Mohammad Amin al-Husseini was a student of Rashid Rida in Cairo for two years after completing school in Palestine, but never took up Islamic studies again.

In 1921 the British mandatory authorities appointed him as mufti of Jerusalem and then the head of the Islamic Supreme Council which had been created by the mandatory authorities.

Barely twenty-six, lacking the requisite religious education (muftis were expected to be well-versed sharia scholars, since the supreme responsibility of issuing fatwas fell to them), convicted in absentia to ten years in prison by the mandatory authorities for his role in the 1920 riots and then granted amnesty, Husseini was not even one of the three leading candidates, elected by the representatives of Palestinian Islam, from whom, according to the usual Ottoman procedure, the mufti was supposed to be chosen.

His only qualification was that he belonged to a leading Palestinian family and was the late mufti’s brother.

By an irony of history, the young Husseini owed his appointment to the very Zionist British high commissioner for Palestine, Herbert Samuel, who had been one of the architects of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

The 1936-39 Arab Revolt in Palestine was an expression of opposition to the British intention to grant part of Palestine to the Zionists and the increasing flow of European Jewish immigrant into the area. The British plan for partition was publicly opposed by the Nazi regime.

This apparently impressed the Mufti who became a friend of the Third Reich. The Mufti was blamed by the British for the revolt. He managed to escape capture and fled to Lebanon then Iraq.

His May 1941 call for a “jihad “against the British, had practically no effect. Both Germany and Italy asked him to help recruit Muslims to fight the Allies. This failed. An Axis victory was quite possible in the early stages of the war but by 1942 only 130 men were in the Wehrmacht’s Arab unit. The Italian effort was even worse. Of 250 Arab POWs, captured from the 9000 Palestinians serving with the British forces, transferred by Germany to Rome, only 18 agreed to serve and of these only 8 ultimately remained.

More successful with non-Arab Muslims, he helped set up two SS units in Bosnia in 1943. Eager to fight the traditional Serbian enemy, these troops went on strike when the Germans made an agreement with the Chetniks. It was the only case of SS units going on strike. They took no part in the anti-Jewish operations in the region. Many were put in prison camps, others were sent for re-training to France where they attempted to join the Partisans. By 1944 those in Bosnia had mainly joined the Yugoslav Partisans.

The religious leadership in Bosnia did not co-operate with the Mufti and remained true to the Quran. “… the Bosnian Muslim clerics issued three declarations publicly denouncing Croat-Nazi collaborationist measures against Jews and Serbs: that of Sarajevo in October 1941, of Mostar in 1941, and of Banja Luka on November 12, 1941”.


Reference: Achcar, Gilbert. The Arabs and the Holocaust. The Arab-Israeli war of Narratives. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Coy. NY.2009