Huh? Nazi Muslims? Gott im Himmel!
Buried in government and private archives are hundreds of documents that trace the battle to control the Islamic Center of Munich. Never before made public, the material shows how radical Islam established one of its first and most important beachheads in the West when a group of ex-Nazi soldiers decided to build a mosque.
The soldiers' presence in Munich was part of a nearly forgotten subplot to World War II: the decision by tens of thousands of Muslims in the Soviet Red Army to switch sides and fight for Hitler. After the war, thousands sought refuge in West Germany, building one of the largest Muslim communities in 1950s Europe.
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Postwar Munich was a ruined city packed with Muslim emigres fleeing persecution. While the West tried to observe and control them as valuable pawns in the Cold War, they encountered formidable rivals seeking their own power bases in Europe's burgeoning Muslim world.
Over the next few decades, four men would try successively to control the Munich mosque: a brilliant professor of Turkic studies, an imam in Hitler's SS, a charismatic Muslim writer with a world-wide following and a hard-nosed Muslim financier now under investigation for backing terrorism. Most favored some sort of accommodation with the West. But the victor had a bolder vision: a global Islam opposed to the ideals of secular democracy.
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For decades, German authorities paid little attention to the activities in Munich, viewing them as unconnected to German society. They were slow to grasp the warning signs. In 1993, after a car-bomb attack on the World Trade Center in New York killed six and injured 1,000, investigators discovered that one of the organizers was Mahmoud Abouhalima, who had frequented the mosque. He was tried in the U.S. and in 1994 was sentenced to life in prison without parole. German domestic intelligence began to observe the mosque, intelligence officials say, but dropped their efforts after a short while when no links to terrorism appeared.
The Sept. 11 attacks changed that. Three of the four lead hijackers had studied in Germany, as did another key organizer. As German and U.S. law enforcement searched for clues, some, it is only now becoming apparent, led back to the Munich mosque.
It's gratifying to know that in an age of information overload, a story like this can still come seemingly out of nowhere and dazzle me.
P.S. to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg regarding "Indiana Jones 4" -- could there be better Indy antagonists than Radical Muslim Nazis?