Paul Berman: On Eschatological Antisemitism
Some three years ago, I had an email exchange with Mr. Paul Berman after blogging on his critique of Tariq Ramadan. More recently, I re-established contact after blogging on the Islamist antisemitism of an obscure jihadi rapper, Assadullah al-Shishini, who weds fascist antisemitism to Islamist eschatological antisemitism in this rap 'poem':
When the Jew's blood reds my knifeNot much of a 'poem', is it. Rhyme scheme: aa bb ccc. Seven simple syllables per line, and doesn't readily scan -- though rhythm can be imposed in rap. The third line's dangling modifier seems to have the rapper himself hiding, given that the fourth line opens with "I," but the following verb insists that this speaker will easily "find" them -- the hidden Jews -- which means that they, rather than the rapper, are the ones hiding. This 'gifted' rapper lacks complete control over his lyrics, even in such a simple 'poem'. Let's hope that his gun misfires as badly as his rap.
Then my life is free of strife
Hiding behind rocks and trees
I'll find them with greatest ease
Throw them in the ovens hot
Soap and lampshades sold and bought
Mercy's something I have not.
Anyway, I noted in my original blogpost on Assadullah al-Shishini that these rap lyrics allude not only to the Holocaust but also to a hadith about Jews hiding behind stones and trees at the end of time, just prior to Judgment Day (Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985). Reflecting that Mr. Berman has spent much of the last decade investigating the extent to which Islamists draw upon European antisemitism generally, and fascist antisemitism in particular -- and that he also notes the link to eschatological utopian thought behind Islamism -- I decided to send him a link to my blog post on Assadullah al-Shishini's 'poem' and its eschatological antisemitism. Mr. Berman replied:
Your commentary is absolutely correct. If you get around to reading my new book, you will see that it offers a great amount of new information on the links between Nazism and Islamism, which I have drawn from the work of a variety of scholars whose work you see cited. I am reading now a book called "A Mosque in Munich" by Ian Johnson, brand new, which contains still more information on this extremely important topic.Mr. Berman's new book is The Flight of the Intellectuals, which I still have yet to read, and I now need also to read Mr. Johnson's book, A Mosque in Munich, which looks very interesting. The Amazon site even has an interview with Mr. Johnson posted, an interview in which he notes the CIA's naive, post-WWII engagement with Islamists in an American attempt to subvert the Soviet Union by turning Muslims against Soviet atheism, long before Charlie Wilson's war, which likewise drew the CIA into an engagement with Islamists. For his part, Johnson generally warns against attempting to use religion for political aims, prompting a question from the interviewer:
Q: What's wrong with engaging with religion? You think it should be kept separate from politics?Yes, that is a bad idea, especially the part about encouraging Islamists to declare jihad. That simply creates more Islamists, who won't like us anyway and whose own world-historical aim of total, global jihad will inevitably blow back in our face, as happened on 9/11.
A: No. Religion is a big part of every society, and politicians should engage with it -- for example, by talking to religious leaders and listening to believers' concerns. But it should be done with respect. It shouldn't be used as a tool for short-term gains, like "Let's get the Muslims to declare jihad on our enemies," or "Let's create Muslim champions who will speak for us around the world." Religion isn't a puppet that you can control like that. It isn't a cudgel. These things are a bad idea and always backfire. But we're still doing it.
I hope that we've gotten beyond that naiveté . . .