Worry Over Islam Like Hitler's Hatred of Jews?

Last Tuesday, “Berlin Islam Week” opened its gates with the topic “Islam as Boogey Man.” On the following days subjects like “Eco-Islam” and “Islamic Economy” (i.e., banking houses working without interest, using fees instead) were handled. Muslims and non-Muslims are supposed to meet there, listen to lectures, and discuss. The Berlin Senate appointee for integration, Günter Piening, acted as patron and said: “We have to show that Islam belongs here. Nevertheless I see a kind of self-victimization within a part of the Muslim community.” However, Piening and the Berlin Senate are supporting an event which is openly pleading for more Sharia in Germany by, for example, promoting Islamic banking.

As an introduction there was a so-called “incentive lecture” by Prof. Wolfgang Benz, the chief anti-Semitism researcher of Germany, on the topic “Islam as Boogey Man -- Myth or Reality?”

He started off likening fear of the Muslim Brotherhood to fear of a Jewish world conspiracy, as written in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Then he drew a comparison that left us speechless.

He compared the attention that critics of Islam give to the high number of Muslim inmates in Berlin prisons (about 70% according to Benz) to Adolf Hitler’s ranting over the high percentage of Jewish Berlin pediatricians in the 1930s (89% according to Benz). Both “attentions” he put on the same level of condemnation.

Benz also said that some critics who deal with the Quran and Islam remind him of Nazi anti-Semites attacking the Talmud or the Torah. Finally, he claimed that fear of the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood is similar to anti-Semitic fear and conspiracy thinking like that of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

As a thank you, Benz received a baggie full of Turkish baklava pastries.

Equating criticism of an anti-Semitic organization like the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) with anti-Semitism itself? Portraying fans of Hitler and the Nazis, like the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as victims of those who are criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood’s anti-Semitism?

Is Benz finally losing his mind?

Remember: Since 1990, Wolfgang Benz has been head of the only continental European research center on anti-Semitism, the Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA), based at Technical University in Berlin. He is supposed to analyze anti-Semitism, both historical and contemporary. But he prefers to equate anti-Semitism with “Islamophobia.” In 2010, Benz wrote a nasty article for the leading German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung titled “Anti-Semites and enemies of Islam -- agitators with parallels.” The gist? Critics of Islamic anti-Semitism and Islamists share the same mental or political mindset. The same could be heard hours and days after 9/11, when Germans equated George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden.

Benz organized a conference at his center in December 2008 titled “Concept of the enemy Muslim – concept of the enemy Jew.” Since then he has attacked pro-Israel scholars and scholars on anti-Semitism in the same fashion.

Joining the Islamic week in 2011 itself supports Sharia, because Islamic banking is a core issue of this Islamic week. Islamic banking is part of Islamic economics, introduced by leading Islamist Sayyid Abul-Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979). Mawdudi was not interested in economics as such. Rather, he wanted to use the economy as a tool to spread Islamization, as scholar Timur Kuran has shown in his 2004 book Islam and Mammon.

Benz became a supporter of Islamism and anti-Semitism when he spoke to German Islamist website Muslim-Markt in November 2010. Muslim-Markt is a German-Turkish project with close ties to the Iranian regime. They propagate a boycott of Israel on their homepage and are a forerunner of the BDS movement. They promote pictures from rallies in Germany which read “Zionists out of Jerusalem”  and “Israel -- Pseudo state,” and on their page they have entries like “Zionists are racists,” “Crimes of the Zionists,” etc. One of the protagonists of Muslim-Markt lost his job at the University of Bremen due to his extremism. But it was no problem for Benz to talk to him in a very friendly manner.

Benz was also criticized last year after it was revealed that he earned his PhD in 1968 under the auspices of Prof. Karl Bosl, who had been on the payroll of the Schutzstaffel (SS) during Nazi Germany. Bosl was a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and the Stormtroopers (SA), among other National Socialist organizations. After 1945, he was still committed to supporting former leading Nazis and edited volumes in honor of individuals like Theodor Mayer and Karl Alexander von Müller.

Benz himself honored Bosl in 1983 and 1988, and said in 2010 at an event in the Bavarian city of Erlangen that Bosl “was not a Nazi.” In fact, Bosl even equated the Holocaust with the expulsion of the Germans from the East after 1945 in a lecture in front of a right-wing extremist group called Witikobund in 1964.

While Benz is silent about the Nazi legacy of his PhD advisor, he is eager to denounce critics of anti-Semitism and Islamic jihad.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest Islamist organization worldwide, and anti-Semitism is a core element of its ideology, from its founder Hasan al-Banna, through Sayyid Qutb to Hamas and Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Equating criticism of Islamic anti-Semitism like that of the Muslim Brotherhood with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is beyond discussion. In doing so, Benz supports Ikhwan’s anti-Semitism.

Supporting anti-Semitism and attacking its critics, one might think, could not possibly be the purpose of a state-funded institution of higher education in today’s Germany, more than 65 years after Auschwitz. In fact, it is.