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Sandu FRUNZA, B.B.U.

EXECUTIVE EDITORS: Michael JONES Temple University Mihaela FRUNZA B.B.U.


Diana COTRAU, B.B.U.

Codruta CUCEU, B.B.U.

Nicu GAVRILUTA, U. Al. I Cuza, Iasi Ana-Elena ILINCA, B.B.U.


Adonis VIDU, Emanuel Univ.


Catalin Vasile Bobb, B.B.U.


Advisory Board



American University of Beirut Ioan BIRIS, West Univ., Timisoara Recep BOZTEMUR, Middle-East Technical University of Ankara Ioan CHIRILA, B.B.U.

Teodor DIMA, U. Al. I Cuza, Iasi Michael FINKENTHAL, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Central European Univ., Budapest Mircea FLONTA, U. Bucharest

• No. 11 • summer 2005

Edited by S.C.I.R.I. & SACRI http://www.sacri.ro

ISSN: 1583-0039

Ladislau GYEMANT, B.B.U.


Hebrew University of Jerusalem Moshe IDEL

Hebrew University of Jerusalem Adrian-Paul ILIESCU, U. Bucharest Marius JUCAN, B.B.U.

Ioan-Vasile LEB, B.B.U.

Mircea MICLEA, B.B.U.

Adrian MIROIU, SNSPA, Bucharest Camil MURESANU, B.B.U.

Toader NICOARA, B.B.U.

Dorothy NOYES Ohio State University


Wade Clark ROOF,

University of California, Santa Barbara Traian ROTARIU, B.B.U.

SALAT Levente, B.B.U.

Johannes Michael SCHNARRER, University of Karlsburg

Leonard SWIDLER Temple University Peter van der VEER Univ. of Utrecht Leon VOLOVICI

Hebrew University of Jerusalem VERESS Carol, B.B.U.






Beyond Herberg: An Islamic Perspective On Religious Pluralism In The Usa After 9/11 • 3


Anatomy of a Hoax: Holocaust Denial • 17 MIHAELA FRUNZÃ

Între religiozitate ºi marketing: analiza unui fenomen literar • 28


Religie ºi Putere în America - de la Alexis de Tocqueville la administraþia Bush jr. - • 39


Religion and Politics in the Making of American Near East Policy, 1918-1922 • 45


Egyptian Islamists and the Status of Muslim Women Question • 60



J. Derrida, J. Habermas , Le “concept” de 11 septembre, Dialogues à New York (octobre – décembre 2001) avec Giovanna • 71


Moshe Idel, Cabaliºtii nocturni • 76 DRAIMAN SEBASTIAN

Florea Lucaci, Creatie si fiintare. Un temei în ontologia umanului • 78


Petru Moldovan, Moshe Idel. Dinamica misticii iudaice • 81


The history of America’s openness to immigration from diverse regions has advanced the course of religious pluralism. Many religious groups existed in America, yet only a few were publicly significant in advancing the course of pluralism from tolerance of differences to inclusion and participation. Their public significance was contingent upon their ability to help develop models of religious pluralism. Such models reflect structures that evolved as a result of attempts to formulate responses to diversity and to assert that there is religious unity to America. At first, this unity was Protestant; at some point in US history it evolved into Judeo-Christian; then it came to be

“potentially” multi-religious with an Abrahamic over- tone. Since 9/11 some scholars of Islam have be- come more articulate in advancing the pluralist state of mind toward becoming global in perspective.

On balance, it may well be that the greatest contribu- tion made by the United States to global religious life is its demonstrating that, however vast the pluralism, a vital religious culture can flourish. Pluralism does not under- mine common life but seems to enrich it. The seeds planted by diverse tribal cultures and by European colo- nists centuries ago came to full growth in the twentieth century, for it was the century when pluralism-religious pluralism- came of age.1

Charles Lippy’s celebration of a pluralism that came of age in the twentieth century is a celebration of a con- textual realization of an ideal that the US has been strug- gling to affirm since its inception. The US has a culture of pluralism because it has been the setting for a multitude of responses to religious diversity. These responses have been shaped by a tension between two seemingly anti- thetical poles: a gradual, at times grudging, acceptance of the reality of religious diversity (manyness) and a staunch desire for unity (oneness). Although the meanings of the Hajer Ben Hadj Salem

Beyond Herberg: An Islamic Perspective On Religious

Pluralism In The Usa After 9/11

Hajer Ben Hadj Salem

Ecole Normale Superieure of Tunis


[email protected]


two terms “diversity” and “pluralism” overlap, the differ- ence between both is essential to understand the dilem- mas and tensions that underscore the process of trans- formation. In the Culture of Religious Pluralism, Richard E. Wentz defines “diversity” and “pluralism” as follows:

Diversity is the awareness of manyness, the dis- covery that there are “others besides us and our own communities (…) individuals and groups often tend to think of themselves as isolated en- tities. Diversity represents a threat to that isola- tion (…) [T]he human condition is such that pluralism continues to be resisted by programs of conquest and conversion. The culture of reli- gious pluralism has evolved in tension with the impulse to conquer or convert the “other” in- stead of to contemplate the manner in which the ideas, practices, and sociality of others are as- pects of our own incompleteness - indeed, of human incompleteness. (Wentz :15)

This paper is an attempt to show how the history of America’s openness to immigration from diverse regions2 has advanced the course of religious pluralism. Many re- ligious groups existed in America, yet only a few were publicly significant in advancing the course of pluralism from tolerance of differences to inclusion and participa- tion. Their public significance was contingent upon their ability to provide a viable and coherent interpretation of American reality of which they made part. In a telling manner, groups who revered different cultural and reli- gious symbols were able to project different perspectives on shared cultural and religious symbols. In finding a common ground, these groups were able to help de- velop models of religious pluralism. Such models reflect structures that evolved as a result of attempts to formu-

late responses to diversity and assert that there is a reli- gious unity to America. These responses were meant to give meaning to “E Pluribus Unum.” At first, this unity was Christian (ideally including all Christian, then Prot- estant, denominations), at some point in US history it evolved into Judeo-Christian (including Protestants, Catholics, and Jews), then it came to mean “potentially”

multi-religious with an Abrahamic overtone (including Christians, Jews, and Muslims, with Hindus and Buddhist on the periphery). Since 9/11 some scholars of Islam have become more articulate in advancing the pluralist state of mind toward becoming global in perspective.

The religious traditions that are covered by these models are known as world religions. They immigrated to the US at relatively different stages of its history and made varying headways on the road to pluralism. What unites them most is that their experiences on the path of pluralism reflect recurring patterns and contest strate- gies.

My study of the dynamics of the culture of religious pluralism is based on the following definition of culture:

“an identifiable and regularized behavior that is attribut- able to a particular people and that is expressed through certain images, symbols, rituals, myths, and other kinds of stories.”(Wentz p.1) As cultures undergo endless transformations, the culture of religious pluralism, as it now stands, is the outcome of interactions of symbols and myths of the “many” and the “one”. These interac- tions have generated transformations in both. Let’s go through the models of religious pluralism.

The First Model: A Protestant

“Establishment” that Nurtured Diversity

Key words:

religious pluralism, inclusion, Islam, America, global

religious life, PATRIOT Act


At the time of the Revolution the people of America were predominantly foreign born: Europeans and their descendants. The religious mosaic that they spread throughout the American landscape reflected the spec- trum of Protestant Europe‘s sectarianism. The colonial period was marked by the centrality of Calvinism and Pu- ritanism in shaping the world view of the settlers, the centrality of religion in shaping the civil order. It was also marked by an underlying current of tolerance of dissent that set the groundwork for religious liberty in the new nation. When the Constitution was adopted and the

“novus ordo Seclorum” was established, denomination- alism was the unique response of these diverse groups to give meaning to their diversity; and an unofficial “Protes- tant establishment” was their answer to their plural claims to religious truth. While levelling many of the tra- ditional notions of religion and politics that were left be- hind in Europe, and to a less extent in some of the colo- nies, religious disestablishment and the concomitant (and somewhat unique) American principle of voluntary churches enshrined in the First Amendment3 to the con- stitution44 The American separation of church and state was a unique and revolutionary settlement to the ques- tion of religious diversity in the Christian world. As Catherine Albanese put it in America Religions and Reli- gion did not act as a sluice obstructing the normal flow of the Christian spirit in the infant republic. On the con- trary, as de Tocquville observed in Democracy in

America and as historical facts have confirmed, it fostered constant diversification and perpetual modifications within Christian denominations, and made Christianity the indiscriminately “well-established religion of the nation.”

The pervasiveness of the institutional presence of the

“informal Protestant establishment” in the early days of the republic was captured by Hutchinson who argues that

The religious establishment involved, first and most obviously, the more powerful Protestant denominations, especially those of the Baptists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Presbyterians. Second, it included the multi- tude of voluntary associations, both interde- nominational and nondenominational, that pro- moted missions, peace, temperance, and

numerous other kinds of moral and social re- form. Third, it derived authority from a large and dominating world of English-language cultural, literary, educational, and journalistic entities that were Protestant in personnel and outlook.

Finally, the establishment must be understood as a personal network of Protestant leadership that extended across the churches, controlled most of the nation’s political life, and managed virtually all of the major secular institutions and entities in American society.5

The denominations that are referred to in the forego- ing quotation used to denounce each other’s teachings during the colonial period. Yet within the republic where religious liberty was protected by law, they came to see themselves as part of a larger spiritual community of the Christian Church. This spirit of unity was not provided by any of these denominations. The real ground for unity was the religion of the civil order: the civil religion6 of the American Revolution. In The Broken Covenant : Civil Re- ligion in Time of Trial, Robert Bellah defines civil reli- gion as follows:

By civil religion I refer to that religious dimen- sion, found I think in the life of every people, through which it interprets its historical experi- ence in the light of transcendent reality (p. 3)


Civil religion provided some basis for public unity that broke down boundaries separating diverse religions that were on American soil at the inception of the repub- lic. It did so by initiating a whole process of myth-building that revolved around the memorable deeds that Ameri- cans performed to initiate an age unknown before in the history of humanity. The way some of these myths were interpreted during the early years of the republic helped maintain an unofficial “Protestant Establishment” in the US. The latter helped weaken the boundaries between

“the many” and the “one.” By binding the “many” into the “one’ in Protestant terms, the Protestant majority gave a possible meaning to diversity that opened the way for further possibilities.

The Second Model - Protestant, Catholic and Jew

With the advent of the 19th century, signs of cultural complexity and heterogeneity were very well reflected in the unprecedented demographic change that marked the American landscape. A severe reduction in Protestant Christianity’s numerical dominance in the American population was occasioned by the sweeping flow of Catholic and Jewish immigrants who started settling in America in significant numbers. Along with the new “di- vergent” movements such as Adventism, Pre-

millennialism, the Mormons, and the Holiness Move- ment that started gaining ground after the Civil War, Catholic and Jewish public presence became highly vis- ible in America. According to Hutchinson, between 1850 and 1920 the Roman Catholic population “expanded at nearly three times the rate of overall population growth, while the number of Jews rose spectacularly - from fifty thousand to more than three million.” (Hutchinson: 114)

What this religious mosaic generated was a visible change in the public discourse about religious diversity and pluralism. Toleration of non-radical beliefs, and to a less extent behaviours, seemed to have given way to the rhetoric of inclusion that was articulated by Jewish and Catholic leaders in an era of melting pot enthusiasm.

Such headway could not have been made without changes that took place within the informal “Protestant establishment” to keep pace with the social, economic, and cultural changes that cut right across society and af- fected religion as well as politics. These included the rise of the social gospel with its leanings towards minorities, the wide appeal the liberal theological surge had among great numbers of people in the US, and the convening of the World Parliament of Religions in September 1893 in Chicago. The latter was an outright manifestation of a much wider campaign for inclusion orchestrated by lib- eral sections within Judaism, Catholicism, and Protes- tantism. For the first time ever Jews and Catholics were included by American Protestants in a conference on reli- gion. This occurrence infused Protestantism with new life and contributed more than their nativist counterparts to maintaining the authority of the “establishment” within American culture.

Despite opposition to inclusive pluralism from the right wing of the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish spec- trums, liberals within these traditions displayed in their campaign for inclusion a plethora of themes and pro- vided a repertoire of contest strategies. It was by capitaliz- ing on the liberal belief that all religions are infused with divinity that the liberal wings within Judaism, Protestant- ism, and Catholicism won their battles for inclusion within their faith groups and the large faith community.

They advanced a discourse that rested upon two pillars:

first, a rejection of the non-essential doctrines and prac- tices of their faith, and a preservation of its timeless es- sentials, and second, a belief in the promise of universal


religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Their arguments reflect a subtle blend of civil and reli- gious themes even in their theological aspects.

Theologically, their discourse was premised on a re- pudiation of religious essentialism by acknowledging that one’s religion presents a conception of the God-Idea (which is similar to what is referred to in the Declaration of Independence). What ensued from this was an out- right rejection of rigid traditionalism as a crippling force.

Americanists among Catholic and Jewish religious lead- ers expanded this rhetoric so far as to enthusiastically as- sert their claim that traditionalism was out of tune with the times, and that the future and welfare of their reli- gions depended upon the willingness of the traditional establishments (Roman authorities in the Catholic case and Orthodox Rabbis in Europe and the US in the Jewish case) to undertake reforms based on American Catholic and Jewish experiences. Moreover, they would consider themselves as Americans with a special mission to recon- cile their religious traditions with modernity by providing a model that derived its superiority from that of the American example with its separation of Church and State.

This argument seemed like an outright attack on the Roman establishment, and also like an affront to the then nascent Zionist spirit within the Jewish communi- ties (more than its Orthodox wing). Nowhere was it more strikingly expressed than it was in the Americanist Jewish attempt to adopt the American myth of origin to that of the children of Israel as presented in the Old Testament.

They portrayed America as their promised Zion. This was best reflected in the Central Conference of American Rabbis that convened in 1897. In this gathering American rabbis asserted that “We are unalterably opposed to po- litical Zionism. The Jews are not a nation, but a religious community...America is our Zion. Here in the home of re-

ligious liberty we have helped in founding this new Zion”. (Hutchinson: 126)

The sense of separation from a group that allegedly held them loyal to an outside authority, which seems la- tent in the Jewish statement, was a pivotal theme in the Catholic discourse as well. From John London to John F.

Kennedy, American Catholics had the most daunting task of asserting their loyalty to America and the American po- litical system. They had to deflate a staunch anti-Catholic propaganda. Entangled in emotional and ideological considerations, it thrived on breeding in the public an ir- rational fear that Catholics in America were conspiring with Rome to threaten the stability of the American sys- tem.

In spite of the religious polyphony that characterized public discourse on religion, and in spite of the fact that religious and ethnic diversity had become a daily reality by the end of the 19th and the first half of the twentieth century, American church history continued to emphasize themes of Protestant unity rather than themes of diversity and unsettled pluralism. It was Will Herberg’s Protes- tant, Catholic, Jew, published in 1955, that shifted the emphasis of American religious history. The Judeo-Chris- tian model he praised was premised on his claim that Americans identify themselves, as Americans, as belong- ing to one of three traditions. The American way could be Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. Even though Herberg’s book was a consensus book, it was an attempt at broad- ening the scope of religious pluralism by assigning a new meaning to “Christianity” wherein “Christian” came to mean “theist”: one who believes in the God of the Bible and of Abraham. This meant in effect that “Christian” was in some way inclusive of “Jew”.

Herberg’s model, which stresses that Americans de- fine themselves religiously as Protestants, Catholics, or Jews, had great appeal in the post-war spirit of revival that cut right across churches and the realm of civil reli-


gion. Herberg’s trinity came to light when the legendary status that the story of the four chaplains, two Protes- tants, a Catholic and a Jew, who sank in the troop ship Dorchester in 1944, was still tickling the American sense of divine providence. It was also a possible answer to President Eisenhower’s pronouncement in 1952 that

“our government makes no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith - and I don’t care what it is.”

Certainly what Eisenhower meant by deeply felt religious faith was something antithetical to the atheism of the then communist enemy. It was so large in scope that it might include the myriad of long-ignored religious tradi- tions in the US. In this respect, Herberg’s trinity fell short of reflecting the richness of the religious landscape of America in the mid-twentieth century. It was left to Martin Marty, Edwin Gaustad, Sydney Ahlstrom, and their follow- ers to fill in the gaps.

The Third Model: A Multi-Religious America with an Abrahamic Overtone

Since the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, the definition of religious diversity has expanded well be- yond its sectarian Christian rivalries and Biblical tolera- tion, and now includes Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others from many parts of the Globe. These traditions, upon observation, reflect a wide range of sec- tarian postures, adding to the plurality of the American landscape. From a civil religious perspective, the Act marked another stage in broadening the meaning of such long-cherished concepts as religious freedom, mutual re- spect, and voluntary “churches” or churches without gov- ernment financial support, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Among the recently published studies of post-1960s religious pluralism is Diana Eck’s A New Religious America. This book gives sympathetic attention to the presence of three major world religions on American soil: Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. The pluralism about which Eck wrote, far from being the trinity pre- sented by Herberg, is associated with the democratic idea that holds that difference must not be equated with infe- riority. It is neither inclusive nor participatory; it is more likely to be still grappling between the stages of toler- ance and inclusion. With an assurance made by a partici- pant observer to her fellow Americans that neither the re- ligious behaviour of these groups nor their beliefs are radical, the book includes an open invitation for average Americans to build bridges of dialogue and mutual un- derstanding with them. Diana Eck‘s call for “positive plu- ralism” contains a latent warning about the conse- quences of isolation from and ignorance of these faith traditions and communities.

The September 11th events proved Eck’s fears true.

Before September 11 there were already more Muslims in the United States than Episcopalians. It is only a mat- ter of time before adherents of Islam replace Jews as the largest non-Christian religious group in the US. To cover this new reality scholars were engaged in an effort to de- velop a model that would replace the “Judeo-Christian”

one. The “Abrahamic” model emerged as the leading candidate. The advocates of this model attempt to trace Islam, Judaism, and Christianity back to a single origin:

Abraham. The model seemed to have had official sanc- tion by the US government during the 90s. On the occa- sion of the first Eid after the Gulf War, president Bush Se- nior started the tradition of sending Eid greetings to American Muslims. Under the Clinton administration, the first Eid celebration was conducted in the White House.


The same year (1996), the first break-of-the-fast event was held on Capitol Hill. In 1999 the first Muslim was ap- pointed ambassador by the Clinton administration; and in 2000 both chambers of congress passed resolutions H.R. 174 and S. Res. 133 whereby Islam was recognized as an Abrahamic faith along with Judaism and Christian- ity, and wherein contributions of Muslims to American society were recognized. These gains were the outcome of dialogue between the elite of the Muslim communities and the US government that was attempting to build bridges with the Muslim world. Ordinary American citi- zens, whose knowledge of Islam and Muslims was at best shaped by Hollywood and at worst by ignorance, like or- dinary Muslims and Imams, who were ignorant of the system of their country, did not have a place at the table.

The Abrahamic model was a structure with bolsters of clay.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks a surge of hate crimes was directed at American Muslims, Sikhs, and other Americans of foreign origin who were likely to fit in the stereotype of the terrorist as portrayed in the media.

The well-established network of American Muslim orga- nizations, including the ministry of W.D. Muhammed, is- sued in an unprecedented way, jointly as well as indi- vidually, public statements condemning the terrorist attacks and distancing themselves, at least in terms of re- ligious behaviour, from the perpetrators of the attacks.

Their voices did not reach most of their fellow Americans because they lacked the adequate networks. The after- math of September 11th was marked by a public relations crisis. Even though many Muslim voices were invited for the first time to speak through major American media networks, they did not manage to dispel the revived cen- turies-old prejudices of “Islam” as a force to be feared and of Muslims as inherently irrational and violent people. Nor did President Bush’s declaration that Islam is “a religion of peace” restore the image of Islam. Presi-

dent Bush, like the speakers on TV channels, mostly en- gineers, medical doctors, and physical scientists, who were primarily self-taught and whose knowledge of Is- lamic text and history was quite superficial, were able to position themselves as authorities on Islamic law and theology. Their discourse was apologetic. Even though they negated the association between Islam and terror- ism, they created another static, idealized portrait of Is- lam, failing to address the concrete social, economic, and political causes at the root of such profound wrong do- ing.

The discriminatory aspect of the measures taken by the government against Arab and Muslim nationals un- der the PATRIOT Act7, the double-standard that the gov- ernment did not shun during the April 2002 Palestinian- Israeli crisis, President Bush’s failure to denounce

publicly anti-Muslim comments by conservative Christian leaders, and the Iraqi war campaign with its glaring anti- Arab stereotypes awakened many Muslim activists and scholars in America to their own obligation of restoring the image of their faith and traditions by assertively speaking out against and eschewing all forms of extrem- ism, violence, and hatred in their midst. What is interest- ing is that out of their reconstitution of Islam one can trace a budding conception of a new pluralism. Even though the tenets of this new pluralism can be found in many aspects of American Muslim life, it can best be out- lined, I believe, in the discourses of the so-called “pro- gressive Muslim”8 scholars who come from highly varied ethnic, geographical, linguistic, and intellectual back- grounds and who can be upheld as voices of legitimacy and authenticity. The new pluralism, “Global Pluralism,”

has the following tenets:


1. Beyond Abrahamic America:

On May 21, 2003, the Newhouse News Service inter- viewed religious leaders from the three ‘Abrahamic’ faiths about whether Americans should stop using the phrase

“Judeo-Christian”9 and use “Judeo-Christian-Islamic” or

“Abrahamic” when describing the values and character that define the United States. National Muslim groups supporting a change included the Council on American- Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society, the American Muslim Council, and the American-Muslim Alli- ance. These attempts at changing the language can be justified by the fact that the term “Judeo-Christian” is no longer inclusive. Yet it is difficult to think that the public will accept “Judeo-Christian-Islamic” when people who attacked the US on 9/11 did so in the name of Islam. To avoid falling into the trap of exclusivism, broader concep- tions of pluralism were put forward. One way of doing so was through stressing the Americanness of the new reli- gious outsiders, including Muslims and non-Muslims.

This stance is best articulated by Osama Siblani, an influ- ential voice among American Muslims and publisher of the Arab-American News in Dearborn, Michigan. “I be- lieve we should call this the United States of America, made up of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Chris- tians, Jews and others,” said Siblani. “This stuff about language has to stop. We are all just Americans.”10

2. Beyond tolerance:

In Progressive Muslims, Omid Safi underlines the shaky foundations of any conception of pluralism that rests only upon toleration and does not evolve into in- clusion and participation. As he puts it

The connotations of “tolerance” are deeply problematic (…) the root of the term “tolerance comes from medieval toxicology and pharmacol- ogy, marking how much poison a body could

“tolerate” before it would succumb to death. Is this the best that we can do? Is our task to figure out how many “others” (be they Muslims, Jews, blacks, Hindus, homosexuals, non-English speakers, Asians…) we can tolerate before it re- ally kills us (?) In short, progressive Muslims do not wish for a “tolerant” Islam, any more than we long for a “tolerant” American or European society. Rather we seek to bring about a pluralis- tic society in which we honor and engage each other through our differences and our common- alities.11

3. Building bridges of understanding:

A study of the reactions to Muslims in various com- munities in the US after 9/11 reflects a curious mix of re- sponses. They vary between tales of sympathy, coopera- tion, and compassion and others of intolerance

expressed through hate crimes directed at individuals and institutions. Out of the welter of reasons that can ex- press this polarity emerges a fairly clear pattern among the many American Muslim citizen and leader of organi- zations I interviewed in geographically different parts of the US. It rests on the distinction between exclusivist and pluralist communities. The pattern, it seems, applies as much to the Muslim communities as it does to other faith communities. Dr. Koshampour, the director of the Is- lamic Council of Greater Chicago, argued that his com- munity mosque was not attacked because they had been very active in interfaith dialogue years before 9/11. He


added that his community and other faith communities formed human shields to protect the mosques of the iso- lationists among Muslims. Isolationism within the Mus- lim communities is anchored in religious orientations that are distinctively puritan and supremacist.

4. Reconstituting Islam:

To promote a pluralism based on mutual under- standing and respect between religions, progressive scholars of Islam have recommended a reconstitution12 rather than a reformation of Islam. Their objection is due to the fact that in the very language of “Reformation” lies the notion of a significant break with the past and split within the Muslim communities. It also implies that Is- lam adapts the historical and cultural course of action laid out by the Christian tradition. Unlike their Christian predecessors who associated religious progress with a rupture with the past, Europe and traditionalism, the progressive Muslim project, argues Omid Safi, “is not so much an epistemological rupture from what has come before as a fine-tuning, a polishing, a grooming, an edit- ing, a re-emphasizing of this and a correction of that. In short, it is a critical engagement with the heritage of Is- lamic thought, rather than a casual bypassing of its ac- complishments... It might be an easier task to start with a tabula rasa, but that would not be an Islamic project. Be- ing a progressive Muslim, at least in the view of this group, mandates a difficult, onerous, critical, uneasy en- gagement with the tradition.”13

Engagement with tradition concerns not only Muslim scholars of varied ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and intel- lectual backgrounds, but also non-Muslim scholars who are involved in producing knowledge about Islam for or- dinary Muslims and non-Muslims. Such production of

knowledge, which is a process of image-building, should, according to progressive Muslims, be rebuilt on sound assets. These include the following:

1- Engaging the Islamic tradition as a dynamic and vi- able living tradition by transcending pietistic fictions about Islam developed by both Muslim apologists and by so-called orientalists. According to Khaled Abou El Fadl,

“the apologetic orientation consisted of an effort by a large number of commentators to defend and salvage the Islamic system of belief and tradition from the onslaught of orientalism, Westernization, and modernity by simulta- neously emphasizing both the compatibility and also the supremacy of Islam.” He carries this logic further and ar- gues that “A common heuristic device of apologetics was to argue that any meritorious or worthwhile modern in- stitutions were first invented and realized by Muslims.

Therefore, according to the apologists, Islam liberated women, created a democracy, endorsed pluralism, pro- tected human rights, and guaranteed social security long before these institutions ever existed in the West” (p55).

The main effect of such apologetics was to turn Islam into an untouchable symbol and to marginalize the com- plexity of Islamic intellectual heritage by reducing the his- tory of Muslims into immutable origins. This essentialist reading of the past is no less obscurantist than that of orientalist writers whose essentialist approach to the his- tory of Muslims is constituted essentially by a static reli- gion.

2-Appreciating differences of orientations: The at- tempt to reflect critically on the heritage of Islamic thought and to adapt it to the modern world requires an honest intellectual study of the perspectives of various schools of thought. Such a study is essential to legitimize a range of opinions and to acknowledge a spectrum of interpretations. In doing so, learned scholars would situ- ate themselves in that wider spectrum. Undertaking self- positioning would expose the exclusivism of many con-


temporary Muslim pundits who hijack an entire tradition, claiming to be a one-man spokesperson for all Muslims.

This supremacist posture excludes debate and discus- sion within the tradition and stymies the richness that ra- cial, gender, and other forms of diversity may bestow upon the tradition.

3-Commitment to social justice: Even though jus- tice lies at the heart of Islam, involvement in social justice issues may be new to many contemporary Muslims in the US. After September 11, many Muslims have joined Chris- tians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and others who have long been involved in social justice issues. By feeling respon- sible for the well-being and dignity of the marginalized members of the society, Muslim communities have real- ized the need to make positive contributions to culture and society so as to win the battle for inclusion. Yet such a battle is difficult to win as long as justice is not guaran- teed to female and African American Muslims. In short, there can be no real participatory pluralism without get- ting women involved and incorporating the African American Muslim experience.

4-A commitment to the universality of Islam: Be- cause Muslims have the moral and legal principles of pluralism available in their religious sources and heri- tages, and have had a long history of practicing plural- ism, they can, according to “progressive Muslims”, be a constructive and effective contributor to contemporary global pluralism. “To be committed to the universality of Islam and to cope with our era of global pluralism,” ar- gues Fathi Osman, “Muslims have to go beyond their bit- ter memories of history, including the Crusades, coloni- zation, and exploitation, Jewish hostility, and Hindu fanaticism. They have to approach members of the Baha’i faith and Ahmadiyyas (...) Muslims cannot ignore each other in this rapprochement, either: they should also bridge the gaps between Sunnis, Shi’is (Zaydis, Ja’faris, Isma’ilis), Ibadis, and other sects and subdivisions (…)

Muslims ought to display the Quranic attitude towards human kind by extending the range of their dialogue to reach Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and other faiths. The Quran (7: 172-173) teaches that every human being has his or her spirituality, morality, and dignity, all human be- ings can develop universal relations and maintain global pluralism. It is significant that the Quran calls the good

‘what is recognized by common sense’ (ma’ruf) and evil

‘what is rejected by common sense’ (munkar).”14

In spite of the glaring absence of African American Is- lam in the list, Osman’s view reflects a wider conception of pluralism that is based on global interfaith and

intrafaith dialogues.


The radicalism of religious diversity that has become a fact since the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 has made it evident that America’s diversity is much more radical than any of the foregoing formulas. Living in an epitome of the global village, some scholars of Islam in the US have advanced the pluralist state of mind further to become global in scope. The moral and legal prin- ciples of pluralism available in their religious sources and heritages, and their long history of practicing plural- ism can help Muslims be constructive and effective con- tributors to religious pluralism in America and also con- tribute to contemporary global pluralism. Whether this project will be implemented will depend on how Mus- lims develop practical strategies and independent institu- tions to channel their ideas.



Ahlstrom Sydney E. A Religious History of the Ameri- can People. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972.

Albanese, Catherine L. America Religions and Reli- gion. 2nded. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1992.

Basinger, David. Religious Diversity: A philosophical Assessment. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.,2002.

Bellah, Robert N. The Broken Covenant : American Civil Religion in Time of Trial. 2nd ed. Chicago and Lon- don: University of Chicago Press, 1975.

Brimelow, Peter. Alien Nation: Common Sense about America’s Immigration Disaster. New York: Random House, 1995.

Eck, Diana. Encountering God. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.

————. A New Religious America: How a “Chris- tian Country” has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation. New York: Harper Collins, 2001.

Elias, Norbert. The Established and the Outsiders: A Sociological Enquiry into Community Problems. Lon- don; Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1994.

Fuchs, Lawrence H. The American Kaleidoscope:

Race, Ethnicity, and Civic Culture. Hanover and London:

University Press of New England, 1990.

Gaustad, E. S. A Religious History of America. New York: Harper and Row,1966.

Glazer, Nathan. We are all Multiculturalists Now.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Gutmann, Amy, ed. Multiculturalism : Examining the Politics of Recognition. Princeton, New Jersey:

Princeton University Press, 1999.

Herberg, Will. Protestant, Catholic, Jew: an essay in American religious sociology. Garden City: Doubleday, 1955)

Hutchinson, William R. Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal.

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Kallen, Horace M. Culture and Democracy in the United States: Studies in the Group Psychology of the American Peoples. New York: Boni and Liveright,1924.

Lippy, Charles H. Pluralism Comes of Age: American Religious Culture in the Twentieth Century. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharp,2000.

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Jewish Approaches to Religious Pluralism. Cincinnati:

Hebrew Union College press, 1994.

Marty, Martin E. The One and the Many: America’s Struggle for the Common God. Chicago: University of Chi- cago Press, 1997.

Miller, John W. Interfaith Dialogue: Four Ap- proaches. Waterloo, Ontario: University of Waterloo Press, 1986.

Moore,R. Lawrence. Religious Outsiders and the Mak- ing of Americans. New York/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Muck, Terry C. Alien Gods on American Turf.

Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1990.

Myrdal, G. An American Dilemma. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1944

Osman, M. Fethi. The Children of Adam: An Islamic Perspective on Pluralism. Washington, DC: Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding: History and Interna- tional Affairs, Georgetown University, 1996.

Richardson, E. Allen. Strangers in this Land: Plural- ism and the Response to Diversity in the United States.

New York: Pilgrim Press, 1988.

Robbins, Thomas, and Anthony, Dick, eds. In Gods We Trust: New Patterns of Religious Pluralism in America . New Brunswick, N. J. Transaction Books, 1981.


Wentz, Richard, E. The Culture of Religious Plural- ism. Colorado: Westview Press, 1998.

Work on Islam in America

Al-Azmeh, Aziz. Reconstituting Islam. Washington, D.C.: Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, 1996.

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Southern California, 2002.

Findley, Paul. Silent no more: confronting America‘s false images of Islam. Beltsville, Maryland: Amana Publi- cations, 2001.

Hassan, Asma Gull. American Muslims : the New Generation. New York: Continuum, 2002.

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from Sojourners to Citizens. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

———.Muslims in the West: from Sojourners to Citi- zens. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

———.The Muslims of America. Oxford, New York:

Oxford University Press, 1991.

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Mision to America: Five Islamic Sectarian Communities in North America. Gainesville: University of Florida, 1993.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, and Lummis Adair T. Is- lamic Values in the United States: A Comparative Study.

Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press,1987.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck and Esposito, John L. eds.

Muslims on the Americanization Path? Atlanta, Ga. : Scholars Press, 1998.

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Multimedia Vera International, 2002.

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New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

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Problem and Obstacles to be Pondered and Overcome.

Washington, D.C.: Center for Muslim-Christian Under- standing, Georgetown University, 1998.

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Smith, Jane I. Islam in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Safi, Omid, ed. Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gen- der, and Pluralism. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2004.



1 Charles H. Lippy, Pluralism Comes of Age, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2000, p. 162

2 It was also punctuated by acts of exclusion and quo- tas at the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

3 Under the terms of the First Amendment, Congress could make no law either establishing or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Until the Reformation of the six- teenth century, Europe has understood itself as

Christendom _ one theoretically unified kingdom of Christ in which spiritual and worldly power were sepa- rate aspects of the whole. Even after the reformation, leading reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as Roman Catholics, had agreed that spiritual and worldly government went hand in hand… both main- stream Reformers and Roman Catholics persecuted the Radical Reformers, who with their sectarian principle were viewed as dangerous to the Church-state unity of Christendom. Official state churches, whether Protestant or Catholic, were the rule in Europe. Holland, the most liberal nation in its tolerance for dissent in the seven- teenth and eighteenth centuries, still had a state re- formed Church until 1795. England during the same pe- riod continued to maintain a religious establishment.

Hence, when Americans separated church and state through the new federal Constitution, even though they understood themselves still as Christian and predomi- nantly Protestant, they had created a radically innovative condition for religion. (p.403)

5 William R. Hutchinson, Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal.

New haven and London: Yale University press, 2003, p.


6 Historically, the term “civil religion” was used by the French Enlightenment philosopher Jean- Jacques

Rousseau (1712 - 1778). The word came to repeated use in the US to refer to a phenomenon that coincided with the birth of the nation. In the American context the resur- gence of the term tends to be associated with Robert Bellah, who published an essay titled “Civil Religion” in 1967.

7 According to The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States 2002: Stereotypes and Civil Liberties, dur- ing the first few months following the attacks, between 1,200 and 1,700 nationals of Arab and Muslim countries

“were taken into custody in the initial stage of the crack- down. There have been charges that detainees have not been informed of the reasons of their detention. Many have not had prompt access to a lawyer and detainees have been treated as if they were guilty until proven inno- cent.” (P5)They are in violation of the 6th amendment that guarantees a speedy and public trial”. Most of them were freed and none had any links to terrorism. On No- vember 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft an- nounced that the government would conduct “volun- tary” interviews with 5,000 legal Muslim Foreign

nationals, 3,000 more were interviewed in 2002. Though the attorney general said the government learned a great deal from the initial interviews, but little was known as to how that information related to the investigation of the September 11th attacks or any suspected terrorists. The use of secret evidence was also the basis upon which three Muslim charities,21 designated by the government as terrorist organizations, were closed.

8 Omid Safi defines “Progressive Muslims” as follows:

Many people today who come from a whole host of religious, political, and ethnic backgrounds describe themselves as “progressives.” There is, furthermore, a na- scent community of Muslim activists and intellectuals


who readily identify with the term “progressive Muslims”

and publicly embrace it. “Progressive,” in this usage, re- fers to a relentless striving towards a universal notion of justice in which no single community’s prosperity, righ- teousness, and dignity comes at the expense of another.

Central to this notion of a progressive Muslim identity are fundamental values that we hold to be essential to a vital, fresh, and urgently needed interpretation of Islam for the twenty-first century. These themes include social justice, gender justice, and pluralism. Of course, the kind of Islamic interpretation one comes up with is largely de- termined by who undertakes the interpretation. ( Pro- gressive Muslims, p3)

9 From its founding to the late 1940s, the United States was commonly described as Christian, a trend epitomized by an 1892 Supreme Court ruling in which Justice David Brewer wrote, “This is a Christian nation.”

In a 2002 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Pub- lic Life and the Pew Research Center for People and the

Press, two-thirds of respondents said they consider the United States a “Christian nation” and 58 percent said the strength of American society is based on the religious faith of its people. However, only 14 percent said it is es- sential that a person believe in “basic Judeo-Christian val- ues” in order to be a good American.

10 Has the United States Become Judeo-Christian-Is- lamic?” See www.mpac.org (2003)

11 Omid Safi, ed. Progressive Muslims : On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, Oxford :Oneworld Publications, 2003 . pp 23-24.

12 The term was used by Aziz Al-Azmeh in 1996.

13 Omid Safi, ed. Progressive Muslims, p11.

14 Mohammed Fathi Osman, The Children of Adam:

An Islamic Perspective on Pluralism, Washington, D.C.:

Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding : History and International Affairs, 1996 , p.65.


“The alleged Hitlerian gas chambers and the alleged genocide of the Jews form one and the same historical lie, which permitted a gigantic financial swindle whose chief beneficiaries have been the State of Israel and inter- national Zionism, and whose main victims have been the German people and the Palestinian people as a whole”1.

One might think that this kind of statement is the work of a completely twisted mind and that any man with a shred of common sense would dismiss it from the very start. But, unfortunately and ironically enough, this is just one example among many such statements that form the bases of what is now commonly known as the phenomenon of Holocaust denial. The worst part of all is that this phenomenon, far from being just a fringe school of thought, has gained significant ground, espe- cially in the last two decades, and has entered common conscience, finding for itself quite a number of followers.

Raluca Moldovan

Anatomy of a Hoax: Holocaust Denial

Raluca Moldovan

Teaching assistant Faculty of European Studies, Babes-Bolyai University Cluj, Romania

The phenomenon of Holocaust denial, once consid- ered a fringe manifestation with very little impact, has, more or less, entered the mainstream of histo- riographical and academic debate in recent years. The main danger associated with the deniers’ discourse is that of forcing into the public conscience the aware- ness of the fact that there might be “more sides” to the Holocaust history than previously known based on written documents, testimonies of survivors and other types of proofs. The following paper is a review of the emergence, development and extent of Holocaust denial, especially in the United States, as well as an attempt to summarise the deniers’

arguments, claims and motivations, following the line opened by Deborah Lipstadt and other historians.


Holocaust denial has become an accepted, if not quite respected, historical assertion and it has generated realms of “well-founded historical literature”.

Holocaust denial emerged immediately after World War II, especially in the United States, as an isolated phe- nomenon with little or no credibility, but it has come a long way since then. Nowadays, traces of Holocaust de- nial and overt anti-Semitism can be found in the United Sates as well as throughout Europe and the Middle East and even as far away as Australia.

The explanations for the spreading and influence of this “growing assault on truth and memory”2 are many and diverse. In the following paragraphs, I will try to out- line the essence of this phenomenon, to present its perpetrators and to review some of the most important reactions against it.

The Holocaust is one of those historical facts with a very enduring life: nowadays, almost half a century later, it has lost little of its striking impact upon the memory of mankind. Newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and research institutes regularly print articles, books, and studies centered upon different aspects directly re- ferring to or merely related to the Holocaust. On the other hand, there are almost just as many newspapers, magazines, publishing houses and institutes that regu- larly publish materials on Holocaust denial, which points out that there certainly is an audience ready to read and to accept the claims made by the authors of these materi- als, the self-proclaimed “historical revisionists”. The ground on which the seeds of this denial are planted seems very fertile, and the more public the debate about it, the more people are likely to be caught up in the de- nial movement.

One of the most well-known and controversial public debates about Holocaust denial was generated by the re- cent suit brought by the freelance historian David Irving, probably the most prominent figure of Holocaust denial.

David Irving sued Professor Deborah Lipstadt for libel, claiming that the assertions she made in her book, Deny- ing the Holocaust, were extremely offensive to him. The trial gripped the attention of both the British and the American media for many months, and the testimony given by David Irving horrified both the judges and the audience. The mere fact that such persons are taken seri- ously by so many people worldwide is extremely alarm- ing, because it only shows us how vulnerable public opinion is when the instruments of manipulation are carefully orchestrated.3

Ignorance is the deniers’ first ally in their mission to distort history, and the higher the level of ignorance, the more dangerous the effects of the denials are. In this re- spect, one example is very relevant.4 In April 1993, in conjunction with the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Mu- seum, the Roper Organization conducted a survey meant to determine the extent of Americans’ knowledge of the phenomenon. The results expected by the organization and the American Jewish Committee were not at all star- tling. However, the answer to one of the question they initially wanted to eliminate from the questionnaire was more than shocking: when asked “do you think it pos- sible or impossible that the Holocaust did not happen:

22% of American adults and 20% of American high school students replied that it was possible. This answer shows that Holocaust denial is not just an eerie phenomenon with no more credibility to it than the assertion that the Earth is flat.

Under such circumstances, one should not be amazed at the growing force of Holocaust denial and at the fact that its very existence is now being questioned in talk shows5 on national television.

Deborah Lipstadt’s book, Denying the Holocaust – the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, is the best to- date account of Holocaust denial. It presents chronologi- cally and clearly the roots of the phenomenon, the insti- Key words:

Holocaust denial, anti- Semitism, manipula- tion, mass murder, gas chambers, genocide


tutions and people involved in the practice of denial, and their main works and arguments.6 The author tries to summarize the deniers’ most frequent claims (she identifies five major themes for research in the field of denial: the absence of a single master plan for the anni- hilation of the Jewish people; the absence of gas cham- bers used for mass murder at Auschwitz and other camps; the fact that the testimonies of the survivors are given so much credibility because there is no objective documentation to prove the Nazi genocide; the absence of a total loss of Jewish lives between 1941 and 1945; the

“mock trial” character of the Nuremberg trials, staged for the benefit of the Jews). She also tries to find explana- tions for the proliferation of denial literature, especially in the last two decades. The main argument that she brings is that the denial stirrings are closely connected with the neo-Nazi ideology and the rise of the radical right in politics. The evolution of West European politics, especially in the last ten years, has pointed out elements that show a return to the anti-Semitic language and attitudes common more than half a century ago. How- ever, the anti-Semitism of the 1990s encompasses new elements and new ideas that feed the anti-Jewish feeling that has always existed in Europe. Neo-Nazism and the new radical right rely on Holocaust denial in order to obtain legitimacy and recognition in the political arena.

Jean Marie le Pen7, Jorg Haider, and Pim Fortuyn, are some of the western politicians who have played the card of anti-Semitism and have enjoyed considerable success.

The fact that these people come from countries other than Germany (where the appearance of such ideas could seem more natural) shows that European anti- Semitism is far from extinct. Actually, the issue of an anti- Semitic Europe has received extensive coverage from prestigious magazines such as Time8: “a Boston newspa- per blared Kristallnacht Returns and declared, ‘not since the Third Reich has there been anything like it.” In

response to anxious enquiries, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles issued an advisory warning Jews

“to exercise extreme caution while traveling to France and Belgium.”9 However, this does not mean that there is no anti-Semitism in Germany or in other parts of Europe.

Actually, the region that has shown itself most prone to fall prey to deniers’ ideas in the past ten years is post- Communist East Central Europe, where the political and social atmosphere have been favorable to the

development of such ideas that I will present later on.10 The most prominent European “canaries in the coal mine”11 are David Irving, who achieved international fame during and after the aforementioned trial, Ingrid Rimland, Ernst Zündel, Fred Leuchter, Willis Carto, David Duke, Masami Uno, Richard Harwood, and Robert Faurisson, whom I have already quoted and whose argu- ments and statements would be extremely funny if there weren’t so many people who take them seriously. His area of study is rather unique: “criticism of texts and documents, investigation of meaning and counter-mean- ing, of the true and the false”12. The irony here is that Faurisson regularly creates facts where there are none and dismisses and falsifies pieces of factual information that disprove his scenarios. One of his assertions refers to the “Draconian orders” given to the German army “not to participate in excesses against civilians, including the Jews; consequently, the massive killings of the Jews could not have happened”13. Faurisson also asserts that the wearing of the yellow star was imposed on the Jews in order to ensure the safety of the German soldiers.

Following the same logic, one can easily reach the conclusion that six-year old children, who were also forced to wear the yellow star, constituted fierce threats to the well being of the German soldiers14. One of his best-founded arguments, however, remains the one re- garding the gas chambers. According to him, the reason why one should not believe in the existence of gas cham-


bers is that “no death camp victim has given eye witness testimony of actual gassings”15. Faced with such irrefut- able arguments, any historian who tries to disprove his findings has no other option but to rest his case.

Nevertheless, leaving all irony aside, Holocaust de- nial is not a threat just to Jewish history, but a threat to all who believe in the ultimate power of reason. The clever disguises used by these people in order to get their message across could easily misguide one’s power of reason. For instance, the first and foremost circle of deniers has been established around the Californian- based and respectably named Institute for Historical Re- view, which has already gained important status espe- cially in the United Sates, and which has already

organized several so-called “revisionist conferences” be- ginning in 1974. The deniers have twisted the term “revi- sionism”16 so as to suit their purposes, claiming the right to free speech under the protection of the First Amend- ment. Their main arguments – “the Ten Commandments of Holocaust denial” – include the pronouncement say- ing that the Holocaust, the organized plan to annihilate the Jewish people during the Second World War, simply did not happen. There never was a master plan whose result would be the annihilation of European Jewry. On saying that, the deniers deliberately ignore historical facts such as Hitler’s own declarations published in official documents of the time, such as the two statements I would like to quote and that show the extent to which the Third Reich was infused with anti-Semitism and hatred of the Jews, so much so that the organized massacre of all these people was the next logical step. In a speech delivered before the Reichstag in January 1939, Hitler said: “Today I want to be a prophet once more: if inter- national finance Jewry inside and outside of Europe should succeed once more in plunging nations into an- other world war, the consequence will not be the

bolshevisation of the earth and thereby the victory of the

Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Eu- rope”17. Another statement, made in September 1942 (eight months after the Wansee Conference in January 1942, which marked the start of the implementation of the Final Solution) reinforces his ideas: “in my Reichstag speech, I have spoken of two things: first, that now that the war has been forced upon us, no array of weapons and no passage of time will bring us to defeat, and sec- ond, that if Jewry should plot another world war to ex- terminate the Aryan peoples in Europe, it would not be the Aryan peoples which will be exterminated, but the Jewry…At one time, the Jews in Germany laughed about my prophecies. I do not know whether they are still laughing or whether they have already lost all desire to laugh. But right now I can only repeat: they will stop laughing everywhere and I shall be right also in that prophecy”18.

By their claims, the deniers try to absolve the Nazis of all guilt and put the victors and the vanquished of the war on par. Moreover, that the the Nazis were not the perpetrators of murder and destruction, but rather the Allies were, who should also be held responsible, not only for countless civilian casualties subsequent to their bombing of German cities, but also for the death of Jew- ish prisoners who had been gathered in labour camps

“for their own protection”19. Deniers acknowledge that some Jews were incarcerated in such places as

Auschwitz, but this camp was equipped with “all the luxuries of a country club, including a swimming pool, dance hall, and recreational facilities”20. (These argu- ments were presented at the trial of the Canadian denier Ernst Zündel by the “expert engineer” Fred Leuchter, whose case I shall discuss in the further on.)

The birthplace of Holocaust denial was not Germany, as many might think, but the United States, where one can find many sources of inspiration for this phenom- enon as early as the 1920s and 1930s. As Deborah


Lipstadt has observed, “modern Holocaust denial draws inspiration from a variety of sources. Among them are a legitimate historical tradition that was highly critical of government policies and believed that history was being used to justify those policies; an age-old nexus of

conspiratorial scenarios that place a neat coherence on widely diverse developments; and hyperbolic critiques of government policies, which, despite an initial connec- tion to reality, became so extreme as to assume a quality of fantasy. The aforementioned historical tradition was taken over and co-opted by Holocaust deniers. In the other two cases, denial was their logical successors”21. American revisionism was born in 1920, after the First World War, when Sidney B. Fay and Harry Elmer Barnes started publishing articles and studies criticizing

American involvement in the war, which, according to them, had been triggered by Jewish influences. Barnes can be rightfully regarded as the “father of American Ho- locaust denial”, because he started writing articles attack- ing the facts referring to the destruction of European Jewry even before World War II had finished. Another fa- mous and influential American anti-Semite in the inter- war period was none other than Henry Ford, who not only wrote but also sponsored the publication of such overtly anti-Semitic pamphlets as the one entitled The In- ternational Jew: the World’s Foremost Problem22. Some other historians, such as Charles Bread and Freda Utley, claimed, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, that

“Hitler did not want to go to war with Poland, but planned for Germany and Poland to dominate Europe together”.23 Another favorite theme of argument for these early revisionists (I am reluctant to use the term “de- niers” at this stage, because their activity does not fall into the category of those proliferated by David Irving and his supporters) was that of comparison between the Nazi atrocities and the casualties and destruction brought about by the Allies or in some other historical atrocities,

even the American Civil War. One particular statement, made by the English professor Austin J. App, whom I shall refer to later on as well, is relevant in this context:

“the top U.S. media, possibly because they are dominated by Jews, have no tradition of fairness to anyone they hate. They have also in wartime subverted much of the public to a frenzy of prejudice. Even in our civil war, where Americans fought against Americans, Americans of the North were told and came to believe that Choctaw County stunk with dead bodies of murdered slaves and that the Southern belles had worn necklaces strung out of Yankee eyeballs!… If Yankees could believe that Southern girls wore necklaces of Yankee eyeballs, would they not even more readily believe that Germans made lampshades out of the skins of prisoners, or that they boiled Jews into soap?”24. However preposterous these claims might be, all the revisionists of this period differ from the Holocaust deniers in the sense that they stopped short of claiming that the atrocities never

happened. They indeed tried to minimize the number of dead, to downplay the cruelties inflicted upon the Jews in the death camps, but they never actually said that they did not happened.

However, one cannot say the same about what tran- spired in the early 1950s, when revisionist historians be- gan transforming into outright deniers, mostly influ- enced by the radical right ideology that had survived the fascist period and was trying to gain new legitimacy. The activity of the early proper deniers was also prompted by the publication of the first accounts of the Holocaust.

One of the first defenders of the Nazis in the post-war era was the French fascist Maurice Bardèche. In his works (Letter to François Mauriac, Nuremberg or the Promised Land), he contended that the evidence about the

concentration camps had been seriously falsified and that the real culprits for the atrocities were not the Nazis, but the Jews themselves, because they had helped insti-



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