Jews once fought together under the British Flag against the Nazis in the Palestine Regiment. Robert Fisk wrote about the Arabs in the Palestine regiment in an article that opens with this statement: No one remembers the Palestine Regiment. Even this morning, on the actual day of remembrance, few will recall that Arab and Jew once fought together under the British flag against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Even fewer will know the extraordinary story of an Arab and a Jew who fought side by side against Hitler, and then twice fought each other as enemy combatants - in 1948 and 1967 - and of how, in their declining years, they became friends. But in a Middle East in which “hawks” and “doves” and “terrorists” and “security forces” battle to the death, their story provides an extraordinary - and shaming - indictment of both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat. He also writes about other Arab and Muslim soldiers who fought for Britain in battles like El Alamein. There was also an Arab Legion from what was then called Trans-Jordan. In May 1941, the Arab Legion Mechanized Regiment participated against pro-Nazi Rashid Ali who had seized power in Iraq and was attacking British forces located there.
There were many Muslim Merchant Seamen in WWII. In fact, War History reports “If we look at just the ships sunk by U-boats in WW2, we see that over 3,300 Indian crewmembers died in these attacks, of which the overwhelming majority were Muslim.”
Inayat Bunglawala reports in Honor our Muslim soldiers “Inscribed in marble at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium, are the names of 54,896 soldiers of Britain and the Commonwealth who died in the Ypres Salient in the first world war and whose graves are unknown. The German army had surrounded Ypres on three sides and subjected it to bombardment throughout much of the war as it stood in the path of its plans to occupy the rest of Belgium. Among the dead recorded at the Menin Gate Memorial are Muhammad Aslam, Abdullah Khan, Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Usman and many others with recognisably Muslim names.”
The majority of Allied troops that landed on the beaches of Provence in August, 1944 were “Free French” Muslims from North and West Africa. Thousands of Moroccan and Indian Muslim troops voluntarily served in the liberation of Italy. They risked and gave their lives along with Polish freedom fighters and American GIs at Monte Cassino. Tens of thousands more Soviet Muslim troops bravely served at hellish Stalingrad and Leningrad. All of us should honor and be thankful for their sacrifice in helping end the scourge of Nazism.
Noor Inayat Khan fought against the Nazis and was killed at Dachau concentration camp. See Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, d. Dachow, Poland, 1944 In 2012 she was honored by Britain with a bronze bust memorializing her heroism. Her photo is at the top of this page. The photo below is from Chez Chiara
The stories of Muslim rescuers of Jews are largely unknown and unpublished. Only in the past fifteen years have Holocaust researchers brought a few to the public’s attention. Yad Vashem and other Holocaust memorial groups have honored several Muslims (whose courageous stories we have been able to confirm) as Righteous Gentiles. 70 Muslims are named by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations” for aiding Jews in North Africa, Turkey and Albania during the Nazi era.
Bulgarian Christians and Muslims protected Jews from the Nazis.
Albania was the only Muslim majority country in Europe. Albania not only saved Albanian Jews from the Nazis, but, in fact, Albania was the only country in Europe that had a larger Jewish population at the end of the war than before the war. Not one Albanian Jew or any other Jew who came to Albania for protection was turned over to the Nazis. There was a film called “The Optimists” which tells the virtually unknown story of how 50,000 Jews living in Bulgaria survived the Holocaust despite intensive Nazi efforts to deport them to death camps. Fifty thousand Jews didn’t die because Bulgarian Christians and Muslims found ways to protect Jews from their would-be murderers. - - The Albanian Refik Vesili who — as a 16-year-old — saved eight Jews by hiding them in his family’s mountain home. - The English-Albanian plaque in the Jewish Corner of Tirana’s National Museum lists the names of 33 Muslim Albanians who have been honored by Yad Vashem, and leaves space for other people “whose names remain unrecorded.”
The New Jew site notes “What made the Albanians refuse to comply with the Nazis when almost everyone else did? Their strong Muslim beliefs. Here is one man’s explanation: “Why did my father save a stranger at the risk of his life and the entire village?” asked Enver Alia Sheqer, son of Righteous Among the Nations Ali Sheqer Pashkaj, who is featured in the exhibition. “My father was a devout Muslim. He believed that to save one life is to enter paradise.”
300,000 Moroccan Jews in Israel mourned the death of King Hassan of Morocco in 1999.
His father, Mohammed V, is widely credited with having saved Morocco’s Jews from deportation during World War II, and Hassan continued the philo-Semitic policies of his father. Although there was an outbreak of anti-Jewish incidents following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish community was generally safe under the protection of both Mohammed and Hassan, who proudly considered the Jews “Moroccans of Jewish origin.
The sons of World War II Jewish communal leaders, related stories of regional governors in Morocco who gave Jewish leaders matches and told them to burn the list of the names, addresses and assets of local Jews. Without lists, it was more difficult to deport the Jews and confiscate their assets.
Robert Satloff reported in a NYT article that ”Arabs welcomed Jews into their homes, guarded Jews’ valuables so Germans could not confiscate them, shared with Jews their meager rations and warned Jewish leaders of coming SS raids. The sultan of Morocco and the bey of Tunis provided moral support and, at times, practical help to Jewish subjects. In Vichy-controlled Algiers, mosque preachers gave Friday sermons forbidding believers from serving as conservators of confiscated Jewish property. In the words of Yaacov Zrivy, from a small town near Sfax, Tunisia, “The Arabs watched over the Jews.” I found remarkable stories of rescue, too. In the rolling hills west of Tunis, 60 Jewish internees escaped from an Axis labor camp and banged on the farm door of a man named Si Ali Sakkat, who courageously hid them until liberation by the Allies. In the Tunisian coastal town of Mahdia, a dashing local notable named Khaled Abdelwahhab scooped up several families in the middle of the night and whisked them to his countryside estate to protect one of the women from the predations of a German officer bent on rape.” He also tells the story of Yehuda Chachmon, a Libyan Jew interned in an Italian camp in Giado. “The Arab camp guards opted out of the sadistic torture inflicted on Jews and other prisoners by the Italians. Of the 2,600 Jews in the Giado camp 562 died in less than a year. The Italian guards treated the Jews with brutality; the attitude of the Arab guards under the Italians was excellent. They even found secret ways to ease our discomfort.”
The Tunisian Khaled Abdul-Wahab was nominated as the first Arab to be declared a Righteous among the Nations at the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem. But his efforts were rejected two years later on the grounds that Abdul-Wahab did not risk his life, as he did not act against Tunisian law while caring for two Jewish families when their house was confiscated during the German occupation. Whether or not he should be included is still in dispute. Also in Tunisia, in Tunisia, the wartime rulers Ahmed Pasha Bey and his cousin Moncef Bey offered vital public support for Jews facing Vichy persecution. “They regularly warned Jewish leaders of German plans, helped Jews avoid arrest orders, intervened to prevent deportations, and even hid Jews so they could evade the Germans. Moncef Bey is remembered fondly by Tunisian Jews. “He gave the Jews equal treatment,” declared Shlomo Barad. “He did not allow them to be discriminated.”
- The Bosnians - Not only did Dervis and Servet Korkut hide many Jews from the local pro-Nazi regime, including a young Jewish woman resistance fighter named Mira Bakovic, but Dervis Korkut saved the precious Sarajevo Haggadah, concealing it in his home and thus keeping the 14th-century volume, the best known illuminated Hebrew manuscript, intact.
Selahattin Ulkumen, the Turkish Consul at Rhodes, whose rescue of several dozen Jews from certain extermination at Auschwitz led to the death of his wife Mihrinissa when the Nazis retaliated against him. One example is that of Bernard Turiel was born in 1934 in Rhodes, an island off the coast of Turkey. Turiel, his father and his brother were in prison, awaiting transport to Auschwitz. They were saved by the courageous efforts of Selahattin Ulkumen, a Muslim, who insisted that due to the treaty between Germany and Turkey, Turkish citizens, including Jews, could not be deported. If not for the heroic measures of the Turks, none of this would have been possible. ”They were our saviors,” Turiel said. They met again in 1988, when the Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai Brith presented Ulkumen it’s ”Courage to Care” award.”
Stanford Shaw, professor of Turkish History at UCLA, has written about the thousands of Jews saved by the Turkish government. “Turkish diplomats in France spent a good deal of time organizing ‘train caravans’ to take Turkish Jews back to Turkey… In addition to providing material assistance to Turkish Jews persecuted in France and other countries occupied by the Nazis in Western Europe, Turkey also helped East European Jews persecuted in countries such as Greece, Lithuania, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Right from the start of the war, the Turkish government permitted the Jewish Agency to maintain rescue offices at hotels in Istanbul.”
Republican Turkey due to its neutrality during most of World War II, and its unique geographical proximity to both Europe and the Middle East, Turkey and Turkish diplomats living abroad played an important role for European Jews in danger during World War II and the Holocaust, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Muslim-majority Turkey rescued over 15,000 Turkish Jews and over 100,000 European Jews.
In France, the Central Mosque of Paris served as a shelter for hundreds of French Jewish children being rescued from deportation to death camps. This mosque was built in the 1920s, as an expression of gratitude from France for the over half-million Muslims from its African possessions who fought alongside the French in WWI. About 100,000 of them died in the trenches. A film has been made about the WWII Muslim rescuers called Their Children Are Like Our Own Children. Another film “Free Man”, traces the heroism of the founder of the Grand Mosque of Paris in saving Jews from the Nazis. It tells the story of Algerian-born Kaddour Benghabrit who rescued Jews in France from the Nazi brutality. Benghabrit provided shelter and Muslim identification documents to scores of Jews to help them escape arrest by Nazi troops. He also used the Grand Mosque of Paris to shelter more than 100 Jews from persecution. (Photo from Islamophobia Today)
Also in Paris, thousands of Iranian Jews and their descendants were saved by an Iranian Muslim diplomat called the Muslim Schindler. A new book. “In The Lion’s Shadow” tells how Abdol-Hossein Sardari risked everything to help fellow Iranians who were Jewish escape the Nazis. Sardari used his influence and German contacts to gain exemptions from Nazi race laws for more than 2,000 Iranian Jews, and possibly others, arguing that they did not have blood ties to European Jewry. He was also able to help many Iranians, including members of Jewish community, return to Tehran by issuing them with the new-style Iranian passports they needed to travel across Europe.