Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Malaysia's obsession with Jews, love affair with Hitler

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Often, in the aftermath of antisemitic attacks on Jewish communities, hateful and apologetic claims are somtimes made that the victim was in fact the instigator of hatred and provoked the attackers. "They brought that upon themselves," some argue. This has led many Jews to the pessimistic belief that wherever there are Jews, there will be antisemitism. However, there are cases that undermine this premise - at times it seems that amazingly there can be antisemitism without Jews.

Malaysia is a case in point. Malaysia has never had a direct dispute with Israel. Despite a lack of availability of accurate numbers, it can confidently be said that Malaysia's tiny Jewish community never numbered more than a couple of hundred in its prime. By the 1970s, that fragile community had vanished. This means that few Malaysians have ever even met a Jewish person. Yet many would articulate antisemitic views and attitudes - including Holocaust denial and expressions of admiration for antisemitic figures such as Hitler and Henry Ford, whose books are bestsellers in the country. For decades this anti-Jewish sentiment was being encouraged and fuelled by the regime.

In a recent article, Canadian author and columnist Robert Fulford ('Anti-Semitism without Jews in Malaysia', National Post, 6.10.2012) listed many examples of this troubling phenomenon, illustrating that antisemitism in Malaysia is clearly not based on "mere" hostility towards Israel, criticism of Israeli policies or world politics. Rather, in Malaysia, hostility towards Israel as a Jewish state appears to be based largely on widespread antisemitic views.

For instance, Fulford mentions how last March, Malaysia's Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department distributed an official sermon to all mosques, stating that "Muslims must understand Jews are the main enemy to Muslims as proven by their egotistical behaviour and murders performed by them." He also explains how "In Kuala Lumpur, it's routine to blame the Jews for everything from economic failures to the bad press Malaysia gets in foreign ('Jewish-owned') newspapers."

This isn't precisely a new trend. Back in 1984, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra had to cancel its visit to Malaysia after the Malaysian Information Minister demanded that a composition by American-Jewish composer Ernest Bloch, be eliminated from their program. That incident had nothing to do the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only a disturbing rejection of all things Jewish. When the film Schindler's List first came out, the Malaysian government banned it, claiming it was pro-Jewish propaganda. Later, the government announced it would only air the film if seven scenes were cut out. When Steven Spielberg refused to alter the film, the government in response removed all of his films from Malaysia's screens. That'll show him!

In 1992, Liverpool Football Club had to cancel a match in Malaysia after an Israeli football player on the team, Ronny Rosenthal, was refused permission to play in Malaysia. One might, cynically, argue that some progress was made when in 2011 Yossi Benayoun, an Israeli Footballer playing for Chelsea was permitted to play in a friendly match in Kuala Lumpur. Progress perhaps, but not as much as one might hope. Benayoun suffered antisemitic abuse from the crowd in the stadium during the match, leading Chelsea to complain to the Malaysian Football Association, claiming that the racial abuse was "offensive, totally unacceptable and has no place in football". The list of expressions of antisemitism in Malaysia goes on and on.

However, happily, it seems that some young and courageous Malaysians are starting to question what they have been told about Judaism and the Jewish people. Erna Mahyuni wrote an op-ed to The Malaysian Insider ('The ridiculous Malaysian obsession with Jews,' 24.10.2012) in which she protests against the absurdity of "Hitler admiration" and popularity of antisemitic literature such as "Mein Kampf" and Ford's "The International Jew" in Malaysia:

"Dear Adolf Hitler admirers, please look at yourself in the mirror. Is your hair the colour of gold? Your eyes as blue as the Barisan National flag? Your skin, a prone-to-burning Caucasian white? if you can answer 'Yes' to all those questions, feel free to continue your private 'Heil, Mein Fuehrer' chants with the other White Power activists. Otherwise, what is wrong with you people?"

Then she points to an astonishing detail, "I've read Malay blogs extolling Hitler as someone who supposedly respected Islam," she writes, "...Would those bloggers still be Hitler fans if they knew that Hitler despised Arabs as much as he did any inferior race? He referred to Arabs as 'lacquered half-apes who ought to be whipped.'" Mahyuni argues that Jews are taking the blame for Malaysia's self-perceived lack of international success. "I suppose it's easier to blame the Jews, the Chinese, the West, rather than admit that we haven't gotten very far as a nation..." she suggests, and concludes that Malaysians need to "...quit blaming the Jews and take some more responsibility for who we are and where we are as a nation."

In her op-ed Mahyuni refers to a chain letter "historically proving" that Hitler was an admirer of Islam (see translation in 'My tribute to the great man, Adolf Hitler,' 25/07/2010), which was widely circulated in Malaysia through email, Facebook and blogs. The letter, originally in Arabic and translated to Malay (and then English), argues that the crimes of Nazism are just a part of greater crimes carried out by other nations:

"Well, the British had done even worse things than them [the Nazis]. The Emperor of Japan during the their Imperial period were the same. But why is the world punishing Hitler, and even insults the name of Nazi as if Nazis still exist today? Meanwhile, they overlook what the British did to the Scots, the Japanese to the world and South African's [sic] apartheid?"

The letter then suggests that the reason for the so called "bias" against Hitler is not the motives, severity and consequences of his crimes, but rather the fact that his fight was against "the Jews, Zionism and the establishment of Israel," and his "principles on Islam." The letter explains that "The Holocaust happened only because Hitler thought the Jews will one day destroy the world," and that Hitler admired ancient civilizations, specifically the Roman, Persian and Arab empires, and therefore had a positive outlook, even an "admiration" of "Islamic civilization".

The letter then goes into detail listing expression of such admiration, based mainly on comments made in connection with historical photographs collected as part as PhD research project. One such "proof" of Hitler's "admiration" of Islam is his supposed positive attitudes towards Muslim soldiers in his army. The letter claims that Hitler "had printed and distributed pamphlets on Islam to the Nazi army during the war, even to the non-Muslim troops," "gave the opportunity for Muslim German soldiers to pray on time everywhere. The army even prayed in the square of Berlin, while Hitler patiently waited until the end of their prayers to deliver his speech." Another claim was made, that "Hitler also frequently met with Islamic scholars to seek their opinion and learn about Islam," and even that he had "asked for Islamic clerics to pray for his soldiers, even those who are not Muslims, to give them strength to kill the Jews."

To those with any kind of previous knowledge of Hitler's personal biography and the history of World War II, these arguments sound awfully fishy, but to people without such prior knowledge the captioned photos might actually look convincing. But the historical revisionism does not stop there. The author of the letter adds some bizarre historical "revelations" of his own, arguing that Hitler incorporated quotes from the Quran in his speeches:

"When the Nazi troops arrived in Moscow, Hitler wanted to give a speech to them. He ordered his advisors to find a grand opening quote, no matter whether from religious texts, words of philosophers or poetry. An Iraqi writer who resided in Germany suggested a line from the al-Quran that means: 'the Day of Resurrection is near and the moon will be split up.' Hitler was impressed by this verse and used it as the opening for his speech. His translators agreed that the verse gave images of greatness, strength and depth. When Hitler later wrote his book Mein Kampf while he was in prison, he wrote that many of his actions was inspired by the Quran, especially what his killing of Jews."

Even more incredibly, the unknown author claims that the pledge of allegiance soldiers took upon completing their military training in German military academies included "the name of Allah the Most High," quoting the pledge: "I swear by Allah (God) the Most High, and this is my sacred oath that I will obey all orders of the army chief and our leader Adolf Hitler, that I am always willing to sacrifice my life for my leader at all times."

As final, and conclusive, proof of Hitler's closeness to Islam, the author mentions the well-known fact that Hitler did not drink alcohol, tying it to the prohibition on consumption of alcohol in Islam.

Fortunately, not everyone in Malaysia was impressed by the letter. Like Mahyuni, others decided to dig a little deeper and set the record straight. Zurairi AR, an editor for "unscientific Malaysia", a secularist "free-thought" blog, wrote an extensive deconstruction of the chain letter ('Muslims admire Hitler more then he did them,' 26/07/2010), pointing out some gross and misleading historical revisionism and flat out lies, and providing some much-needed context to the photos.

The "Muslim scholar" seen in the photos is none other then the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem- Haj Amin al-Husseini (Mohammad Amin al-Husayni). The deconstruction continues:

"It is not a secret that Al-Husayni and Hitler have met, but only once and certainly not for the reasons claimed by the Muslims. Throughout the War, Al-Husayni fleed Jerusalem and seeked [sic] asylum in various pro-German and fascist countries. In exile, Al-Husayni claimed to be a leader of a secret Arab nationalist movement, and requested for audiences with Mussolini and Hitler.
During the war, the Mufti stayed in Berlin as a self-appointed representative of the Arab nations' support of the Axis Powers, spreading Axis propaganda into the Arab world. After a visit to Bosnia in 1941, he even convinced Muslim leaders of a need for a SS (Nazi army) division staffed by Muslims for the interest of Islam...This was [sic] the Muslim soldiers seen in the photos.
In short, they were not exactly Muslim German soldiers. They were Muslims recruited by Germany."

Regarding the other photos in the letter he notes:

"This was not Islamic pamphlets [sic] read by German soldiers. This was Nazi propaganda read by Bosnian Nazi soldiers...
This was Bosnian Nazi soldiers [sic] praying, but Hitler was nowhere near them.
This was not Hitler meeting a Muslim scholar to learn about Islam...
If any, [sic] Hitler never asked Muslims anything. It was al-Husayni who asked for Hitler's audience."

Zurairi's deconstruction of the chain letter also points out that:

"it's a historical fact that German army never quite reached Moscow, they never conquered the city due to ferocious Soviet resistance. Hitler never made any speech in Moscow. He never even stepped foot in the city in all his life. Unless my history is patchy, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in the 1920s, two decades before the Battle of Moscow."

Zuhairy Fauzy also wrote a similar, historically-based, deconstruction ('Nazism and Islam: An Analytical addendum to "Muslims admire Hitler more than he did them,"' 03/08/2010) in which he points out that:

"So yes, in a manner of speaking, the Nazis did swear by Allah to serve their Führer - "Allah" simply being the word used by Arabs, regardless of religion, to refer to God."

The claim that the fact that Hitler never drank alcohol is related to his views of Islam was also rebuked both by Fauzy and by Zurairi, who wrote:

"Hitler was not only a teetotaler, he was also a vegetarian. However, we never heard anyone claiming Hitler was a Hindu have we? In fact, Hitler even used a swastika for Nazi's logo! This is an exercise in logical fallacies, none of the fact was relevant [sic] with claims that Hitler admired Islamic teachings."

The post concludes with similar sentiment to the one expressed by Mahyuni - a call for Malaysians to stop justifying the Holocaust, historical revisionism and antisemitism:

"Regardless of Hitler's relationship with Islam, to sympathise with Hitler and legitimise his persecution of Jews is an atrocious trait and downright spiteful."

Or Avi-Guy

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