Holocaust, The Jews and Anti-Semitism
Facism has inflicted terrible suffering and disasters on mankind. The 19th and 20th centuries were rife with killings perpetrated by racist regimes and organizations that oppressed and slaughtered innocent people for the sake of their own ideological obsessions. Nazi's policy of extermination was aimed not just at Jews, but also at such other ethnic, religious and social groups as Gypsies, Poles, Slavs, devout Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the physically and mentally handicapped. The Jewish people, of whom 5.5 million died in concentration camps, were the worst victims of the Nazi barbarity. Yet the total who lost their lives in the camps was more than 11 million, and more than half of them were members of the groups listed above.
The Status of the People of the Book in the Qur'an
In one verse, God reveals that people must not be judged according to their race, color or ethnic origin, but rather by their morality:
O humanity! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in God's sight is the one of you who best performs his duty. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Qur'an, 49:13)
The expression "so that you might come to know each other" reveals God's wisdom in creating different races and ethnic origins: Different tribes or nations, all of whom are God's servants, must get to know one another-in other words, learn about each other's different cultures, languages, customs and abilities. One of the intentions behind the existence of different races and nations is cultural richness, not war or conflict.
In the sight of God, people acquire superiority not according to their languages, race or gender, but according to their godliness. The existence of different races and nations is a cultural wealth, not a reason for war and conflict.
The morality commanded in that verse and elsewhere in the Qur'an make it absolutely clear that a Muslim must not engage in racism or judge people by their race. For that reason, it is completely out of the question for Muslims to harbor negative feelings about Jews or any other race, simply because of their ethnic origins.
Turning to consider the religion that the Jews follow, we encounter another very important truth revealed in the Qur'an: Jews and Christians are referred to as "People of the Book" and as such, are closer to Muslims than are atheists or pagans. Both Jews and Christians, they all believe in God and His unity. And all submit to His commandments.
The Qur'an draws an important distinction between the People of the Book and idolaters, particularly in terms of social life. One verse, for example, describes the latter in these terms: "... the idolaters are unclean, so after this year they should not come near the Masjid al-Haram..." (Qur'an, 9:28) That is because idolaters recognize no divine law, possess no moral criteria, and can engage unhesitatingly in all forms of wickedness and perversion.
The People of the Book, however, possess certain moral criteria based on God's revelation, as well as concepts of what is lawful and what is forbidden. That is why it's lawful for Muslims to eat food prepared by the People of the Book. In the same way, Muslim men are permitted to marry women from the People of the Book. In the relevant verse, God says:
Today all good things have been made lawful for you. And the food of those given the Book is also lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. So are chaste women from among the believers and chaste women of those given the Book before you, once you have given them their dowries in marriage, not in fornication or taking them as lovers. But as for anyone who rejects faith, his actions will come to nothing and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (Qur'an, 5:5)
These rules show that marriage and the resulting ties of kinship can be established between Muslims and the People of the Book. Each can accept the other's invitations to dine, all of which allow the establishment of warm human relations and a peacefully shared life. Since the Qur'an recommends such moderation and understanding, it is out of the question for us Muslims to hold ideas in conflict with that viewpoint.
Throughout history, Muslim communities have treated members of other races and religions with understanding. The picture shows Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror entering the Hagia Sophia.
Moreover, the Qur'an describes the places where the People of the Book worship as being under God's protection:
... if God had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where God's name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. God will certainly help those who help Him-God is All-Strong, Almighty. (Qur'an, 22:40)
This verse shows that all Muslims must behave respectfully towards the places of worship of the People of the Book, as well as protecting them.
Indeed, when one reviews the history of Islam, it is striking that Muslim societies have always treated the People of the Book with moderation and understanding. That was particularly evident in the Ottoman Empire, from which today's Turkey is descended. It is well known that the Jews were expelled from Catholic Spain, but found the right to live peacefully in Ottoman lands. When Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (Mehmed II) captured Constantinople, he allowed Jews and Christians to live there freely. Throughout Ottoman history, the Jews were regarded as a People of the Book and allowed to live in peace.
Neither the practices of Inquisition stemming from bigotry, nor anti-Semitism born out of racist ideas-both of which have blackened European history-ever appeared in the Islamic world. In conclusion, it is absolutely out of the question for us Muslims, who think along the commandments of the Qur'an, to feel any hostility towards the Jews because of their religion or beliefs.
The Dark Roots of Anti-Semitism
The neo-pagan movement born in the 19th century maintained that European societies should return to pre-Christian paganism. Some neo-pagans, inimical to Divine religions such as Judaism and Christianity, favored the barbarian lifestyle of pagan societies. The Nazi propaganda poster (top right) equates the SS with ancient pagan warriors.
The ideology known as anti-Semitism is a pagan teaching that no Muslim could possibly adopt.
To realize that, we need to examine the roots of anti-Semitism. The term is generally understood to mean "hatred of Jews," though it really means "hatred of the Semites", in other words, of all Semitic peoples: Arabs, Jews and some other Middle Eastern ethnic groups. There are close similarities between Semitic cultures and languages. For example, Arabic and Hebrew closely resemble one another.
The second great linguistic and racial group that has influenced world history is the Indo-European, including most of the nations in present-day Europe.
Prophets have come to all these different civilizations and societies to tell them about the existence and oneness of God and His commands. From the written record, however, we see that Indo-European nations have held pagan beliefs since very ancient times. The Greek and Roman civilizations, the barbarian German tribes and the Vikings who lived in northern Europe at around the same time, all held polytheistic pagan beliefs. That explains why those societies were devoid of any moral criteria. They regarded violence and savagery as justified and praiseworthy, and widely engaged in immoral practices such as homosexuality and adultery. (We must never forget that the Roman Empire, widely regarded as the most advanced of the Indo-European civilizations, was a savage society in which human beings were tortured and torn apart in the arenas for public entertainment.)
Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the leaders of the neo-pagan movement in 19th-century Europe.
These pagan tribes dominating Europe came to believe in one God only under the influence of Jesus (pbuh) who was sent down as a prophet to the Semites and the children of Israel. He himself was racially and linguistically a Jew. His message gradually spread over Europe, and one by one, formerly pagan tribes came to accept Christianity. (We should make it clear that at this point, Christianity had been corrupted, and included in its teachings was the twisted idea of the Trinity).
In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, Christianity weakened throughout Europe. Along with the growing strength of ideologies and philosophies that supported atheism, a peculiar movement was born: Neo-paganism. That movement's leaders maintained that European societies needed to reject Christianity and revert to their ancient pagan beliefs. According to the neo-pagans, the ethical understanding of the pagan European societies was superior to that which emerged later, after they turned to Christianity.
One of the main representatives of that trend, and also one of the principal theoreticians of fascism, was Friedrich Nietzsche. Implacably hostile to Christianity, he believed that this religion had destroyed the warrior spirit of the German race and therefore, its so-called "noble essence." He attacked Christianity in his book The Antichrist and glorified ancient pagan philosophy in Thus Spake Zarathustra. (Zoroastrianism, widespread in ancient Persia, was one of the pagan religions of Indo-European culture).
The neo-pagans also harbored great hatred for Judaism, which they regarded as the basic root of Christianity, which they considered a "Jewish conspiracy" and even described as "the world being conquered by the Jewish idea." (Without question, the neo-pagans also hated Islam, the sole true religion, in much the same way.)
This neo-pagan movement fanned the flames of anti-religious hatred and also gave birth to the ideologies of fascism and anti-Semitism. Examining the foundations of Nazi ideology in particular, it is quite clear that Hitler and his partisans were pagans in the true sense of the word.
The Nazis' devotion to neo-pagan teachings was the main reason for their hostility towards the Jews. Throughout the years of Nazi rule, spectacles reminiscent of ancient pagan ceremonies were staged all over Germany. The opening ceremony of the Berlin Olympics, shown here, was one of these.
Nazism: 20th-Century Paganism
In the development of Nazi ideology, one of the most important roles was played by Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, a devoted believer in neo-paganism. He was the first to discover the swastika from ancient pagan sources which later became the symbol of the Nazi Party, and to actually use it. The Ordo Novi Templi organization that he established dedicated itself entirely to a rebirth of paganism. Lanz declared that he openly worshipped Wotan, one of the false deities of the old German pagan tribes. Wotanism, in his view, was the German people's natural religion, and the Germans could be saved only by returning to it.
Nazi ideology developed along the lines opened up by Lanz and similar neo-pagan ideologues. Alfred Rosenberg, the foremost of the Nazi ideologues, openly maintained that Christianity couldn't provide spiritual energy for the new Germany being established under Hitler's leadership, which was why the German race needed to return to the old, pagan religion. In Rosenberg's view, when the Nazis came to power, the religious symbols in churches would have to be removed, to be replaced by copies of Hitler's book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), and swastikas and swords representing German invincibility. Hitler was influenced by Rosenberg's views, but didn't put the theory of the new German religion into practice because he feared there would be a huge social protest. 1
Even so, a number of neo-pagan measures were put into practice during the Nazi regime. A short while after Hitler came to power, Christian holy days and festivals began to be abolished and replaced by pagan alternatives. During wedding services, vows were taken to imaginary deities such as "Mother Earth" or "Father Sky." In 1935, schools were forbidden to allow students to recite Christian prayers. Then lessons in Christianity were completely banned.
SS chief Heinrich Himmler stated the Nazi regime's hatred of Christianity: "This religion is the most terrible pestilence the world has ever seen. It needs to be treated accordingly." 2 These words are expressions indicative of Himmler's and the Nazi mentality's ignorance and irrationality. And they are unacceptable.
The Nazis' enmity for the Jews was thus part and parcel of these anti-religious ideologies. Regarding Christianity as a "Jewish conspiracy," the Nazis tried to divorce German society from Christianity on the one hand, and on the other encouraged Jews to leave Germany by putting various forms of pressure on them and organizing street attacks.
When we examine the various neo-Nazi and fascist groups in the vanguard of anti-Semitism today, we see that almost all possess an anti-religious ideology and employ slogans based on pagan concepts.
The Darwinist Roots of Nazism
Another revealing point was the way the Nazi worldview took Darwin's theory of evolution as its intellectual basis.
When putting forward his theory, Charles Darwin had claimed that there was a constant fight for survival in nature, and that some races were especially favored in the fight, while others were doomed to lose and be "eliminated." As one might expect, these views soon came to represent the scientific foundation of racism. James Joll, who spent long years as a professor of international history at Oxford, Stanford and Harvard University, describes the ideological link between Darwinism and racism in his book Europe Since 1870: An International History, which is still used as a college textbook:
Charles Darwin, the English naturalist whose books On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, and The Descent of Man, which followed in 1871, launched controversies which affected many branches of European thought... The ideas of Darwin, and of some of his contemporaries such as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, ... were rapidly applied to questions far removed from the immediate scientific ones... The element of Darwinism which appeared most applicable to the development of society was the belief that the excess of population over the means of support necessitated a constant struggle for survival in which it was the strongest or the "fittest" who won. From this it was easy for some social thinkers to give a moral content to the notion of the fittest, so that the species or races which did survive were those morally entitled to do so.
The doctrine of natural selection could, therefore, very easily become associated with another train of thought developed by the French writer, Count Joseph-Arthur Gobineau, who published an Essay on the Inequality of Human Races in 1853. Gobineau insisted that the most important factor in development was race; and that those races which remained superior were those which kept their racial purity intact. Of these, according to Gobineau, it was the Aryan race which had survived best... Houston Stewart Chamberlain... contributed to carrying some of these ideas a stage further... Hitler himself admired the author [Chamberlain] sufficiently to visit him on his deathbed in 1927. 3
Cover of the first edition of Hitler's 1925 book Mein Kampf (My Struggle)
Hitler's, and thus the Nazis', ideological devotion to Darwinism was implemented in their policies after coming to power. The Nazis' racial policies, known as "eugenics," represented the theory of evolution as applied to society. Eugenics refers to the weeding out of the sick and handicapped, and the "improvement" of the human race by increasing the number of healthy individuals. According to the theory of eugenics, a race can be improved in the same way that better breeds of animal are formed by the mating of healthy individuals. The theory was proposed by Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton and his son, Leonard Darwin. The first person to adopt and spread the theory in Germany was the evolutionist biologist Ernst Haeckel, a close friend and supporter of Darwin. He recommended that handicapped babies should be killed at birth, to accelerate the so-called evolution of society. He actually went even further, and maintained that lepers, cancer patients and the mentally handicapped should also be ruthlessly killed, or else such people would burden society and slow down the process of evolution.
Haeckel died in 1919, but his ideas were bequeathed to the Nazis. Shortly after seizing power, Hitler embarked on an official program of eugenics. His words in Mein Kampf summed up this new policy:
Mental and physical education are of great importance to the state, yet the selection of people is at least as important. The state has a responsibility to declare that it is inappropriate for genetically or clearly unhealthy individuals to reproduce... It must show no sympathy nor wait for others to understand as it fulfils that responsibility... Preventing the reproduction of physically handicapped or unhealthy individuals for a period of 600 years ... will bring about a hitherto unachievable improvement in human health. If the healthiest members of a race reproduce in a planned manner, the result will be ... a race without the deformed physical or mental seeds that we have carried with us so far. 4
As a result of Hitler's philosophy, the Nazis rounded up the mentally ill, the crippled, the congenitally blind and those suffering from inherited diseases and sent them to special "sterilization centers." Under a law passed in 1933, 350,000 mentally ill people, 30,000 gypsies and hundreds of colored children were sterilized by means of castration, x-rays, injections or electric shocks to the genitals. As one Nazi officer put it, "National Socialism is simply applied biology."5
What the Nazis considered "applied biology" was actually Darwin's theory of evolution, itself a violation of the basic laws of biology. It has since been clearly shown that the theory of eugenics and other Darwinist claims are absolutely devoid of any scientific foundation.
Finally, we must emphasize that the Nazis' attachment to evolutionary theory was connected to their hostility to religion as well as to racist policies. As we have already seen, the Nazis bore a great hatred for divine religions. Intending to replace them with pagan beliefs, they sought to carry out anti-religious propaganda and brainwashing and realized that Darwinism was the most effective means of doing so. Daniel Gasman's The Scientific Origins of National Socialism confirms this: "Hitler stressed and singled out the idea of biological evolution as the most foremost weapon against traditional religion..." 6
These same anti-religious and Darwinist ideologies underlay the Nazis' despotic ruthlessness.
Evaluating people according to their ethnic origins and inherited physical characteristics is a perverse practice that reached its peak in the 19th century. The motivating reason behind it was Darwin's theory of evolution, which regarded mankind from a totally racist perspective. Darwin was the behind-the-scenes architect of 19th-century racism and the 20th century's Nazi barbarity. Above: The so-called "racial measurements" performed according to evolutionist criteria. Hitler's devotion to the ideas of Darwin appeared in the title of his own book, Mein Kampf. The struggle in question was, of course, the fight for survival proposed by Darwin.
The Morality of the Qur'an Eliminates Anti-Semitism and All Forms of Racism
The perverted ideology of racism is incompatible with religious moral values, and constantly leads humanity into disaster. Religious morality, on the other hand, commands tolerance, love, compassion and forgiveness-in other words, proper moral values.
From what we have seen so far, the conclusion that emerges is this:
Anti-Semitism is actually an anti-religious and Darwinist ideology, whose roots go back to neo-paganism. For that reason, it is unthinkable for any Muslim to support or feel sympathy for that ideology. An anti-Semite is also an enemy of the prophets Abraham, Moses and David (peace be upon them all), blessed people chosen by God and sent down as messengers to mankind.
In just the same way, other forms of racism (such as prejudice against blacks and other races) are also perversions stemming from various ideologies and false beliefs that have nothing to do with divine religions. Examining anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, it clearly emerges how these advocate ideas and social models diametrically opposed to the morality of the Qur'an. At the root of anti-Semitism, for example, lie feelings of hatred, violence and ruthlessness. (That is why anti-Semites have imitated the pagan religions of ancient barbarian tribes.) An anti-Semite can even go so far as to defend the slaughter of Jews, making no allowance for women, children or the elderly. The morality of the Qur'an, however, teaches love, affection and compassion. It instructs Muslims to be just and forgiving, even to their enemies.
The morality God commands in the Qur'an makes no generalized judgments on the grounds of race, nation or religion. Every society has its good and bad members. This applies to the People of the Book too. After explaining that some of the People of the Book rebel against God and religion, the verse goes on to state that among them, there are also the sincerely devout:
They are not all the same. There is a community among the People of the Book who are upright. They recite God's signs throughout the night, and they prostrate. They believe in God and the Last Day, and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and compete in doing good. They are among the righteous. They will not be denied the reward for any good thing they do. God knows those who guard against evil. (Qur'an, 3:113-115)
No matter whom it is inflicted upon, racism is a terrible crime. The Nazis went down in history as an example of the ruthless dimensions that racist barbarity can assume. This guiltless Jewish child crawling on the ground in the Warsaw ghetto in the 1940s and the many innocent people of different races oppressed all over the world reveal the cruel nature of racism.
The Qur'an commands to make no distinction, not even against those who do not believe and refuse to recognize God and religion, and states that those who display no hostility to religion should be treated well:
God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just. God merely forbids you from taking as friends those who have fought you in the religion and driven you from your homes and who supported your expulsion. Any who take them as friends are wrongdoers. (Qur'an, 60:8-9)
It is commanded that even the enemies of Muslims should enjoy their sense of justice :
You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of God, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to heedfulness. Have fear [and respect] of God. God is aware of what you do. (Qur'an, 5:8)
Once again, all these verses show that it is totally incompatible with Islamic morality to harbor hatred, anger, or aggression towards Jews or any other people, solely on account of their beliefs and race. Since the Jews are descended from the line of Abraham (pbuh), there is absolutely no question of Islamic morality ever permitting any attempt at the elimination of Abraham's (pbuh) line. This is a most repellent and sinful course of action. Like all Muslims who abide by Qur'anic moral values and the Sunnah, the teachings of our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace), it is impossible for us to accept such a repugnant action or regard it as in any way justified.