Who was Hajj Amin al-Husayni?


Hajj Amin al-Husayni (1897-1974) was an Islamic cleric, one of the founding voices of radical Islamism, based on nationalism, anti-Jewish and anti-democratic values and justifying violent actions in pursuit of these goals. He made propaganda broadcasts for the Third Reich, which are still central to virulent forms of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hatred. Modern scholarship rejects the idea that he played a role in the decision to launch the Final Solution in 1941-42.

Al-Husayni was born in Jerusalem at the end of the nineteenth century to a wealthy and influential family. He studied in Jerusalem, Cairo and Istanbul, and in 1910 was commissioned in the Ottoman army. He was named Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and President of the Supreme Muslim Council by the British in 1921, following their acquisition of Palestine as a mandate under the League of Nations. These positions made al-Husayni the most powerful religious voice in the Palestinian Muslim community of the time. In 1936, he became chairman of the Arab Higher Committee, central to the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, sparked by the British killing of Sheikh ʿIzz al-Dīn al-Qassām in 1935 and the subsequent murder of two Jews in April 1936. Al-Husayni was forced to flee Mandate Palestine in 1937 after the British administration declared the committee illegal. Husayni spent the rest of the 1930s in exile, first in Lebanon and then in Iraq.

On 21 November 1941, al-Husayni was flown to Berlin, where he met with Hitler on 28 November. Hitler received al-Husayni warmly, though he refused to issue a public statement of support. The Germans maintained al-Husayni at a luxurious Berlin villa, but refused to specify their plans for the Arab world, or al-Husayni’s place in those plans. He was used, however, to help recruit around 25,000 Bosnian Muslims into the Waffen SS in 1943.    Al-Husayni’s rhetoric against Jews in propaganda broadcasts on behalf of the Third Reich was poisonous. In March 1944, he made a speech in which he exhorted his listeners: “Rise as one and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion.” After a brief spell in Allied custody under house arrest in France, he returned to the Middle East, spending his post-1945 career in Egypt and Lebanon, agitating for violence against Jews and the destruction of Israel up until his death in Beirut in 1974.

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