Muslims in Interwar Europe

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Lecture-cum-seminar with Dr. David Motadel

Dr. David Motadel was our first guest at the Lecture-cum-seminar series hosted within the 'Muslims in Interwar Europe' project. The central elements of our discussions concerned the issue of the Muslims under German rule during the World War II and the soon-to-be published book authored by Dr. Motadel, ‘Islam and Nazi Germany's War’ (Harvard University Press, November 2014).

The attempt to enhance the ability to wage successful war led the Nazi officials to consider Islam as a powerful force against the British Empire, the Soviet Union and even against Jews. Nazi Germany was to be promoted as a patron of Islam, an ally through which Muslim political and religious aims would be achieved. From this initial point, the discussion turned to Berlin’s policies and propaganda directed towards Muslims in the war zones and of course, their success/failure to stimulate the ‘Islamic world’. Furthermore, the recruitment procedure, the ideological indoctrination process as well as the spiritual dimensions involved in Nazi reasoning were more than thought-provoking. Beyond the significant German engagement in benefitting from the despair corresponding to the various realities/contexts of which the Muslim populations were part under non-German rule, to organizing and directing the animosity via a rather essentialist view of Islam combined with political indoctrination and enforced by the incorporated Imams and Mullahs against the ‘enemies’, it was very interesting to see how the Islamic world beyond the frontline reacted to the calls to holy war. In a war conducted even by means of radio waves, with Radio Zeesen as a propaganda machine on the Axis side, the case of North African Muslims was a special one. German propaganda and indeed that of the Axis, for the Arab world had almost no impact although important Muslim figures were involved; among them was Haj Amin al-Husseini. We went further and examined the German troops’ engagement with Muslims from diverse populations ranging from Tatars to Muslim Roma and even Jewish converts, among others, in the theater of war. Dr. Motadel clarified the profound impact of the Second World War on Muslims and indeed provided a new perspective on the politics of religion.

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