Raymond Ibrahim, editor of The Al Qaeda Reader, was kind enough to send me an article he wrote last fall documenting the similarities between "Mein Kampf" and the Koran--something I refer to in passing in today's column while examining the contrasting American reactions to the anti-semitism, supremacism, and totalitarianism of Mein Kampf in 1940 and the anti-infidelism, supremacism and totalitarianism of the Koran in 2008. Ray fills in the nitty-gritty (and fascinating) details here.
There should be little doubt at this point, of how similar the worldview delineated in The Al Qaeda Reader is to that of Mein Kampf’s: Jews, democracy, peace, modernity and decadence, and the notion of a peaceful “United Nations” are anathema to both. Conversely, authoritarianism, self-sacrificing heroism and martyrdom, military pride and prowess, and, above all, a zeal for world conquest — rationalized for both as a “divine mission” — are idealized.
That said, the two books still do differ, in certain respects. For starters, only one man — Hitler — authored Mein Kampf, whereas two authored The Al Qaeda Reader (bin Laden and Zawahiri). Furthermore, Mein Kampf is a complete text, whereas I played the role of editor for The Al Qaeda Reader, selecting which texts to include and how to organize them at my own discretion.
The most obvious difference, of course, is the ultimate goal of both books — Aryan supremacy for Mein Kampf, Islamic supremacy for The Al Qaeda Reader; the one a secular enterprise, the other a religious enterprise. (Still, all the key words and ideologies present in Mein Kampf have their natural counterparts in The Al Qaeda Reader. In other words, both books present a similar paradigm.) al Qaeda al Qaeda
— — al Qaeda al QaedaAnother difference between the two books is the fact that al Qaeda’s tone is actually much more brutal and direct than Hitler’s. One can almost sense the “romantic” in Mein Kampf — a deluded Goethe lamenting the mediocrity of a world that shuns his greatness. Expansion is rationalized only in order to “till the earth” and earn the people’s “daily bread.” In contrast, al Qaeda unequivocally declares its intentions to kill infidels, kill Americans, and kill Jews anywhere and everywhere, until the earth and all its inhabitants submit to Islam. This contrast is underpinned by the fact that Mein Kampf was written in the first person and revolves around Hitler’s personal life. Not so with The Al Qaeda Reader; though delineated by two men, the worldview presented therein is hardly influenced by their personal experiences.
Which leads to the most fundamental, albeit subtle, difference between Mein Kampf and The Al Qaeda Reader: the words contained in Mein Kampf belong to one man, Hitler, who was a byproduct of a particular age and temporal worldview. In contrast, perhaps as much as half of The Al Qaeda Reader’s words are quotations from 1) the Koran, 2) Mohammed (i.e., hadith), and 3) authoritative Islamic theologians — in other words, half of the statements of The Al Qaeda Reader do not originate with al Qaeda at all, but rather find their origin in Islam itself.
Fully aware of their lack of official religious credentials, bin Laden and Zawahiri have made it a point to ground their arguments in Islam’s most authoritative texts. Even the exegeses they rely upon, comes from some of the most renowned Islamic theologians. The result is that the worldview presented in The Al Qaeda Reader is not so much al Qaeda’s idiosyncratic view of things, but rather the traditional worldview of Islam. For example, al Qaeda’s insistence that Islam must one day rule the world is not of their own making: based on several Koranic verses (e.g., 2:193, 2:216, 8:39, 9:5, 9:29) and numerous hadith, which in no uncertain terms preach world conquest, the theologians and articulators of sharia law determined a long time ago that the “Abode of Islam” must always (except when militarily incapable) be at war with the “Abode of War” (e.g., the West) until the former subsumes the latter.
Similarly, al Qaeda’s condemnation of democracy is fully grounded in Islam’s unambiguous requirement that the faithful submit to sharia — that is, Allah’s — law (e.g. Koran: 3:64, 5:50, 17:9, 18:26, 33:36, 42:10), giving credence to Zawahiri’s proclamation that “whoever claims to be a ‘democratic-Muslim’ or a Muslim who calls for democracy, is like one who says about himself ‘I am a Jewish Muslim,’ or ‘I am a Christian Muslim’ — the one worse than the other. He is an apostate infidel.”
As for the Jews, much more unflattering and slanderous accusations are set against them in Islam’s most authoritative texts than in any of the above quotations from al Qaeda (for example, Koran 2:61 and 3:112). While Hitler portrayed Jews as “no lovers of water” who could be detected “with your eyes closed,” the Koran gives an account of rebellious Jews being transformed into apes and swine (see 2:65, 5:60, 7:166) — appellations still popular in parts of the Islamic world. Indeed, anyone who goes through Andrew Bostom’s upcoming tome, The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism, will confront nearly 1,000 pages of anti-Semitism straight from Islam’s most authoritative sources: the Koran, the hadith, and the fatwas and treatises of the theologians.
In the final analysis, the theological aspects of The Al Qaeda Reader make it a much more disturbing read than something like Mein Kampf. That the ideologies presented in Mein Kampf are ultimately traced back to a man, whereas many of the ideologies of The Al Qaeda Reader are traced back to Mohammed and Allah — transforming ideologies to theology — is a great matter. Man-made ideologies can always be discredited and allotted to the dustbins of history. Ideologies grounded in theologies, however, are not so easily dismantled, for they are grounded in the Immutable and simply must apply — yesterday, today, and tomorrow — regardless of all outward evidence to the contrary. To reject them is to reject the commandments of God and fall into a state of infidelity, though to accept them in this case is a human tragedy.
Still worse from the non-Muslim standpoint is to insist, to pretend, to function, to act, to fight as though these commmandments have nothing to do with Islam.