It is not often that a person thanked in the acknowledgement of a book turns around and announces publicly, "Thanks, but no thanks." And yet this is precisely what I am about to do in the case of Irshad Manji, the author of the newly released book The Trouble with Islam.
My reason? To assuage the souls of the thousands of Muslims from places as diverse and Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan and, yes, even Palestine, who laid down their lives in the Second World War in battles from Stalingrad, which broken Hitler's back, to North Africa, where we helped send Hitler's Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, scurrying back to his Berlin den.
Despite the sacrifices of these men, Ms. Manji's book refers to the "Muslim complicity in the Holocaust." I froze as I read this serious accusation. Could I have missed something when I sat at the feet of Muslim veterans of battles in Crete, Burma, Egypt, and Italy, and heard their horror stories? In one fragment of a sentence, Ms. Manji places all these warriors on the wrong side of the battleground.
Has Ms. Manji ever heard of the Palestine Regiment, a unit in which Jew and Muslim fought side-by-side against Hitler's Afrika Korps in Libya? In the cemeteries of El-Alamein lie the dead Muslims, the Mohammeds, the Alis and the Ismails who gave their lives so that Nazism could be defeated. The cemeteries of Stalingrad bear the names of the young Central Asian Muslims who lie buried, unable to refute the falsehoods being spread by fast-food historians. And what about the hundreds of thousands of Indian Muslims who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with our own Canadians in Italy and France?
So how did Ms. Manji come up with her charge? She bases it on one Haj Amin, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who, as she writes, argued against Jewish refugees coming to Palestine and "wound up as Hitler's special guest in Berlin, presiding over the unveiling of the Islamic Central Institute in December 1942." She reasons that because one Muslim Mufti accepted the hospitality of Hitler, after being expelled from Palestine by the British colonial authorities, all we 1.2 billion Muslims, a quarter of humanity, deserve to be accused of complicity in the Holocaust.
And what about other prominent Palestinians, such as Hazim Khalidi, a London School of Economics grad who volunteered to serve in the Indian army's Palestine Battalion? Or perhaps Ms. Manji may like to visit the cemetery in Mississauga where Sgt. Hannah Hazineh lies buried. This decorated Palestinian veteran of the Second World War was wounded in battle at El-Alamien while fighting Germans.
There's no doubt that Haj Amin was an influential Muslim cleric in Jerusalem. But so were countless Catholic and Protestant clergy in Europe who supported Hitler, or looked the other way while their Jewish neighbours were being dragged off. Should we talk of Christian complicity in the Holocaust? Or, like the German parliamentarian who talked of a Jewish complicity in the Bolshevik uprising, allow the actions of a few to stain an entire people?
Ms. Manji says her book is addressed to fellow Muslims. Had it been written in good faith, I would have understood her reasoning, even if I did not agree with her. However, her book is not addressed to Muslims; it is aimed at making Muslim-haters feel secure in their thinking. And so, I politely tell Ms. Manji: Thank you for thanking my wife Nargis and me for a "spirited discussion" that landed you "important insights." But we'd appreciate any mention of us being removed from future editions.
Tarek Fatah is host of the weekly Vision TV show The Muslim Chronicle and a founding member of the Muslim Canadian Congress.