Part 5:

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Nazi Brethren…

History is written by the victors…incomplete history. At least, that’s the case with the history of what happened to the losers of WWII. We like to hear about how the Allies fought the Nazis during WWII, but we don’t seem to have much interest in how the Allies fought over the Nazis after WWII. That’s too bad, since it’s that aspect of the Cold War that reveals so much about the nature of the strange far-right/Islamist alliance in the world face today and how their value to Soviet and Western intelligence agencies shaped both the covert actions of the Cold War and modern terrorism. Much of this old history has been only recently revealed, like the history how the Muslim Brotherhood overtook a Mosque for ex-Nazis and, in turn, built the foundations for Islamists in Europe today. So let’s take a look at an excellent 2005 Wall Street Journal article, “The Beachhead: How a Mosque for Ex-Nazis Became a Center of Radical Islam”:

A mosque for ex-Nazis became center of radical Islam

Second in a series

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

By Ian Johnson, The Wall Street Journal

MUNICH, Germany -- North of this prosperous city of engineers and auto makers is an elegant mosque with a slender minaret and a turquoise dome. A stand of pines shields it from a busy street. In a country of more than three million Muslims, it looks unremarkable, another place of prayer for Europe's fastest-growing religion.

The mosque's history, however, tells a more-tumultuous story. Buried in government and private archives are hundreds of documents that trace the battle to control the Islamic Center of Munich. Never before made public, the material shows how radical Islam established one of its first and most important beachheads in the West when a group of ex-Nazi soldiers decided to build a mosque.

The soldiers' presence in Munich was part of a nearly forgotten subplot to World War II: the decision by tens of thousands of Muslims in the Soviet Red Army to switch sides and fight for Hitler. After the war, thousands sought refuge in West Germany, building one of the largest Muslim communities in 1950s Europe. When the Cold War heated up, they were a coveted prize for their language skills and contacts back in the Soviet Union. For more than a decade, U.S., West German, Soviet and British intelligence agencies vied for control of them in the new battle of democracy versus communism.

These new documents about the East-West competition over Nazis assets aren’t limited to Muslim Nazis. Nor are they limited to the US government dealings with Nazis. Sometimes it was simply prominent US citizens.


Yet the victor wasn't any of these Cold War combatants. Instead, it was a movement with an equally powerful ideology: the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in 1920s Egypt as a social-reform movement, the Brotherhood became the fountainhead of political Islam, which calls for the Muslim religion to dominate all aspects of life. A powerful force for political change throughout the Muslim world, the Brotherhood also inspired some of the deadliest terrorist movements of the past quarter century, including Hamas and al Qaeda.

The story of how the Brotherhood exported its creed to the heart of Europe highlights a recurring error by Western democracies. For decades, countries have tried to cut deals with political Islam -- backing it in order to defeat another enemy, especially communism. Most famously, the U.S. and its allies built up mujahadeen holy warriors in 1980s Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union -- paving the way for the rise of Osama bin Laden, who quickly turned on his U.S. allies in the 1990s.

Munich was a momentous early example of this dubious strategy. Documents and interviews show how the Muslim Brotherhood formed a working arrangement with U.S. intelligence organizations, outmaneuvering German agencies for control of the former Nazi soldiers and their mosque. But the U.S. lost its hold on the movement, and in short order conservative, arch-Catholic Bavaria had become host to a center of radical Islam.

"If you want to understand the structure of political Islam, you have to look at what happened in Munich," says Stefan Meining, a Munich-based historian who is studying the Islamic center. "Munich is the origin of a network that now reaches around the world."

Political and social groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood now dominate organized Islamic life across a broad swath of Western Europe. These connections are frequently little known, even by the intelligence services and police agencies of these countries.

While these groups renounce terrorism and officially advocate assimilation, the upshot of their message is that Europe's Muslims -- now representing between 5% and 10% of the continent's population -- need to be walled off from Western culture. This in turn has helped create fertile ground for violent ideas. Islamic terrorists have increasingly used Europe as a launching pad for their attacks, from the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. to last year's bombing of trains in Madrid.

These current tensions are embedded in the events of half a century ago. Postwar Munich was a ruined city packed with Muslim emigres fleeing persecution. While the West tried to observe and control them as valuable pawns in the Cold War, they encountered formidable rivals seeking their own power bases in Europe's burgeoning Muslim world.

Over the next few decades, four men would try successively to control the Munich mosque: a brilliant professor of Turkic studies, an imam in Hitler's SS, a charismatic Muslim writer with a world-wide following and a hard-nosed Muslim financier now under investigation for backing terrorism. Most favored some sort of accommodation with the West. But the victor had a bolder vision: a global Islam opposed to the ideals of secular democracy.

That “victor” over the battle for the Munich mosque is the Muslim Brotherhood, whose global vision of Islam “opposes the ideals of secular democracy”. Perhaps this gives us a better sense of just how “progressive” the Muslim Brotherhood is in the United States.


The Scholar

Gerhard von Mende's interest in Muslims originated in 1919, when his father was murdered. The family had lived in Riga, part of a once- large German minority in Latvia. When the tiny land was invaded by the Red Army at the end of World War I, members of the bourgeoisie were rounded up and sent on a forced march. Mr. von Mende's father, a banker, was pulled out of the line and shot dead.

That awakened in the 14-year-old a loathing of things Russian. After fleeing with his mother and six siblings to Germany, he chose to study other people who were oppressed by Russian rule -- the Muslims of Central Asia. A blizzard of papers and books brought him academic prominence. Linguistically gifted, he spoke fluent Russian, Latvian and French, as well as passable Turkish and Arabic. When he married a Norwegian, he picked up her native tongue as well.

The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 put a premium on people like Mr. von Mende, who understood something about the lands that Germany's blitzkrieg was overrunning. He kept his job at Berlin University but was seconded to the new Imperial Ministry for Occupied Eastern Territories -- or Ostministerium -- to head a department overseeing the Caucasus.

Germany's initial victories left it with staggering numbers of Soviet prisoners -- five million in all. Due in part to the efforts of Mr. von Mende and the Ostministerium, Hitler agreed to free prisoners who would take up arms against the Soviets. The Nazis set up "Ostlegionen" -- Eastern Legions -- made up primarily of non-Russian minorities eager to pay Moscow back for decades of oppression. Up to a million soldiers took up Hitler's offer.

As the war progressed, Mr. von Mende became one of the chief architects of the Nazi policy toward Soviet minorities. He was dubbed their "lord-protector," establishing national committees of Tatars, Turks, Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Armenians. Desperate for soldiers, the Nazis viewed these committees as little more than a way to keep their turncoat allies in the war. But for the people involved, they were like governments-in-exile, a taste of independence for which they were grateful to Mr. von Mende.

It’s important to note that, while this particular Munich mosque was set up for the Nazi “Ostlegionen” of Central Asian muslims from WWII’s Eastern Front, the Nazis cooperation with Muslims along their Eastern Front was by no means their only involvement with the Muslim peoples during WWII. Many of the Nazis’ Muslim allies viewed WWII and the Germany as a potential source of independence from their local oppressors. On the Eastern Front the Soviets were the oppressors, in the Middle East it was primarily the British and French who ruled over the Muslim peoples, a point not made in this particular article but one critical for understanding the origins 20th century (and now 21st century) alliance between Islamist and far-right movements.


Colleagues from this era describe Mr. von Mende as a well-dressed, regal man with a wry smile, who used his personal charm to win over the exiles -- especially his favorites, the Turkic Muslims of Central Asia. He opened his home in Berlin to them for long dinners with the conversation flowing in Russian, Turkish and German. In the last months of the war, he cemented their loyalty through an act of bureaucratic genius: With Germany's infrastructure bombed to a pulp, he managed to get thousands of "his" Turks transferred to the western front -- Greece, Italy, Denmark and Belgium -- figuring it would be better if they ended up in British or American prisoner-of-war camps than Soviet. Those who fell into Soviet hands were shot as traitors.

By the late 1940s, hundreds of Muslim ex-soldiers were stranded in the U.S. zone of occupation in Munich. Mr. von Mende, whose Nazi past left him with limited job prospects, decided to devote himself to looking out for them.

That decision would prove beneficial -- both for the Muslims and for Mr. von Mende. It was the beginning of the Cold War and Western intelligence agencies were desperate for anyone who could provide a glimpse behind the Iron Curtain. They needed people to analyze documents, broadcast anti-Soviet propaganda and recruit spies.

In October 1945, Mr. von Mende wrote a letter to a "Major Morrison" in the British Army, according to a letter in his private papers that his family made available. He laid out the Ostministerium's unique source of knowledge about the Soviet peoples. He explained who worked for it and in which POW or Displaced Persons camp they were being held. It was the beginning of his intelligence career.

Mr. von Mende settled in the British-occupied sector of Germany, in the commercial center of Dusseldorf. Although he was no longer an academic, he called his office the "Eastern European Research Service." His staff was made up of ex-Ostministerium employees -- basically a re-creation of the Nazi apparatus that oversaw the Muslims during the war. Funding came from British occupation forces initially, then a variety of West German agencies, including the national domestic intelligence agency and the German foreign ministry, according to foreign-ministry documents and Mr. von Mende's private correspondence.

Mr. von Mende spent enormous amounts of time helping the Muslims who used to work for him in the Ostministerium. He wrung money out of the West German bureaucracy for them to be fed, clothed and housed -- conditions were appalling and even a decade after the war's end many were still living in barracks.

But at heart, his task was simple: keep tabs on the emigres and prevent them from falling into another country's control. The main threat was the Soviet Union, which wanted to stop the emigres from making anti-communist propaganda. Some emigre leaders in West Germany were murdered. Many carried weapons in defense against KGB assassins.

An even more prominent example of the Western intelligence essentially reassembling entire units Nazi units for use in the cold war is the Gehlen organization. During WWII General Reinhard Gehlen led the Nazis Eastern Front spy unit. After the war the Gehlen organization became the US’s spy unit for the Soviet union, and eventuall become West Germany’s intelligence agency, the BND.


CIA vs. Nazi Imam

By 1956, a rival emerged to threaten Mr. von Mende's control over the Muslim ex-soldiers of Munich: the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism, widely known as Amcomlib. Set up as a U.S. nongovernmental organization to run Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, Amcomlib was in fact a thinly disguised front for the Central Intelligence Agency. CIA funding lasted until 1971 when Congress cut Amcomlib's ties to the intelligence agency.

During the 1950s, the head of Amcomlib's political organization was Isaac Patch, who is now 95 and living in retirement in New Hampshire. Reached by telephone, Mr. Patch defended Amcomlib's strategy of using Muslims to fight the Soviets. "Islam was an important factor, no question about it," Mr. Patch said. "They were strong believers and strong anti-communists."

Amcomlib forged ties with Ibrahim Gacaoglu, a former Nazi soldier from the Caucasus who, like Mr. von Mende, was looking after Muslim soldiers stranded in Germany. Mr. Gacaoglu controlled food packages from the U.S., which he doled out to his followers, according to his organization's documents. Mr. Gacaoglu also did propaganda work for Radio Free Europe. In 1957, for example, he held a news conference with another former German political officer, Garip Sultan, who headed Radio Liberty's Tatar service, according to documents and Mr. Sultan. The two decried Stalin's abuses in Chechnya. Mr. Sultan, now 81 years old, said in an interview that he wrote Mr. Gacaoglu's speeches and a pamphlet for him on the situation of Muslims.

An important point regarding Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in this story is the sheer scope of the CIA’s utilization of ex-Nazis for Cold War propaganda purposes:

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, the CIA-funded radio stations which broadcast anti-Communist messages behind the Iron-Curtain (and now globally), were major components of early Cold War propaganda efforts and rare, enduring, successes from the early efforts to “rollback” the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe after WWII. And the two radio stations employed more than just Eastern European and Central Asian Muslims in their anti-Communist activities. The members of the military, police, and “puppet”-governments that were formed in 20 or so Nazi occupied territories, who knew the local populaces and languages, were also sought after for anti-Communist propaganda work. These former officials of the Nazi-controlled territories were not Germans. They came from the occupied countries’ own domestic fascist groups…groups that often did the dirtiest of the dirty work, including genocide. In Hungary, for example, the Arrow Cross government carried out much of the mass killings. In Romania, the Germans at times found it necessary to actively restrain the brutal Iron Guard. And in Croatia it was the Ustashe (also spelled “Ustase”, “Ustaše“, and “Ustache”) that enthusiastically murdered an estimated 300,000-400,000 jews, gypsies and serbs. Members of all three of these groups, and others like them across Eastern Europe, were sought after by Western intelligence agencies.

Recall, too, that al-Taqwa god-father Francois Genoud is accused of underwriting ODESSA, the nazi network set up to aid nazis fleeing to South America and the Middleast through these very same “Ratlines”. In many cases, these “Ratlines” were actively assisted by elements within the US government, the British, and even the Vatican, allowing thousands of former officers and collaborators to escape to places like the Middle East and throughout South America, where these groups have played an especially significant role in South American modern history.

Initially, members of these fascist puppet governments were generally barred entry into the US under the Displaced Person Act after the war. But with the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, members of fascist governments were allowed entry into the US as long as they didn’t advocate a fascist government here. As long as you were anti-Communist, you were both acceptable for entry into the US and often protected from prosecution as a valued Cold-War asset (and you didn’t even have to be a rocket scientist). And so under the banner of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), and under the oversite of the Office of Policy Coordination (a secret pychological warfare/paramilitary organization set up in 1948 and eventually merged into the CIA), thousands of the Eastern Europeans ex-nazi collaborators were integrated into the post-war anti-Soviet efforts, which included working for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

On an interesting side note, Ken Tomlinson, the Bush Administration’s head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which also puts him in charge of Radio Free Europe, has recently run into a bit of a scandal too involving the names Hamid Karzai and Ahmed Massoud, two figures that have played important roles in Afghanistan’s modern history. It’s just not the kind of scandal you might expect.

On another interesting, and disturbing, side note, Charles Goolsby, the director of Voice of America’s International Crime Alert program that supplies lists of the US’s most wanted terrorists to the State and Justice department, was reported to be a member of groups with close ties to neo-Nazi white supremacist in September of 2006.


For Mr. von Mende and his colleagues, Mr. Gacaoglu's CIA connections were a problem. West Germany and the U.S. were on the same side of the Cold War, but Mr. von Mende didn't appreciate foreign agencies trying to influence German residents. As one informant had put it in a report to his boss: "Germany is a gate that no one controls because there doesn't seem to be a gatekeeper. Everyone comes and does what he pleases."

Mr. von Mende decided that Germany's Muslims needed a leader he could trust. He turned to a friend from the war: Nurredin Nakibhodscha Namangani.

Mr. Namangani had come from a long line of imams in his native land, modern-day Uzbekistan. But his religious service had mostly been in an unholy organization: Hitler's infamous SS. According to an autobiographical sketch he gave German authorities, he had been arrested by Stalin's security forces in 1941 and soon after liberated by the invading German army. He served as imam in various capacities, ending as imam for an SS division. He won some of Germany's highest commendations, including the Iron Cross.

Mr. Namangani arrived in Munich in 1956 to an uproar. Opponents such as Mr. Gacaoglu charged Mr. Namangani with having participated in wartime atrocities. Mr. Namangani's unit reportedly helped put down the 1944 Warsaw uprising of Polish partisans against the Nazis, but any personal role in atrocities is not evident in German war records.

Mr. von Mende beat back the attacks, persuading the federal government in Bonn to accept Mr. Namangani as the "Hauptimam" or "chief imam" of Germany's Muslims, on the West German payroll.

Speaking of forgotten “controversies”, in one of the lesser-known political scandals of the 20th century (and a potential mega-scandal if it were every widely known), the propaganda activities of the Nazi-collaborators brought into the Cold War efforts weren’t limited residents behind the Iron Curtain: Starting in the 50’s, with Dewey’s 1948 defeat still fresh in their memories, the GOP began using these very same ex-fascists, some of who were war criminals, in get-out-the-vote efforts for Eastern European vote in key swing states like Pennsyvania, Michigan and Florida with large Eastern European minorities (1). This was done quietly within the GOP’s “National Republican Heritage Groups Council”, an umbrella council that held the myriad of groups specifically set up to deal with the “special” needs of whatever ethnic minority the GOP was targetting for votes (2). This policy continued, and questions arose in 1971 about the GOP cozying up such controversial figures. While the ties were quickly publicly disavowed, and that particular scandal died down, these ties continued and in 1972 the Republican National Committee chairman made them permanent. And who was that chairman? George H. W. Bush.

One notable figure in this history is Roger Pearson, a British “racialist” that founded the Northern League’ , a neo-Nazi publication that glorifies the “Nordic race” and celtic traditions, before coming to the US in 1958. Pearson became quite popular within the far-right groups that comprised a rather dark segment of the “New Right” movement, the conservative movement that championed Barry Goldwater in 1964, came to power in 1980 with Reagan, and evolved into the modern day GOP. In 1975 Roger Pearson came to Washington DC and began mingling with the New Right scene, including Ed Fuelner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a key institution for turning New Right ideology into policy prescriptions. In 1977 Pearson become an editor of Policy Review, the Heritage Foundation’s monthly publication until 1978, when the Washington Post highlighted Pearson also becoming chairman of the World Anti-Communist League, the international umbrella organization for right-wing groups that was deeply involved in the Nicaraguan Contra efforts and closely tied with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church (3). These “sensitive” issues for the GOP reemerged during George H. W. Bush’s 1988 Presidential campaign, when it was revealed that George H. W. Bush’s campaign was using these same groups. Once again, the offending parties were distanced from the campaign and the whole story was largely forgotten, as was the GOP’s quiet, ongoing alliance with a number of racially charged organizations.

There is more to Pearson and his far-rightist brethren’s activities in the conservative “New Right” (much more), and so it’s important to point out that, in the same way the Muslim Brotherhood’s totalist ideology should NOT be construed as representative of Islam, the presence of fascist, far-Right elements should NOT be confused with traditional conservatism. Both movements have been shaped, in many areas heavily shaped, but these extremist elements often working at or near a leadership level. As with so many movements, the leaders are often far more extreme than their followers and it is reasonable to conclude that the bulk mainstream followers of Islam and mainstream GOP voters are only casually aware of the backgrounds of whoever has assumed the mantel of leadership in their respective movements. And that pretty much goes for any voter anywhere.


In late 1958, Mr. Namangani came up with a plan to rally the ex- Muslim soldiers behind him: a "Mosque Construction Commission." At the time, Germany had only a couple of mosques. Munich's mosque would be different: bigger and dedicated not to traders and visitors but to Germany's first permanent Muslim population of any note.

"For 13 years, Muslims haven't had a fixed place for their services and have had to hold them in various places," Mr. Namangani told the assembled 50 or so Muslims, including some Muslim students from the Middle East. Once, Muslims had been forced to hold services even in a brewery, other times in a museum, according to minutes of the mosque commission. Now, he told the group, Munich would be a center for Muslims and the Bavarian state government would certainly help out, according to the minutes.

It was a big event, so big in fact that someone special was on hand: Said Ramadan, the Geneva-based secretary general of the World Islamic Congress, a group that wanted to unite Muslims around the world. The rest of those assembled donated 125 marks in total (about $275 in today's money) for the mosque's construction. Mr. Ramadan himself gave 1,000 marks.

Mr. von Mende quickly put out feelers for information on the well- heeled visitor. Soon, his index of people to watch contained a new entry:

"Said Ramadan, Geneva. Circa 36 years old, 3 children. Since 1956 drives an expensive Cadillac, gift of the Saudi Arabian government. R.S. [sic] is supposed to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood."

Said Ramadan had more than just Saudi support by 1958: In 1953, a young Said Ramadan and other Muslim leaders met with President Eisenhower in the Oval Office. The meeting was part of the US’s program of courting Muslim leaders…a policy that included encouraging Saudi Arabia to use its enormous wealth to create a network of far-right Islamist states and organizations, planting the seeds that grew into modern Muslim-Brotherhood groups like al-Qaeda. The following year the Muslim Brotherhood itself was banned in Egyptian. This following an assassination attempt on Egyptian president Nasser in 1954 which triggered a massive crackdown on the Brotherhood. Nasser’s banning of the Brotherhood in Egypt was the triggering event for the formation fo the international wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Said Ramadan was leading it from the beginning (4). Recall too that al-Taqwa director Youssef Nada was amongst those implicated in this attack and forced to flee to Germany and later Italy(5).


The Brotherhood Arrives

Said Ramadan's arrival in Europe was the result of a clash of ideas that continues to tear at Islamic societies. At heart, the problem is how to reconcile Islam with the modern nation-state. Like many religions, Islam is all-embracing, prescribing behavior in many spheres, politics included. But when taken literally, these requirements can clash with today's liberal democracies, which promote individual freedom.

In 1920s Egypt, a young schoolteacher named Hasan al-Banna came down firmly on the side of orthodoxy. Troubled by what he saw as the immorality of a rapidly modernizing Egypt, he set up an organization called the Muslim Brotherhood. His plan was to re-Islamicize society by teaching the fundamentals of Islam in the everyday language of the coffee shop, not the classical Arabic of mosques. He set up welfare organizations and was famous for his commitment to social justice.

But this collided with other visions of Egypt, especially those imported from the West, such as socialism and fascism. Heavily involved in the turbulent politics of postwar Egypt, Mr. Banna was assassinated in 1949. A few years later, a military coup brought in a socialist government that banned the group in 1954.

Two points: First, there was less friction between the Muslim Brotherhood’s evolving ideology and that of the European fascists than one might suspect. Hitler’s ascension to power in 1933 was widely celebrated by Arabs for a numbers of reasons beyond shared anti-semitism and hatred for the British colonialists. One area where Hassan al-Banna (also spelled “Hasan”) and early Muslim Brotherhood thinking had a great deal of inspiration from the fascists of the day (Italy and Germany in particular) was in the area of economics. Prominent Musim Brotherhood writer, Sheikh Mohamed Ghazali, even recommended “an economics regimen similar to that which existed in nazi Germany and fascist italy” (6). So while they may rail against Western capitalism and capitalists, they were, and still are, free-trade advocates at their core. In fact, the full name of Grover Norquist’s “Islamic Institute” is the “Islamic Free Market Institute Foundation”. This is part of what has made them so attractive to the West as anti-Communist “freedom fighters” and part of the reason they have so successfully integrated themselves into the global underground economy.

The second point is that, while Nasser and his “Free Officers” society banned the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954, they did not always have such rocky relations. In fact, starting in 1940 the group that eventually become the “Free Officers” established clandestine contact with Hassan al-Banna (7). And who was the officer in charge of this relationship? None other than Anwar Sadat, Nasser’s successor who called for the re-legalization of the Brotherhood…and was subsequently assassinated by a Brotherhood member in 1981 (resulting in the re-banning of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt).


Many members were thrown in jail and some were executed. Mr. Ramadan was the most prominent member to flee abroad. He was Mr. Banna's son- in-law and was famous for having helped organize Jerusalem's defense against the new state of Israel in 1948. Few countries in the region wanted to shield Mr. Ramadan; Egypt was a regional powerhouse and its neighbors were wary of antagonizing it. After stops in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Pakistan, he arrived in Geneva in the summer of 1958 on a Jordanian diplomatic pass, accredited to the U.N. and also neighboring West Germany.

While in Germany, he set out his ideas in a doctoral thesis called "Islamic Law: Its Scope and Equity." It was published as a book and became a classic of modern Islamist thinking.

"He was decent and intelligent," says his doctoral adviser at Cologne University, Gerhard Kegel, now 93, "if a little fanatical."

Not fanatical in the sense of advocating violence, Mr. Kegel says, but in his view of a world in which Islam guides all laws and there is no distinction between religion and state. Mr. Ramadan also published a magazine, Al-Muslimoon, which surveyed events in the Muslim world and criticized secularism.

Mr. Ramadan, like others in the Muslim Brotherhood, strongly opposed communism for rejecting religion. During the Cold War, that made him a natural ally of the U.S. But Mr. Ramadan also opposed the U.S. and other Western countries for their interference in Mideastern affairs. Then as now, that put people like Mr. Ramadan in a tough position: They needed to cooperate with the West but didn't want to be Western collaborators.

Historical evidence suggests that Mr. Ramadan worked with the CIA. At the time, America was locked in a power struggle with the Soviet Union, which was supporting Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser. As Nasser's enemy, the Brotherhood seemed like a good ally for the U.S.

A document from the German foreign intelligence service, known by its initials BND, says the U.S. had helped persuade Jordan to issue Mr. Ramadan a passport and that "his expenditures are financed by the American side." Swiss diplomats concurred that the U.S. and Mr. Ramadan were close. According to a 1967 diplomatic report in the Swiss federal archives: "Said Ramadan is, among others, an information agent of the British and Americans."

When the Swiss newspaper Le Temps reported the contents of the diplomatic report last year, the Ramadan family responded in a letter to the editor that read in part: "Our father never collaborated with American or English intelligence services. He was, on the contrary, the subject of permanent surveillance for numerous years."

Members of the Ramadan family refused to comment. They include two sons, the popular Muslim intellectual Tariq and his brother, Hani, who heads an Islamic center in Geneva that his father set up.

For another example of the “like father like son” phenomena, we look to al-Taqwa director Ahmed Huber, who made his conversion to Islam at Ramadan’s Islamic Center in Geneva. When Ahmed Huber made his conversion to Islam in 1961 at the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic Center in Geneva, he was warned by Egypt’s ambassador to Switzerland, Fathi al-Dhib, that the Nasser government was hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood and recommended that Huber make a second “shahada” (profession of faith) in Egypt. So Huber left for the al-Azhar Institute in 1962, where he repeated his conversion. When he returned to Switzerland he married Fathi al-Dhib’s secretary. Their two sons have become Islamist militants in Europe (8).


A Fateful Alliance

Although he was fortunate to have escaped the Middle East, Mr. Ramadan's Swiss exile cut him off from his base of support. He began to look around for allies, according to colleagues who knew him then. Soon, an opportunity presented itself: He was contacted in 1958 by some Arab students in Munich eager to build a new mosque.

The students had come to Germany to study medicine, engineering and other disciplines in which German education excelled. Many had been involved with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and were also using the chance to escape persecution. Mr. Ramadan "was a gifted orator and we all respected him," says Mohamad Ali El-Mahgary, who now heads an organization affiliated with the Munich mosque, the Islamic Center of Nuremberg.

The students quickly united in wanting to get rid of Mr. Namangani, the former SS imam. Fired up by Muslim Brotherhood ideology, they saw the Uzbek as a throwback to an earlier era, one where, for example, local traditions allowed for drinking alcohol when this was expressly forbidden in the Quran. Over the next three years, Mr. Ramadan and the Brotherhood showed their political mettle -- first sidelining the soldiers and their German allies, then striking out on their own.

First Mr. Ramadan teamed up with Amcomlib to undermine Mr. Namangani. In 1959, he organized the "European Muslim Congress" in Munich, which Mr. von Mende's informants reported was co-financed by Amcomlib, according to German foreign-ministry archives and Mr. von Mende's personal letters. The goal: marginalize Mr. Namangani by making Munich's mosque a European-wide center, not just for Munich's Muslims. For the U.S., this would help strengthen their man, Mr. Gacaoglu, and limit the West Germans' influence over the emigres.

In 1960, Mr. Ramadan took formal control of the mosque-construction commission, with the students convincing the former soldiers that only Mr. Ramadan could raise the money needed for a mosque, according to interviews. Mr. Ramadan was elected chairman and Mr. Namangani relegated to deputy.

Flummoxed, Mr. von Mende tried to figure out what Mr. Ramadan's goals were. His reports show that he was convinced that Mr. Ramadan was working with the U.S. But he needed confirmation and so turned to Germany's foreign-intelligence service. In a private letter to a former colleague in the Ostministerium, Mr. von Mende asked for information on Mr. Ramadan and suggested stealing files from his office in Geneva. He even estimated how much the operation would cost, bribes and travel costs included. Mr. von Mende's BND contact confirmed that Mr. Ramadan was backed by the U.S. As for stealing his files, the colleague advised against it: Mr. Ramadan was "much too careful" to leave valuable information in them.

Adding to Mr. von Mende's worries was that the CIA was now openly backing Mr. Ramadan. In May of 1961, a CIA agent attached to Amcomlib in Munich, Robert Dreher, brought Mr. Ramadan to Mr. von Mende's office in Dusseldorf for a meeting to propose a joint propaganda effort against the Soviet Union, according to Mr. von Mende's personal papers and interviews with contemporaries of the men. Mr. von Mende quickly turned them down.

In addition to being a CIA agent, Robert Dreher was also one of the founders of Radio Liberty.


Mr. von Mende decided he had to use Mr. Namangani to engineer Mr. Ramadan's removal. At first, it appeared the two had succeeded. In late 1961, Mr. Namangani called a meeting of the mosque commission. Mr. Ramadan was accused of financial irregularities. The soldiers put forward a new candidate and in a close vote won a simple majority. In memos to each other, German officials crowed that Mr. Ramadan was gone and with him the plans for a "monumental mosque."

But a sharp-eyed city government official noted that the commission's by-laws had required that Mr. Namangani's candidate win a two-thirds majority. The simple majority hadn't been enough. Once again Mr. Ramadan's ability to mobilize had been decisive: His students had turned out in force, unlike Mr. Namangani's more-numerous soldiers. Mr. Ramadan was still in charge of the mosque commission.

Discouraged, the soldiers began to leave the commission. Mr. Namangani remained head of the West German organization that oversaw the former soldiers' spiritual needs, but had nothing more to do with the mosque. In a seven-page letter to German officials that is now in the Bavarian state archives, Mr. Namangani explained he was tired of fighting Mr. Ramadan. "The Mosque Construction Commission has drifted far from its original goal and there is the danger that it will become a center for those engaged in politics," he wrote.

The emigres' departure from the mosque commission slowed its progress but didn't hurt it. The German bureaucracy, packed with many former Nazis, was still sympathetic to the idea of building a mosque, memos among officials show. They apparently didn't know that their former comrades-in-arms had left the commission. The West German bureaucracy even gave the mosque project, now firmly under Muslim Brotherhood control, tax-exempt status, which would be worth millions over the next decades.

Mr. von Mende, though, realized that his Turks were left in the political wilderness. In memos to the German foreign ministry, he said the federal government must do everything possible to block Mr. Ramadan, whom he saw as a foreign-backed outsider. Whether Mr. von Mende could have stopped Mr. Ramadan is unknown: In December 1963, while sitting at his desk in Dusseldorf, Mr. von Mende had a massive heart attack and died immediately. He was 58 years old.

A few months later, his Eastern European Research Service was closed and Mr. von Mende's network of informants dried up. It would only be decades later, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., that Germany would seriously focus domestic intelligence on the Brotherhood's Munich operations.

While German intelligence may have chosen to seriously focus on the the Brotherhood’s Munich operations only after the 9/11 attacks, the Munich Mosque was actually put on Germany’s domestic intelligence watch list in 1998 after a high-ranking al-Qaeda member was arrested nearby.


The Banker's Vision

Cloaked from outside scrutiny, the mosque had less and less to do with the needs of Munich's Muslims. And around this time, evidence of the CIA's involvement dried up. Instead, control eventually passed to an unlikely location: Campione d'Italia, a swath of mansions and millionaires in the Swiss Alps. Here, from a terraced villa overlooking Lake Lugano, one of Mr. Ramadan's trusted lieutenants, Ghaleb Himmat, ran the Munich mosque and influenced the network that grew out of it.

Of all the characters in the mosque's history, Mr. Himmat is the most enigmatic, although he is one of the few still alive. A Syrian, he went to Munich in the 1950s to study but ended up amassing wealth as a merchant. Now under investigation by several countries for links to terrorism, he normally shuns publicity. He agreed to comment briefly on the telephone for this article.

Contemporaries and archival records indicate that Mr. Himmat was a driving force behind the mosque. In 1958, members of the mosque commission say, he led the movement to invite Mr. Ramadan to Munich. Documents show that the two worked closely together. They went on fund-raising trips abroad and Mr. Himmat stood in for Mr. Ramadan when the older man was back in Geneva.

While Mr Himmat may have been a driving force behind the mosque, much of the money to build it came from Saudi the Muslim Brotherhood’s Saudi backers. And with a growing number of Turkish immigrants in Germany during this period, the Munich mosque’s ability to solicit a growing Muslim community’s funds proved to be quite useful in financing the Brotherhood’s expansion abroad even while it remained crippled in Egypt (9).


Mr. von Mende's death should have left Mr. Ramadan firmly in charge of the project. But over the next few years, he lost control to Mr. Himmat. The exact nature of their split isn't clear, but close associates say it had to do with their different nationalities. Mr. Himmat denies this, saying he does not know why Mr. Ramadan left.

At the same time, Mr. Ramadan was losing the support of his Saudi backers. Short of money, he stopped publishing his magazine in 1967. Over the last quarter century until his death in 1995, Mr. Ramadan's influence waned. His son Tariq describes him in a book as prone to "long silences sunk in memory and thoughts, and, often, in bitterness."

Mr. Himmat assumed control of the mosque just before it opened in August of 1973. Under his leadership, the mosque grew in importance, functioning as the Muslim Brotherhood's de facto European embassy. As its influence grew, its name changed. From Mosque Construction Commission, the group became the Islamic Community of Southern Germany and, today, the Islamic Community of Germany. It is now one of the country's most important Islamic organizations, representing 60 mosques and Islamic centers nationwide.

The group also became a cornerstone in a network of organizations that have promoted across Europe the Muslim Brotherhood way of thinking. The Islamic Community of Germany, for example, helped found the U.K.-based Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, which unites groups close to the Muslim Brotherhood and lobbies the European Union.

Mr. Himmat says the mosque has always been open to all Muslims but that the Brotherhood came to dominate it because its members are the most active. "If the Muslim Brotherhood considers me one of them, it is an honor for me," Mr. Himmat said in the telephone interview. "They are nonviolent. They are for interreligious discussion. They are active for freedom."

For decades, German authorities paid little attention to the activities in Munich, viewing them as unconnected to German society. They were slow to grasp the warning signs. In 1993, after a car-bomb attack on the World Trade Center in New York killed six and injured 1,000, investigators discovered that one of the organizers was Mahmoud Abouhalima, who had frequented the mosque. He was tried in the U.S. and in 1994 was sentenced to life in prison without parole. German domestic intelligence began to observe the mosque, intelligence officials say, but dropped their efforts after a short while when no links to terrorism appeared.

The Sept. 11 attacks changed that. Three of the four lead hijackers had studied in Germany, as did another key organizer. As German and U.S. law enforcement searched for clues, some, it is only now becoming apparent, led back to the Munich mosque.

Mr. Himmat, it turned out, was one of the founders of Bank al-Taqwa, a Bahamas-based institution whose shareholder list is a who's who of people associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. The bank has been identified by investigators in several Western countries as having links to terrorism. Investigators believe the bank helped channel money to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and may have transferred money for al Qaeda operatives.

In 2001, the U.S. issued a list of "designated" terrorists that included Mr. Himmat and a fellow shareholder, Youssef Nada. The Treasury Department froze their U.S. assets. Last month, Swiss authorities dropped their own investigation, citing lack of evidence. The men's money, however, remains frozen and the U.S. has indicated that it is continuing its investigation.

Messrs. Himmat and Nada deny any involvement in terrorism. A longtime member of the Munich mosque, Mr. Nada said in an interview that he no longer attends it or its board meetings. He said the mosque wasn't a formal headquarters for the Brotherhood because the group is no longer a formal organization. Now, he says, it has become something different: a matrix of ideas. "There is no form you sign," Mr. Nada said. "We are not an economic and political organization. We are a way of thinking."

Yep, Ghaleb Himmat (also goes by “Ali Ghaleb Himmat”) is one of the founders of Bank al-Taqwa and Youssef Nada sat on the board of the Munich mosque. Also recall that when the al-Taqwa network was set up in 1988 it was Nada and Himmat that had to co-sign each decision made by the other shareholders. It’s a small world. So small, in fact, that according to Italian intelligence reports the Himmat and Nada families had three children each, five of which were born between 1979 and 1984…born in Silver Spring, Maryland.


The U.S. terror-funding investigation was enough to end Mr. Himmat's career at the Islamic Community of Germany. In 2002, he resigned, he said, because by being put on the terrorism watch list he was no longer able to sign checks for the community, meaning it couldn't pay its staff. He says the organization is doing well on its own and he doesn't contemplate returning to it. "It is running," he said. "There is no need."

In April, German police raided the mosque, claiming that it was involved with money laundering and spreading intolerant material, a crime in Germany. Police carted off computers and files from the offices. That was one of several raids on the center, although none have resulted in charges.

Mosque officials say the organization's days as a focal point of political Islam are long over. "This center has developed from a center that was important in Germany and internationally to a local institution," says Ahmad von Denffer, a leader of the mosque. The Islamic Community of Germany has since moved its operations to Cologne, where its current president resides.

Inside the world of political Islam, though, the Islamic Center of Munich remains something special. Some of the ideology's top leaders have served or spoken there. And the Muslim Brotherhood's current murshid, or "supreme guide," Mahdy Akef, headed the center.

Mr. Akef fondly remembers his time in Munich from 1984 to 1987. A short, friendly man with an elfish smile and big glasses, Mr. Akef says the center is now one of several belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. During his stay there, he says, visiting statesmen from the Muslim world visited the Munich mosque to pay respects to the world's most powerful Islamic organization. The mosque was so important that when he was arrested in Egypt in the 1990s on allegations that he had tried to form an Islamic political party, one of the charges against him was that he headed the center.

As an example of the direct influence of the international Muslim Brotherhood leadership in the US branch of the group, Mr Akef also co-founded the Muslim American Society in Falls Church Virginia back in 1992.


The Muslim Brotherhood is still formally banned in Egypt but a tiny office in Cairo is tolerated. Sitting on a sofa under a map of the world with Muslim nations colored green, Mr. Akef says the Brotherhood did indeed spread out from Munich to others cities in Germany and Europe. Mr. Akef is a controversial figure who has spoken sympathetically about suicide bombers in Iraq. But he avoids answering questions about terrorism or fundamentalism. Instead, he prefers to talk about the community work the mosque did in Munich, helping to beautify a nearby landfill and plant pines in the mosque grounds.

"We made this dump beautiful and now it's full of trees," he says. "It's one of the most beautiful parts of Germany."


Almut Schoenfeld in Berlin contributed to this article.

So that’s the story behind the Munich mosque: The leader and protector of the ex-soldier ethnic Muslims of Munich that fought along side the Nazis in WWII (Mr von Mende) struggles for control over this valued community with an agent of the CIA working for the US Cold War propaganda outfits (Mr Gacaoglu), seeks the help of an Uzbeki Imam (Mr Namangani), only to see the control slip away to a Saudi/CIA backed emmissary of the Muslim Brotherhood (Said Ramadan) along with his partner (Ali Ghaleb Himmat) who eventually became a co-founder of Bank al-Taqwa, a central financial element of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international global jihad. A rather bewildering story, isn’t it?

The roots of Muslim Brotherhood’s Fascist alliance

Well, there’s more to the story of the Muslim Brotherhood’s historic flirtation with fascism. Much more. Far too much, in fact, to cover it all here.

So we’re going to take just a brief look back at some of that earlier history, with excerpts from an excellent four-part series “Islamism, fascism, and terrorism” by Marc Erikson in the Asia Times:

Islamism, fascism and terrorism (Part 1)
By Marc Erikson

[Editor's note: As distinct from the world religion of Islam, Islamism - as in part contextually defined below - is a political ideology that adherents would apply to contemporary governance and politics, and which they propagate through political and social activism.]

On November 7, 2001, on the request of the US government, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office froze the bank accounts of Nada Management, a Lugano-based financial services and consulting firm, and ordered a search and seizure raid on the firm's offices. Police pulled in several of the company's principals for questioning. Nada Management, part of the international al-Taqwa ("fear of God") group, is accused by US Treasury Department investigators of having acted for years as advisers and a funding conduit for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

Among those interrogated by police was a certain Albert Friedrich Armand (aka Ahmed) Huber, 74, a Swiss convert to Islam and retired journalist who sits on the Nada board of directors. Nothing too unusual perhaps, except for the fact that Huber is also a high-profile neo-Nazi who tirelessly travels the far-right circuit in Europe and the United States. He sees himself as a mediator between radical Islam and what he calls the New Right. Since September 11, a picture of Osama bin Laden hangs next to one of Adolf Hitler on the wall of his study in Muri just outside the Swiss capital of Bern. September 11, says Huber, brought the radical Islam-New Right alliance together.

On that, as his own career amply demonstrates, he is largely wrong. Last year's horrific terrorist acts were gleefully celebrated by Islamists and neo-Nazis alike (Huber boozed it up with young followers in a Bern bar) and may have produced closer links. But Islamism and fascism have a long, over 80-year history of collaboration based on shared ideas, practices and perceived common enemies. They abhor "Western decadence" (political liberalism, capitalism), fight holy wars - if needs be suicidal ones - by indiscriminate means, and are bent on the destruction of the Jews and of America and its allies.

Horst Mahler - once a lawyer for, later a member of, the 1960s/'70s German ultra-left terrorist Baader-Meinhof gang, and now a leading neo-Nazi - summed up convergent radical Islamic and far-right views and hopes in a September 21, 2001 letter: "The USA - or, to be more exact, the World Police - has shown itself to be vulnerable ... The foreseeable reaction of the East Coast [= the Jewish controllers and their gentile allies = the US Establishment] can be the spark that falls into a powder keg. For decades, the jihad - the Holy War - has been the agenda of the Islamic world against the 'Western value system.' This time it could break out in earnest ... It would be world war, that is won with the dagger ... The Anglo-American and European employees of the 'global players,' dispersed throughout the entire world, are - as Osama bin Laden proclaimed a long while ago - military targets. These would be attacked by dagger, where they least expected an attack. Only a few need be liquidated in this manner; the survivors will run off like hares into their respective home countries, where they belong."

Such convergence of views, methods and goals goes back to the 1920s when both Islamism and fascism, ideologically pre-shaped in the late 19th century, emerged as organized political movements with the ultimate aim of seizing state power and imposing their ideological and social policy precepts (in which aims fascism, of course, succeeded in the early '20s and '30s in Italy and Germany, respectively; Islamism only in 1979 in Iran; then in Sudan and Afghanistan). Both movements claim to be the true representatives of some arcane, idealized religious or ethnically pure communities of days long past - in the case of Islamism, the period of the four "righteous caliphs" (632-662), notably the rule of Umar bin al-Khattab (634-44) which allegedly exemplifies "din wa dawla", the unity of religion and state; in the case of the Nazis, the even more obscure Aryan "Volksgemeinschaft", with no historical reference point at all. But both are in reality - as historian Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, puts it - 20th century outgrowths, radical movements, utopian and totalitarian in their outlook. The Iranian scholars Ladan and Roya Boroumand have made the same point.

The Nazi ("national socialist") movement was formed in reaction to the World War I destruction of the "Second Reich", the "unequal and treasonous" Versailles Treaty and the mass social dislocation that followed, its racialist, corporatist ideology laid out in Hitler's Mein Kampf (My Struggle). The Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan Al Muslimun), parent organization of numerous Islamist terrorist outfits, was formed in 1928 in reaction to the 1924 abolition of the caliphate by Turkish reformer Kemal Ataturk, drawing the consequences of the World War I demise of the Ottoman Empire. Ikhwan founder Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian school teacher, wrote at the time that it was endless contemplation of "the sickness that has reduced the ummah (Muslim community) to its present state" which prompted him and five like-minded followers - all of them in their early twenties - to set up the organization to rectify it.

Al-Banna's brotherhood, initially limiting itself to spiritual and moral reform, grew at astonishing speed in the 1930s and '40s after embracing wider political goals and by the end of World War II had around 500,000 members in Egypt alone and branches throughout the Middle East. Event background, ideology, and method of organizing all account for its improbable success. As the war drew to a close, the time was ripe for an end to British and French colonial rule and the Ikhwan was ready with the persuasive, religiously-buttressed answer: Free the Islamic homeland from foreign, infidel (kafir) control; establish a unified Islamic state. And al-Banna had built a formidable organization to accomplish just that: it featured sophisticated governance structures, sections in charge of different segments of society (peasants, workers, professionals), units entrusted with key functions (propaganda, press relations, translation, liaison with the Islamic world), and specialized committees for finances and legal affairs - all built on existing social networks, in particular those around mosques and Islamic welfare associations. Weaving of traditional ties into a distinctly modern political structure was at the root of al-Banna's success..

But the "Supreme Guide" of the brethren knew that faith, good works and numbers alone do not a political victory make. Thus, modeled on Mussolini's blackshirts (al-Banna much admired "Il Duce" and soul brother "Fuehrer" Adolf Hitler), he set up a paramilitary wing (slogan: "action, obedience, silence", quite superior to the blackshirts' "believe, obey, fight") and a "secret apparatus" (al-jihaz al-sirri) and intelligence arm of al-Ikhwan to handle the dirtier side - terrorist attacks, assassinations, and so on - of the struggle for power.

Dating back to the 15th Century, the socio-economic networks and religious fraternities that al-Banna built upon are fundamental to the fabric of Egyptian society, and survived in spite of multiple attempts at secularizing public services. Social welfare services, charities, religious fraternities and talk of living in peace and harmony are the public face of the Muslim Brotherhood. And no doubt many of the Brotherhood members are genuinely committed to these goals. This is a critical point in understanding the enduring popular appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood because, while the outlawed Brotherhood is indeed a secret society and the social/political/charitable and armed/paramilitary wings of the Brotherhood are indeed intertwined, the armed wing of the society is far more secretive, even to the Muslim populace, than its charitable side. That said, in less than 20 years the armed branch of the Brotherhood, modeled on Mussolini’s blackshirts, established itself in Sudan, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, in the Gulf and other countries around the Arab-Muslim world, and within Muslim communities of Europe (10).


In 1948, after the brotherhood had played a pivotal role in mobilizing volunteers to fight in the war against "the Zionists" in Palestine to prevent establishment of a Jewish state, it considered itself to have the credibility, political clout, and military might to launch a coup d'etat against the Egyptian monarchy. But that wasn't to be. On December 8, 1948, a watchful Prime Minister Nuqrashi Pasha disbanded it. He wasn't watchful enough. Less than three weeks later, the brethren retaliated by assassinating the prime minister - in turn prompting the assassination of al-Banna by government agents on February 12, 1949.

That didn't end it. Under a new, more radical leader, Sayyid Qutb, the al-Ikhwan fight for state power continued and escalated. A mid-1960s recruit was Ayman al-Zawahiri, present number two man of al-Qaeda and the brains of the organization.

And moving onto Part 2 of this Asia Times series

Islamism, fascism and terrorism (Part 2)
By Marc Erikson

Osama bin Laden has the money, proven organizational skills, combat experience, and the charisma that can confer the air of wisdom and profundity even on inchoate or trivial utterances and let what's unfathomable appear to be deep in the eyes of his followers. But he's no intellectual. The brains of al-Qaeda and its chief ideologue by most accounts is Egyptian physician Ayman al-Zawahiri, 51, the organization's number two man and former head of the Egyptian al-Jihad, which was merged with bin Laden's outfit in February 1998 to form the "International Front for Fighting Jews and Crusaders".

Al-Zawahiri hails from an elite Egyptian family. His father was a professor at Cairo University's medical school from which Ayman graduated in 1974. His paternal grandfather was the Grand Imam at the al-Azhar Institute, Sunni Islam's paramount seat of learning. His great-uncle, Abdel-Rahman Azzam, was the first secretary-general of the Arab League.

Such family background notwithstanding, perhaps because of it, al-Zawahiri joined the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) as a young boy and was for the first time arrested in 1966 at age 15, when the secular government of President Gamal Abdel Nasser rounded up thousands of al-Ikhwan members and executed its top leaders in retribution for repeated assassination attempts on the president. One of those executed by hanging was chief ideologue Sayyid Qutb. Al-Zawahiri is Qutb's intellectual heir; he has further developed his message, and is putting it into practise.

But without Qutb, present-day Islamism as a noxious amalgam of fascist totalitarianism and extremes of Islamic fundamentalism would not exist. His principal "accomplishment" was to articulate the social and political practices of the Muslim Brotherhood from the 1930s through the 1950s - including collaboration with fascist regimes and organizations, involvement in anti-colonial, anti-Western and anti-Israeli actions, and the struggle for state power in Egypt - in demagogically persuasive fashion, buttressed by tendentious references to Islamic law and scriptures to deceive the faithful. Qutb, a one-time literary critic, was not a religious fundamentalist, but a Goebbels-style propagandist for a new totalitarianism to stand side-by-side with fascism and communism.

Another interesting fun fact: In 1948 Sayyid Qutb, then a government school inspector, was sent from Egypt to US to study. It turned out to be a trip he would not enjoy. Starting with a disasterous drunken seduction attempt by an American woman on the sea voyage over, Qutb found himself repulsed by all sorts of experiences in the US, from the universally repulsive (racism, for instance) to the more questionably repulsive (dances held in small-town churches).


Hitler's early 1933 accession to power in Germany was widely cheered by Arabs of all different political persuasions. When the "Third Reich" spook and horrors were over 12 years later, a favorite excuse among those who felt the need for one was that the Nazis had been allies against the colonial oppressors and "Zionist intruders". Many felt no need for an excuse at all and simply bemoaned the fact that the Nazis' "final solution" to the "Jewish problem" had not proved final enough. But affinities with fascism on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood and other segments of Arab and Muslim society went much deeper than collaboration with the enemy of one's enemies, and collaboration itself took some extreme forms.

Substitute religious for racial purity, the idealized ummah of the rule of the four righteous caliphs of the mid-7th century for the mythical Aryan "Volksgemeinschaft", and most ideological and organizational precepts of Nazism laid out by chief theoretician Alfred Rosenberg in his work The Myth of the 20th Century and by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, and later put into practice, are in all essential respects identical to the precepts of the Muslim Brotherhood after its initial phase as a group promoting spiritual and moral reform. This ranges from radical rejection of "decadent" Western political and economic liberalism (instead embracing the "leadership principle" and corporatist organization of the economy) to endorsement of the use of terror and assassinations to seize and hold state power, and all the way to concoction of fantastical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories linking international plutocratic finance to Freemasonry, Zionism and all-encompassing Jewish world control.

Not surprisingly then, as Italian and German fascism sought greater stakes in the Middle East in the 1930s and '40s to counter British and French controlling power, close collaboration between fascist agents and Islamist leaders ensued. During the 1936-39 Arab Revolt, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence, sent agents and money to support the Palestine uprising against the British, as did Muslim Brotherhood founder and "supreme guide" Hassan al-Banna. A key individual in the fascist-Islamist nexus and go-between for the Nazis and al-Banna became the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini - incidentally the later mentor (from 1946 onward) of a young firebrand by the name of Yasser Arafat.

Having fled from Palestine to Iraq, el-Husseini assisted there in the short-lived April 1941 Nazi-inspired and financed anti-British coup. By June 1941, British forces had reasserted control in Baghdad and the mufti was on the run again, this time via Tehran and Rome to Berlin, to a hero's welcome. He remained in Germany as an honored guest and valuable intelligence and propaganda asset through most of the war, met with Hitler on several occasions, and personally recruited leading members of the Bosnian-Muslim "Hanjar" (saber) division of the Waffen SS.

It’s important to remind ourselves that the colonial powers in the Middle East were, well, occupiers. And Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt’s President who cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood twice, was a dictator. So we have authoritarian theocrats fighting authoritarian dictators and authoritarian occupiers. What a great situation.


Another valued World War II Nazi collaborator was Youssef Nada, current board chairman of al-Taqwa (Nada Management), the Lugano, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Bahamas-based financial services outfit accused by the US Treasury Department of money laundering for and financing of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda. As a young man, he had joined the armed branch of the "secret apparatus" (al-jihaz al-sirri) of the Muslim Brotherhood and then was recruited by German military intelligence. When Grand Mufti el-Husseini had to flee Germany in 1945 as the Nazi defeat loomed, Nada reportedly was instrumental in arranging the escape via Switzerland back to Egypt and eventually Palestine, where el-Husseini resurfaced in 1946.

This completes part 2 of this Asia Times series. A few points before we move on:

As the article points out, Haj Amin al-Husseini (sometimes spelled as “Husayni”) was a key individual for understanding both the Nazi/Islamist historic nexus. The cooperation between Arabs Nationalists and German forces in the anti-British Iraqi coup of 1941 (an event which was, in many ways, the historic predecessor to the current attempt at Iraqi “regime change”), is an excellent example of how the global ambitions of the Third Reich and the desires for Arab independence coincided during WWII. The Grand Mufti is also an important figure in the historic roots of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, beyond his influence on future PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Al-Husseini was a key organizer of the 1936-39 Palestinian uprising, which both Germany’s Admiral Canaris and the Muslim Brotherhood assisted. The Grand Mufti even inspired the Bosnian-Muslim “Hanjar” division (also spelled “Hanshcar”, “Handschar”, or “Handzar”) of the 13th Waffen SS. Along with Youssef Nada’s alleged worked for the Admiral Canaris too during WWII, and his assistance in the Grand Mufti’s escape to Germany in 1945, we can see just how much cooperation there was between the Third Reich and the Muslim Brotherhood during WWII(11).

But the Muslim Brotherhood is not the only group to dance with a postwar Nazi underground that sported world class military and scientific prowess. The postwar Nazis became a mercenary underground on the run and willing to sell their talents to many different buyers. Egypt’s Nasser imported numerous Nazis before and after Nasser’s first crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954. South America, most especially Argentina, welcomed thousands of Nazis, whose impact was seen decades later in the “Dirty Wars” of the 70’s and 80’s. And in both cases we find the participation of US intelligence. These are the topics we’re going to examine in our next. They’re largely forotten topics that reveal much about the clandestine networks that terrorists groups today, so keep reading!!!!!

Offline References

(1) The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People, by John Loftus and Mark Aarons; St. Martin's Press; copyright 1994; ISBN 0-312-11057X; p.300-301

(2) Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party: Domestic fascist networks and their effect on U.S. cold war politics, by Russ Bellant; Political Research Associates; copyright 1991; ISBN 0-89608-418-3; p.20

(3) ibid, p60-61

(4) Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam; by Richard Labeviere; Copyright 2000 [SC]; Algora Publishing; ISBN 1-892941-06-6; p45-46

(5) ibid p140-141

(6) ibid p127

(7) ibid p130

(8) ibid p141-142

(9) ibid p153

(10) ibid p125

(11) ibid p140-141