In ‘Born a Crime’, the autobiographical account of comedian Trevor Noah growing up in apartheid South Africa, he relays an incident which involves a friend named ‘Hitler’. A teenager looking to make money, Trevor starts a dancing troupe, where his friend is the best dancer. Their reputation growing, they are asked to perform at a predominantly white Jewish School as part of an event.
As they show up, ‘Hitler’ turns up to wow the crowd with his rhythmic gyrations and gravity defying dance moves, and as he reaches the crescendo of his performance, Trevor starts chanting ‘Go Hitler, Go Hitler!’ Their performance is cut short by abuse hurled from the audience and the principal organizer of the event. Trevor fires back as any bombastic teenager would, stating equivocally that her (the organizer’s) people’s time is up. Here, he is referring of course, to the white organizer, while the organizer thinks she, as a Jewish woman, is being threatened by an anti-Semite. This would be perhaps one of the few recorded instances of accidental anti-Semitism.
On a note unrelated to the above anecdote, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced its 23-member Punjab Cabinet. It was at this point that Twitter users stumbled upon the profile of the new Information and Culture Minister, Fayazul Hassan and his Twitter bio, the short message which serves as the first thing someone sees about another user.
This contained (as it does for many) his two favorite historical rulers: Hazrat Umar (RA), the Second Caliph of Islam, and Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the German Third Reich. It should be noted that he, nor Pakistanis, are unique in their love for Hitler; our Indian neighbours are full of as many praises for the man, and states in South East Asia have thriving fashion and cultural scenes revolving around fetishization of paraphernalia and clothing, called ‘Nazi chic’. If this was an innocent mistake, like it was for Mr. Noah and his unfortunately named friend, this would be the end of it. However, in Pakistan, this is probably not the case.
Mr. Noah argued that the parents of his unfortunately named friend would have named him as such because to them, the mass organized slaughter of large swathes of European groups, most notably the Jews, was a distant and/or unknown thing; all they knew of Hitler was that he was a man, who was causing problems for what was their oppressor, the white man, in the place the white man came from (i.e. Europe).
For Pakistanis, the love of Hitler can be charted off to several reasons: we love strongmen dictators in general, and we may similarly venerate him because of his role in bankrupting the British during the Second World War. For many however, a love of Hitler comes from one single place: his policy of genocide against the Jewish populations of Western and Eastern Europe, known as the ‘Final Solution’, or the Holocaust.
This is by no means a radical statement: large swathes of the urban, educated population of Pakistan would agree that Hitler was right in ordering the Holocaust. Jews are routinely attributed as being the cause of all problems, from Pakistan and the larger Muslim Ummah’s poor global standing in achievements and figures, as well as being behind all conspiracies, whether foreign or domestic. The United States, with which Pakistan has had a tense and publicly disliked relationship, is seen as being run by a Jewish lobby, and further, that it supports the actions of Israel, which has been close to arch-rival and neighbor India. The term ‘Yahudi saazish’ (Jewish conspiracy) is used so often it is now a punchline to jokes.
Many leaps of faith take place, and all of these serve as an opiate, and the framework they rely upon has two historical elements to it, one overarching, and one based on a specific event. The historical element starts with the following assumption: Jews are historical foes of Muslims, and their control of finance and global institutions is the root cause of our failings. Here, United Nations inaction over the apartheid Israeli state are presented as proof. Jews are placed as a single entity, and no weight is placed on the idea that there may be a difference between Jews and Zionists, and that there may be those who proudly uphold their faith and tradition and those who oppose the Zionist state of Israel.
The second part of the historical argument centres on the claim that the Holocaust was a lie. The deliberate policy, organized under the ‘Final Solution’ plan, which followed a larger trajectory of targeted anti-Semitism against Jews, and which was carried out under the full understanding and approval of senior Nazi Party members is reduced to a ‘lie’.
The deaths of close to 6 million Jews, 2-3 million Soviet prisoners of war, close to 2 million Ethnic Poles, anywhere between 90-220,000 Roma people, 150,000 disabled individuals, and an unknown number of gay men is a fabrication. Details of the total number of those killed, freely available from reputable sources online, are considered biased, since all media is considered as being owned by the ‘Jews’.
Pakistanis who engage is Holocaust denial are quick to point out a litany of facts and thinkers, but most of them are relying on bogus information, doctored facts, fudged figures, and outright lies. Most of these, if not all of them, can be refuted with hard fact and evidence by research carried out by the Nizkor Project, which is dedicated to refuting Holocaust deniers claims.
All these do not matter, and any attempt at presenting facts are futile, since the opiate dulls any sense of critical thought. The end goal is a representative of a government who proudly displays an adoration for a mass murderer to the public. Mr. Noah and his accidental act of anti-Semitism would be the sort of thing that one could look back at with a degree of glee. In Pakistan, where anti-Semitism is used to whip up support for right wing groups and mainstream political parties alike, and as a justification for poor governmental performance and a litany of social ills, there is little to laugh about.
The author has a Masters in IR from Durham University, and teaches politics at a local university.