Jinnah, Iqbal, Mufti And Hitler: Anti-Semitism In Pakistan Is As Old As The Idea Of Pakistan Itself

Pakistani Shiite Muslim protesters carry a coffin wrapped in US and Israeli flags during a protest in Peshawar on May 16, 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden slammed Western leaders for taking part in Israel’s 60th birthday celebrations and vowed that Muslims would not give up ‘one inch of Palestine,’ in an audio message. AFP PHOTO/Tariq MAHMOOD (Photo credit: TARIQ MAHMOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Muhammad Iqbal, the intellectual father of Pakistan, among others, drew parallels between Hindus and Jews in undivided India and Palestine respectively.

    He even talked of ‘repeating Palestine’ in certain parts of North West India. Such rhetoric finally resulted in Jinnah creating successful ‘civil war’ scenarios as during the Direct-action day pogroms witnessed in ‘Great Calcutta Killing’ and Noahkali.

    Even before such an action revealed the Nazi nature of Pakistani movement, Dr. Ambedkar had discovered Hitler in Jinnah’s voice.

    Jinnah minced no words when he said that Muslims were speaking the language of Hitler and claiming a place in the sun as Hitler had been doing for Germany.

    Hence, it is no surprise that Anti-Semitism, inherent in the ideology of the founding fathers of Pakistan, manifested itself not only in ideology but also in the nature of politics of Pakistani movement.

For 1900 years you have been trying to crush the Jews. Why could you not crush them? Echo answers: Ignorance and bigotry could never crush Truth.
Swami Vivekananda

Bernard-Henri Levy, a French liberal writer and philosopher, was researching in Pakistan for his book ‘Who killed Daniel Pearl?’ In the process, he discovered some startling revelations.

He would go on to say in an interview to an Indian weekly that he was “stunned by the virulent anti-Semitism which Pakistanis make no effort to conceal” (‘Riveting Tale’, The Week, 10 July 2005). Anti-Semitism has indeed been deep-rooted in the Pakistani movement since its very inception.

The roots of anti-Semitism in India have an interesting origin.

Legends of Jews state that they found refuge on the western coast of South India after the fall of the Temple in 70 CE and then repeatedly in 136 CE, 370 CE and 499 CE. The first Jewish settlement was in the port of Cranganore where the local Hindu king gave, in 849 CE as well as in 1000 CE, copper plate inscription to the Jewish community offering them land for their synagogues.

Travelogue of Muslim writer Ibn Battuta (1315-1354) mentions not just Jewish settlement in Malabar but also Jewish sovereignty at Chendamangalam near Cranganore.

Anti-Semitism was unknown in India until the Portuguese came in the fifteenth century. Both Jews and Muslims fell prey to the predatory looting by Portuguese. Initially, the persecuted Portugal Jews arrived in Kerala and soon the inquisition was installed in India. Governor Albuquerque wrote to the Portugal king to grant permission for “‘extermination of Jews”’ in the new town they had set up in the occupied territories of Kerala.

Though that permission was not granted, all other worships except Catholic worship were banned and became punishable in the occupied area. In the sixteenth century, Arabs assaulted Jews of Cranganore forcing them to migrate to Cochin where the Hindu king gave them shelter.

While the Jews suffered under Portuguese occupation and Arab attack, the Hindu ruler of Old Cochin allowed absolute religious freedom to Jews, Muslims and Christians. The Hindu king even stopped battle on Saturday because his Jewish soldiers were observing Sabbath.

Apart from the Arabs, Indian Muslims untouched by the Pan-Islamist politics were largely free of anti-Semitism. Ironically, it was a non-Muslim who headed an almost Jihad- like Khilafat movement, that brought Indian Muslims in touch with the pan-Islamist revival in the colonized world.

Soon, pan-Islamism also brought with it anti-Semitism which played no small role in the creation of Pakistan uprooting millions of people in the India-Pakistan region.


Akhtar Hameed Khan was a celebrated social thinker of erstwhile East Pakistan (Bangladesh). He had won international acclaim for his successful work in Comila Development Programme in Bangladesh as well as in Orangi Pilot Project at Karachi.

In the anthology of articles titled ‘Mushahidat-o-Ta’asurat’ (City Press, Karachi, 2002), according to him both Mohammad Iqbal as well as Allama Mashraqi were influenced by ideas of ‘Superman’ attributed to Nietzsche, in a deviant form, which were also admired by Hitler. Allama was an admirer of Hitler.

Far from such fancy ideological fascinations another powerful and also a practical connection existed between anti-Semitism and Pakistan from its very origin.

In 1917, at the Socialist International Conference at Stockholm, two brothers Dr. Abdul Jabbar Kheiri and Abdus Sattar Kheiri, submitted a proposal for the partition of India and creating a Muslim nation.

According to Mushuril Hussain, Sattar Kheiri was ‘the ‘red-hot’ Nazi in Aligarh. His pro-German propaganda was funded and supported by the Allianz and Stuttgarter Insurance Bank and other agencies. He also launched a magazine ‘The Spirit of Time’ in June 1938. Hussain says that it ‘was anti-Communist, pro-Muslim and pro-Nazi in tone.’

There was also a small section of Hindu leaders who admired Nazis. But as Prof. Benjamin Zachariah points out they were ‘too easily taken in by the Nazis’ apparent respect for ‘Aryan’ culture and the Aryan race’.

But the fascination from the quarters of political Islam is ‘something that warrants further attention, as it cannot simply be explained by a misreading of the concept of ‘Aryan’.

As the movement for Pakistan grew, Islamists put to use the Palestinian issue. Pan-Islamism was so consumed with anti-Semitism that it was siding with the Nazi state to destroy Jews in whatever way possible. In India, Jews were compared to Hindus in Pakistan rhetoric.

Mohammad Iqbal was the intellectual founder of Pakistani movement, guiding it through each crucial movement in those turbulent periods spanning the late 1930s to 1947.

Muhammad Iqbal is considered the “Spiritual Father Of Pakistan”. Muhammad Iqbal is considered the “Spiritual Father Of Pakistan”.

In a letter marked ‘Private and Confidential’ dated 7 October 1937, Iqbal exhorted Jinnah thus: “The Palestine question is very much agitating the minds of the Muslims. We have a very fine opportunity for mass contact for the purposes of the League. I have no doubt that the League will pass a strong resolution on this question and also by holding a private conference of the leaders to decide on some sort of a positive action in which masses may share in large numbers.”

This kind of mass movement was built with infuriating speeches wherein parallels were drawn between Hindus and Jews in undivided India and Palestine respectively. Such a parallel was drawn by none other than Iqbal himself in his letters to Jinnah (for example in his letter dated 28 May 1937).

Here he even talked of ‘repeating Palestine’ in certain parts of North West India. Ultimately, the ‘positive mass action’ Iqbal talked about resulted in Jinnah creating successful ‘civil war’ scenarios as during the Direct-action day pogroms witnessed in the ‘Great Calcutta Killing’ and Noakhali. This ensured that the battle-wary Congress leaders succumb to partition.


Muriel Lester, in whose house Gandhi stayed during his visit to England was at ground-zero of the Noakhali holocaust at Gandhi’s request. That she described the events there as ‘well planned quite a Hitlerian network of folks’, was not accidental.

Interestingly, even before such an action revealed the Nazi nature of Pakistani movement, Dr. Ambedkar had discovered Hitler in Jinnah’s voice. He minced no words when he said: “The Muslims are now speaking the language of Hitler and claiming a place in the sun as Hitler has been doing for Germany. For their demand for 50 per cent is nothing but a counterpart of the German claims for Deutschland Uber Alles and Lebensraum for themselves, irrespective of what happens to other minorities.” [Thoughts on Pakistan, Chapter XI - Communal Aggression]

Meanwhile in distant Palestine, the Jews escaping European anti-Semitism were getting harassed by Islamic fundamentalists of whom the most prominent was Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, appointed as the Mufti of Jerusalem by British in 1921.

Yet, by late 1930s and early 1940s the Mufti had drifted towards Nazism attracted by its anti-Semitic nature which he also shared. He repaired the al-Aqsa mosque in Palestine which hitherto was in ruins. Interestingly, this was done with funds from India.

During the same time, the Muslim League under Jinnah and the anti-Semitic pan-Islamic movement founded by Mufti established good rapport and understanding. Mufti was dismissed by British authorities in the year 1936 for his participation in anti-Jewish riots.

Soon he sent Hitler 15 drafts of declarations and demanded that Axis powers help settle ‘the problem of the Jewish elements’ in ‘the same way’ Germany was settling the problem. Hitler’s response was equally overwhelming. Later, in 1942 Mufti flew to Germany and met Hitler in person and helped Nazis by recruiting 20,000 Muslim volunteers for the SS. Hitler declared the Mufti as an ‘honorary Aryan’.


The intimacy of Jinnah and Mufti can be gauged by the fact that when Jinnah came to Cairo for an international Islamic conference, he made it a point to meet Mufti and hold in-depth discussions with him.

Later, as World War II came to an end and the evils of the Third Reich became known and humanity was shamed by its own barbarism towards fellow humans, Mufti’s role in helping some of the gruesome mass murders of Jews in Europe also started surfacing. In 1945, Yugoslavia sought to indict the Mufti as a war criminal for his role in the mass murders of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. He escaped French detention in 1946.

However, for the ruling circles of Pakistan, Mufti remained a hero. Thus, in 1951, he presided over an international Islamic conference in Pakistan which was attended by none other than the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan. The head of the state of Pakistan delivered a lecture piously standing before al-Husseini seated in a presidential throne.

Anti-Semitism inherent in the ideology of the founding fathers of Pakistan manifested itself not only in ideology but also in the nature of politics of Pakistani movement. It also erupted soon in the streets of independent Pakistan.

Within a year of independence, the Pakistani government under Jinnah revoked the rights of 2000 Bene Yisrael Jews who formed the minuscule Jewish community of Pakistan. This included denial of political representation. The synagogue which had stood for decades in undivided India in Karachi was set alight and Jews were attacked.

This resulted in the large-scale emigration of the community, mostly to India. By the early 1950s, only an estimated 250 Jews remained in Karachi.

Despite all this, the world and even Indian media often act startled by the amount of hatred that exists in Pakistan against Hindus and Jews, the hatred that pulsates in the core ideology that gave birth to Pakistan. This is theologically motivated and has been, at least, more than a century old now. And it lives well in the new millennium as well.

For example, in March 2004, a spokesperson for Lashkar-e-Toiba, was quoted in Greater Kashmir newspaper as saying that they “will take revenge in India as Yahud (Jews) and Hindus are two sides of the same coin.” Even the current stand of Pakistan wherein it portrays itself as against Taliban and Al Qaeda, is filled with amazing conspiracy theories which aim hatred at Hindus and Jews.


Reuters news agency reported that Pakistan army airdropped pamphlets over tribal regions near the Afghan border, warning the tribesmen against the “foreign terrorists” operating in the region. So far so good, one would say. But according to Reuters, these Urdu and Pashto language pamphlets, titled “Warning” and signed “Well Wishers, Pakistan’s Armed Forces”, informed the tribesmen that the “foreign terrorists” were a part of a Hindu and Jewish conspiracy against Pakistan.

Ernest H. Weiner, Executive Director of the Northern California Region of the American Jewish Committee, finds such propaganda highly worrisome in the global context. “We are concerned about the outright falsehood contained in the pamphlet, which suggests that foreign militants in the region were fighting in connivance with Jews and Hindus,” says Weiner. He further points out, “With local events having a global impact as illustrated by the controversy over the Danish cartoons, this could further inflame sentiments against Hindus and Jews, who already bear the brunt of substantial terrorist violence in India and Israel.”.

The parallels do not end just with the perpetrators of hatred but extend to the victims as well. In ‘La Nuit’, the soul-stirring autobiography of concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel, we encounter an eccentric Moshe of the synagogue.

Jews of Transylvania laugh at his face and ridicule him when he warns them of the coming Nazi holocaust. The Jews laughed, - perhaps like the Sindhis of pre-partition Sindh and the Pandits of pre-1988 Kashmir and like the Chakmas of pre-1971 Bangladesh.

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