Jihad and Counter-jihad in Germany

Date01 December 2014
Published date01 December 2014
Subject MatterArticles
Jyotirmoy Banerjee, Professor of International Relations (retd), Jadavpur
University, Kolkata.
Jihad and Counter-
jihad in Germany
Jyotirmoy Banerjee
Historically, jihad was long encouraged by the West, a perspective which
has not gained sufficient recognition in scholarly literature. Berlin played
an important role in this ever since the times of Kaiser Wilhelm II till
the end of Hitler’s Third Reich. The Germans, playing the game of big-
power politics against primarily the British Empire, actively fanned jihad
among the Muslims worldwide. Later, the USA did the same to encour-
age Afghan mujahideen fighters to fight back the Soviet invasion of their
country in December 1979. Hence the term ‘directed jihad’, suggesting
that the history of jihad in the twentieth century shows much active
Western support behind the phenomenon. Paradoxically, this—at least
partial—creation of the West is now turning against the latter.
‘Directed jihad’, Terrorism, Islam , Oppenheim, Himmler, SS, US, CIA,
Intelligence, Afghanistan, Mujahideen, Federal Office for the Protection
of the Constitution, Islamism, Salafism, Germany, Counter-terrorism,
Counter-jihad, German-Islamic Conference, the Common Terror
Defence Centre
Although al-Qaeda has been largely decimated and its most prominent
leader, Osama bin Laden, killed in May 2011, jihadist terrorism keeps
reappearing in various avatars in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.1
They stretch from the Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia in Northwest Africa, the
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Levant (ISIS, ISIL, or just IS), outfits
like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Haqqani group in South Asia, all the
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
18(2) 103–136
2014 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/0973598415569933
104 Jyotirmoy Banerjee
Jadavpur Journal of International Relations, 18, 2 (2014): 103–136
way to the Jemaah Islamiah in the Philippines in Southeast Asia. A signi-
ficant number of jihadist sympathizers come even from the affluent
states of Europe, including the Federal Republic of Germany. Among the
factors that continue to feed the clamor for jihad are national and regional
grievances, bad governance, revenge, and personal issues (Gardner
2014).2 There is no single, clear-cut explanation for Islamist radicaliza-
tion, observed Germany’s Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, on
October 28, 2014, in Berlin: ‘The rapidity of radicalization can be
explained but not understood.’3
Instances of jihadist violence abound. Boko Haram started out in
Nigeria as a largely political and religious movement to promote the
rights of Muslims in northern Nigeria, but turned increasingly violent
after 2009. In November 2014, it was Boko Haram that apparently mas-
sacred dozens of schoolchildren.4 In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula (AQAP) cashed in on the turmoil and security vacuum created
by the Arab Spring upheavals of 2011. China’s Muslim-majority
Xinjiang, Central Asian states like Uzbekistan and southern Philippines,
all face ‘Islamist’ (defined later) violence.
The Taliban presently is down but not out. Self-styled mujahideen
groups keep appearing in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and
even Europe, including Germany. The seemingly irrepressible and ruth-
less ISIS, which aims at establishing a strict Islamic caliphate in Syria
and Iraq, is the latest example of die-hard jihad.
Germany and Jihad: A Historical Perspective5
Over the past century, Christian Germany has had an unusual relation-
ship with Islamic jihad. The first half of the twentieth century saw a
remarkable affinity between the two. However, the post-World War II
scenario changed Germany radically, as also the configuration of world
politics. In the second half of the century, Germany and jihad underwent
a volte-face.
There is a tendency in the Western publications to identify jihad as
Muslim irredentism. But there is hardly any mainstream discussion of
the role played by Christian Europe in encouraging Islamic jihad at vari-
ous periods of time in the past.6 Britain and Germany contributed to jihad
Jihad and Counter-jihad in Germany 105
Jadavpur Journal of International Relations, 18, 2 (2014): 103–136
in numerous and intriguing ways. The British did this mostly in a nega-
tive way. Their policies toward Muslim populations—which the latter
saw as hostile and inimical to their way of life—gave rise to jihad. This
is true of the Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as
swathes of regions in Afghanistan and undivided, British-ruled India.
Germany, on the other hand, encouraged jihad, especially against the
British, as a great leverage to keep the lion on its toes in times of hostil-
ity. This forms a most interesting phase in the chequered career of the
ideology of jihad during the past century. The influence of German prop-
aganda may have partly shaped and amplified the insinuations, connota-
tions and nuances of the concept, which went over and beyond what its
traditional religious exhortations implied.
Late in the twentieth century, following the Soviet military interven-
tion in Afghanistan in 1979, the United States (US) also contributed its
bit. It actively promoted jihad, this time to keep the bear busy. It nursed
and nourished the al-Qaeda and the Taliban and their mujahideen fighters
to combat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Later, its own creation turned out
to be a Frankenstein and 9/11 was a wakeup call to this bitter reality.
Early Contacts
Way back in 1701, the Ottoman sultan had sent his congratulatory mes-
sage to Frederick I when he became the King of Prussia. Prussian king
Friedrich II’s friendly policy toward the Ottoman Empire was useful dur-
ing the Seven Years’ War, when Turkish troop movements distracted the
Austrians. The rumor of good Prussian–Turkish relations led a large
number of Muslims, mostly from the Balkans and Galicia, to join the
Prussian army, especially cavalry.7
The traditional policy of the Bismarckian German Reich in the nine-
teenth century was to desist from seeking colonies in the Middle East.
Unlike Britain and France, the reich did not wish to meddle in Arab or
African politics. From the 1880s till 1914, the Europeans raced for
African territory. But Berlin’s priorities under Bismarck lay with Europe
and America.8 The three pre-war pillars of the German policy toward the
Middle East were respecting the status quo, disclaiming any territories
and mediating in Oriental disputes. The Berlin Conference (1884–1885)

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