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Icon of Evil: Hitler's Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam Hardcover – June 24, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the last century, Arab peoples have frequently fared poorly under leaders chosen by or foisted upon them, including Egypt’s Nasser, Syria’s Assad, and Iraq’s Hussein. Among the most destructive of these was Haj Amin al-Husseini, who dominated Palestinian politics for several critical decades of the twentieth century. This account of the life and career of al-Husseini is interesting and disturbing but hardly balanced. If the authors’ goal is to show the venality of their subject and the tragic consequences for Palestinians, they succeed admirably. As Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, al-Husseini maintained his personal and family powers like a gangster. His nationalist aspirations manifested themselves in the form of rabid Jew baiting that went far beyond opposition to Zionism, and the authors conclusively show how he promoted the extermination of Jews while he resided in Hitler’s Germany. However, their effort to link al-Husseini to the rise of contemporary radical Islam is unconvincing. Still, this is a useful work that helps explain the sad legacy of Palestinian political life. --Jay Freeman


"Pritchard's reading is compelling and invites repeated listens." ---AudioFile --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066537
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #997,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Trageser on September 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I agree with D. Hunsicker's review: This is an important book, but a poorly written one. The "what if" chapter imagining what al-Husseini might have done if Hitler won the war is inappropriate in a history book. Given al-Husseini's role in fomenting anti-Jewish hatred among Muslim populations, given his role in making pro-Nazi propaganda broadcasts into the Middle East from Berlin in WWII, and given his role in helping recruit Muslims into the Wehrmacht and SS, there was plenty of real, factual history to work with here. So why all the what-ifs and hyperbole? The attempts to tie al-Husseini to every anti-semitic Arab and Muslim leader on the contemporary scene are ridiculous, while his real-life crimes are glossed over. It would have been much better to have included more transcripts of his radio broadcasts, to have gone into more detail of his work on behalf of the Nazis, of his post-war work in whipping up anti-Jewish bigotry. Instead, too much of the book is superficial. Coming from professors at Stanford and USF, such a poorly organized, poorly written book is a huge disappointment. Hopefully, another book on this topic using the same source material can be written to provide a more rigorous critique of al-Husseini's crimes against humanity.
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Format: Hardcover
On Tuesday, June 24th, we met Rabbi David Dalin at the Temple Judea in Coral Gables, Florida, where he was introducing his new book: Icon of Evil: Hitler's Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam.

His presentation was excellent, detailing how in 1921, Haj Amin al-Husseini became the mufti of Jerusalem. After some research we learned that the word "mufti" means: (a) a Muslim jurist expert in the religious law, or (b) in the Ottoman Empire, a deputy of the chief Muslim legal adviser to the Sultan.

Mr. Husseini, a most eminent and influential Islamic leader in the Middle East helped foment enmity against Jews in the region and in 1937 joined Nazi Germany because they shared a common enemy, the Jews. Mr. Husseini was seen by Hitler as an honorary Aryan.

While Hitler had written racial inferiority remarks about the Muslims in his book "Mein Kampf," Hitler liked Mr. Husseini's looks, his "blond hair, red beard, and blue eyes, appeared to have been an exception." The cover of the book surfaces a photo that the author explained was hard to obtain, it is of a photograph taken of the mufti with the fuehrer himself, Adolf Hitler.

The book details how Al-Husseini recruits thousands of Muslims in Europe to fight for the Waffen-SS, his protests about allowing Jews to move into Palestine, prevent the escape of Jewish children from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, who accompanied by 400 adults were to enter Palestine in exchange for the release of twenty thousand German prisoners of war.

At some point, Al-Husseini "organized the dispatch of five parachuters to Palestine with ten containers of a toxin to poison Tel Aviv's water system. Fortunately, they were caught near Jericho before they could carry out their mission.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an important and timely book. In order to understand the roots of modern Middle Eastern anti-semitism and the rise of radical Islamic violence it is essential to know this almost forgotten part of history. It should come as no surprise to find that it has its roots in the connection between the early 20th Century mufti of Jerusalem and Hitler himself.

This book is a must-read for a better grasp on this history and also to appreciate the surprising political naivete by members of the British civil administration of Palestine. By choosing a a thoroughly unsuitable and unqualified leader for Jerusalem's Muslims, the British set the scene for much of today's Middle-Eastern turmoil.
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Format: Paperback
Icon: someone or something regarded as embodying the essential characteristics of an era or group.

The book's thesis is that Haj Amin al-Husseini both led and became representative of Palestinian Nationalism, both in his time and thereafter. It's a brief read with a core text of 148 pages followed by a selection of the Mufti's writings, footnotes and a bibliography.

The basic facts of the book are sound, but there are a number of ways it could have been better. One problem was the interjection comments on what individuals supposedly thought - impossible to know and I felt it detracted from the case the authors were trying to build. One should watch for those moments and put them aside as editorials. I object less to Chapter 4 "The Mufti's Reflection" which speculated as to what might have happened had the Nazis opted to conquer the Middle East instead of breaking the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Russia. Here the authors are trying to describe the elements that were already in place for a final solution to the "Jewish Problem in Palestine". There were plans for a death camp to be built in the vicinity of Ramallah. The Mufti was shown to be an advocate for genocide and had positioned himself to be put in charge of Palestine in a Vichy style government. There was genuine concern that Rommel would continue his routs and push the British out and there was widespread support by the Arab peoples for a German victory.

On pp42 the following single line quote stood out: "The greatest contemporary Arab here - is probably Adolph Hitler". (Inside Asia: pp528, by John Gunther.) Shocking enough, but the authors should have drawn further on this source.
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