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Unlikely Allies Bound by a Common Hatred

April 28, 2002
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Unlikely Allies Bound by a Common Hatred

Neo-Nazis Find They Share Views of Militant Muslim Groups on U.S., Israel

by Peter Finn, The Washington Post

BERN, Switzerland - A portrait of Adolf Hitler has long adorned the study of Ahmed Huber, a 74-year-old Swiss convert to Islam who lives outside this small capital city. After Sept. 11, he twinned the picture with one of Osama bin Laden.

"A provocation," said Huber, the voluble proponent of a strange alliance, one apparently strengthened in the aftermath of Sept. 11: Muslim fundamentalists and neo-Nazis, who share a hatred of the United States, Israel and Jews.

For years, Huber has been barnstorming the far-right circuit, speaking to a European congress of neo-Nazi youth organizations and Germany's far-right National Democratic Party. He has taken the same message to Aryan youth meetings in the United States.

And then there's his other identity. Huber works frequently with militant Islamic groups. He is a director of Nada Management, a Swiss company described by the U.S. Treasury Department as a financial adviser to bin Laden's terrorist network. He acknowledges having met al Qaeda operatives, but denies any financial role in the organization.

In an interview here, Huber said his role is to build a bridge between radical Muslims and what he calls the New Right in Europe and the United States.

"The alliance has come," Huber said. "The 11th of September has brought together [the two sides] because the New Right has reacted positively in a big majority. They say, and I agree with them 100 percent, what happened on the 11th of September, if it is the Muslims who did it, it is not an act of terrorism but an act of counterterrorism."

Other members of far-right groups and people who study the movements agree that the September attacks pushed some members of the groups together. "There is a sense of sympathy, [a sense] that there is common ground," Horst Mahler, a member of the National Democratic Party, said in an interview at his home outside Berlin. "There are contacts with political groups, in particular in the Arab world, also with Palestinians. That's a fact that is not being concealed."

How many of Germany's estimated 58,000 neo-Nazis are taking part in the alliance is unclear; to date there is no evidence that neo-Nazi violence against Muslim immigrants, a recurring problem in Germany, has declined.

Alfred Schobert, a researcher at the Information Service Against Right-Wing Extremism in Duisburg, Germany, sees divisions among neo-Nazis on the issue. "Some of them, particularly the grass roots, are traditional racists and they want to have nothing to do with Muslims," he said. "But some of the leaders see potential in this."

Certainly the events of Sept. 11 produced fits of joy among some members of the European far right, according to groups that monitor hate speech.

Young supporters of the National Front in France drank champagne on the evening of Sept. 11, according to groups opposing neo-Nazis. A Czech far-rightist, Jan Kopul, proclaimed bin Laden "an example for our children." At a fascist youth rally in Switzerland, activists wore bin Laden badges.

German neo-Nazi Mario Schulz burned a U.S. flag at a post-Sept. 11 rally, exclaiming in front of skinheads wearing Palestinian scarves, "This is what it looks like, the symbol of terror."

In the same period, the writings of William L. Pierce, the American whose novel "The Turner Diaries" inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh, have appeared on the Web site of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite Muslim group linked to Iran. Pierce also has been interviewed regularly on Radio Iran by telephone from his compound in West Virginia.

"We have a common cause: getting the U.S. government off the back of the rest of the world and getting the Jews off the back of the U.S. government," Pierce said in a telephone interview. "There is ground for joint action." He ruled out violence on the grounds that "we're so outgunned by the government."

Authorities in the United States and Europe are skeptical of an enduring alliance. "It's an unnatural bond," said an FBI official in Washington. A German official offered a similar assessment: "I don't see it. They both hate the Jews, but in the end, they also dislike each other."

The outlines of cooperation were visible before Sept. 11. In 1991, German neo-Nazis tried to form a "Condor Legion" to fight alongside Iraqis against the U.S.-led international coalition. More recently, members of the European far right have journeyed to Baghdad to express solidarity with President Saddam Hussein.

In late 1997, a German neo-Nazi and convert to Islam, Steven Smyrek, who allegedly trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, was arrested in Israel for planning a suicide attack, according to the Duisburg center.

Also that year, a Holocaust denial conference planned for Beirut would have brought together Pierce, Mahler of Germany's National Democratic Party, who planned to speak on "The Final Solution to the Jewish Question," and representatives of Hezbollah and other radical Muslim groups. The conference was canceled by Lebanon's government.

According to Huber, some Nazi veterans also feel common cause with Islamic militants.

By his account, a group of aging SS officers and members of Hitler's personal guard who meet every few weeks in the German state of Bavaria for beer and conversation recently bestowed the title "honorary Prussian" on bin Laden. They praised his "valiant fight" against the United States, Huber said.

One of the members called Huber after the meeting to tell him that henceforth they had decided to call the al Qaeda leader "Herr von Laden," Huber said.

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