THERE HAVE BEEN rumblings of late about the developing alliance between Islamic radicals and neo-Nazis. In late May, Israeli president Moshe Katzav gave a speech before the German parliament in which he warned, "Let's not be surprised if terror organizations use neo-Nazis for carrying out terror attacks." And on August 5, WorldNetDaily reported, "Neo-Nazi skinheads are working with radical Islamists in a growing unholy alliance that has European law enforcement officials concerned about a new front in the war on terrorism."
Such an alliance seems unlikely on its face; after all, neo-Nazis view most Muslims as racially inferior, while Islamic extremists believe that neo-Nazis are just another flavor of infidel. However, a closer examination reveals that many white-supremacist groups have expressed solidarity with Islamic terrorists recently, and in turn some white supremacists and far-right Holocaust deniers have found newfound supporters among the Islamists.
THE MOST PROMINENT recent example of white supremacists' vocal support for Islamic terrorism came from August Kreis, the new head of Aryan Nations. In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Kreis said of al Qaeda, "You say they're terrorists, I say they're freedom fighters. And I want to instill the same jihadic feeling in our peoples' heart, in the Aryan race, that they have for their father, who they call Allah." Going a step further, Kreis told CNN that he had a message for Osama bin Laden: "The message is, the cells are out here and they are already in place. They might not be cells of Islamic people, but they are here and they are ready to fight."
The Aryan Nations website reflects Kreis's desire to instill a "jihadic feeling" in his followers. For example, it features an article purporting to show that the idea of jihad can be found not only in Islam but also in the Bible. The article concludes with a battle cry: "All the sons of Abraham, all descendants of his three wives, Sarah, Hagar and Ketourah, the parties of the Islamic and Aryan World, all need to understand their duty to enact Holy Jihad, we need to live this Jihad; total war, death to our enemy, the insidious, poisonous and rabid satanic jEw." [sic]
Aryan Nations also boasts a quote on its main page further reflecting its support for radical Muslims. Attributed to Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger, the quote states that "a link is created between Islam and National-Socialism on an open, honest basis. It will be directed in terms of blood and race from the North, and in the ideological-spiritual sphere from the East." The main page also touches on other issues of importance to Muslim radicals. It demands immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Middle East, and under the headline "Ariel Sharon: your typical domineering jew," the website features a picture of the Israeli prime minister with fire coming out of his mouth that ends in a mushroom cloud. Underneath, the website proclaims the photograph to be Sharon's "plan for
Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc . . . "
BEYOND THE ARYAN NATIONS, a surprising number of other white-supremacist websites openly sympathize with Islamic terrorists. The National Alliance, the country's largest neo-Nazi organization, published a 2002 essay by its founder, the late William Pierce, which claimed that the September 11 attacks were a salutary event. Pierce wrote that through the attacks, bin Laden "forced the whole subject of U.S. policy in the Middle East into the open: the subject of American interests versus Jewish interests, of Jewish media control and its influence on governmental policy." Because bin Laden broke the "taboo" about questioning Jewish interests, Pierce claimed, "[i]n the long run that may more than compensate for the 3,000 American lives that were lost."
Neo-Nazi James Wickstrom has a webpage that includes a number of featured articles, the headlines of which provide a good indication of where he stands on the Islamist question. These include "Military Personnel Wounded in Iraq & Afghanistan For The JEW Neo-cons," "U.S. Slaughters People At Prayer At Baghdad Mosque," "U.S. Teachers Targeted By jews If They Teach Contrary to Israeli," and "The President and his jewish handlers LIED about 9/11!"
And the neo-Nazi ADLUSA website (a site designed to oppose the Anti-Defamation League) brands the Anti-Defamation League's call for Hezbollah TV to be designated a foreign terrorist organization as part of a campaign "of smear, corruption, and harassment," and promotes the conspiracy theory that Jewish hands were behind the 7/7 and 9/11 terrorist attacks. In case this doesn't make their position perfectly clear, the ADLUSA features a direct appeal to Muslims: "Moslems, lay down your guns and join our mission to remove Jews from positions of power from which they persecute one people after another; killing Americans misled by Jews only incites endless wars."
This vocal neo-Nazi support for al Qaeda reaches back to shortly after 9/11. The Jewish newspaper Forward reported in November 2001 that the World Church of the Creator displayed a bin Laden quote on its website warning Americans that they needed to tend to their own interests and not those of the Jews.
Around the same time, the website for Florida-based Aryan Action displayed the message: "Support Taliban, Smash ZOG." (ZOG stands for Zionist Occupation Government, a term rooted in the idea that the Jews control world affairs.) In a perverse twist on President Bush's declaration that "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," Aryan Action's website voiced its unequivocal support for al Qaeda: "Either you're fighting with the jews against al Qaeda, or you support al Qaeda fighting against the jews."
THUS FAR, THERE has been no proof of neo-Nazi cooperation with Muslim terrorist groups in planning attacks. Despite the lack of proof of operational links, several figures with feet in both movements have actively tried to bring them closer. One such individual is Ahmed Huber, a 77-year-old Swiss convert to Islam whose study is adorned with twin pictures of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.
Huber told the Washington Post that his goal is to build bridges between radical Muslims and the "New Right." He said that a prevalent view on the New Right is that "what happened on the 11th of September, if it is the Muslims who did it, it is not an act of terrorism but an act of counterterrorism." Certain far-right figures, such as German National Democratic Party theorist Horst Mahler, seem amenable to Huber's ideas. Mahler has spoken of the "sense of sympathy" and "common ground" that far-right European groups share with Islamists, and has admitted to "contacts with political groups, in particular in the Arab world, also with Palestinians."
The neo-Nazis' newfound love for Islamists is by no means unrequited. Some radical Islamic groups have--perhaps in an effort to undercut one of the justifications for the state of Israel--forged intellectual ties with right-wing Holocaust deniers.
At the forefront of contemporary Holocaust denial is the California-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR), which is dedicated to the idea that the Holocaust is a historical fiction. The IHR has been so heartened by the support it's received in the Islamic world that investigative journalist Martin A. Lee noted its journal's frenetic description of a "white-hot trend: the rapid growth of Holocaust revisionism, fueled by increasing cooperation between Muslims and Western revisionists, across the Islamic world."
A number of Middle Eastern newspapers, in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, have published articles endorsing the Holocaust deniers' thesis. Beyond that, neo-Nazi writers who lack legitimacy in the West have increasingly found a platform in the Arab world. For example, Lee further reported that an article by David Duke was featured on the front page of the Oman Times.
Nor is the Islamic promotion of neo-Nazis confined to the Middle East. Lee reports that Muslims, a New York-based weekly newspaper, has published opinion pieces by both David Duke and William Pierce.
Even some Islamic groups with more mainstream legitimacy have promoted far-right figures as featured speakers. One such speaker is William W. Baker, author of the anti-Israel screed Theft of a Nation and former president of the neo-Nazi Populist Party. (While Baker claims that he did not know at the time that the Populist Party was racist, his own words undercut these denials. The Orange County Weekly reports that, in a speech Baker delivered around the time that he headed the Populist Party, he referred to Jerry Falwell as "Jerry Jewry" and commented that he hated traveling to New York City "'cause the first people I meet when I get off the plane are pushy, belligerent American Jews.")
Baker's current avocation is promoting "religious tolerance" by emphasizing the commonalities between Christianity and Islam. In this capacity, Baker has frequently spoken at events hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and various chapters of the Muslim Students' Association; he was also the featured speaker at the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation in Boca Raton earlier this year.
THERE ARE OBSTACLES to further development of the relationship between Islamists and neo-Nazis. In Europe, ethnic Muslims are frequent targets of neo-Nazi violence, and not all neo-Nazis share the sympathy for Palestinians expressed by the likes of William Baker. As one white supremacist website puts it, "I hate Jews but that doesn't mean I automatically love the Jews' victims." And countless Muslims recoil from Nazi ideology.
Nonetheless, this developing alliance is not without historical precedent. Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, famously supported Adolf Hitler during World War II, broadcasting radio propaganda on Germany's behalf and even forming Bosnian Muslim divisions of the Waffen SS. As with al-Husayni and Hitler, the current Islamist/neo-Nazi love affair is rooted in the notion that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend": Both groups are united in their hatred of the Jews, and of the United States.
Moving forward, this peculiar alliance presents the risk that neo-Nazis may collaborate with Islamist terrorist groups on attacks. But a second danger is that the far right's newfound legitimacy in the Arab world may allow neo-Nazi figures to claw their way out from the lunatic fringe to which they're currently relegated.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a counterterrorism consultant and attorney. Kamal Ghali provided research assistance for this article.