I have edited, and expanded my earlier blog on Islam as a totalitarian ideology, with particular reference, now, to the at best uninformed and inadequate, or at worst, deceptively employed term, “Islamofascism.”
May’s inchoate effort should be applauded for its attempted illustration of any possible ideological nexus between Hitler’s Nazism, and Islam. But ultimately, the associations he makes—the “ability to nurse grievances and stoke ambitions,” Germans/Aryans as a master race, and the concordant supremacism of “militant Islamism,” and, invoking Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer,” generic “fanaticism”—ignore much more intimate, if uncomfortable to acknowledge, doctrinal and historical connections between ancient Islam, and modern Nazism, which I will elaborate.
My discussion will also introduce a doctrinally and historically relevant context for the much abused term, “Islamofascism.” Diana West has summarized how the prevailing usage of this term obfuscates critically relevant truths:
“Islamofascism” is a made-up word that draws a politically correct curtain over mainstream, traditional Islam, in effect shielding the religion and its tenets from scrutiny when considering what drives our jihadist enemies—as they are the first to declare.
Islam, Nazism, and Totalitarianism
During an interview conducted in the late 1930s (published in 1939), Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychiatry, was asked “…had he any views on what was likely to be the next step in religious development?” Jung replied, in reference to the Nazi fervor that had gripped
We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. He is already on the way; he is like Muhammad. The emotion in
Albert Speer, who was Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, wrote a contrite memoir of his World War II experiences while serving a 20-year prison sentence imposed by the
Hitler had been much impressed by a scrap of history he had learned from a delegation of distinguished Arabs. When the Mohammedans attempted to penetrate beyond
A similar ambivalence characterized Nazi Germany’s support for Arab Muslim causes in the World War II era. Hitler for example, in December 1937, even proposed omitting his “racial ladder” theory—which denigrated the Arabs—from a forthcoming Arabic translation of Mein Kampf. And a Berlin Foreign Ministry spokesman, during a November, 1942 press conference reported in the New York Times, took “great pains” to assure Arabs that Nazi antisemitic policies were directed at Jews, exclusively. The spokesman elaborated:
The difference between
Although now, inexplicably, almost ignored in their entirety, writings produced for 100 years between the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, by important scholars and intellectuals, in addition to Carl Jung—for example, the historians Jacob Burckhardt, Waldemar Gurian, and Stoyan Pribichevich, philosopher Bertrand Russell, Protestant theologian Karl Barth, sociologist Jules Monnerot, and most notably, the renowned 20th century scholar of Islamic Law, G.H. Bousquet—referred to Islam as a despotic, or in 20th century parlance, totalitarian ideology.
Being imbued with fanaticism was the ultimate source of Muhammad’s great strength, and lead to his triumph as a despot, according to the 19th century Swiss historian Burckhardt:
Muhammad is personally very fanatical; that is his basic strength. His fanaticism is that of a radical simplifier and to that extent is quite genuine. It is of the toughest variety, namely doctrinaire passion, and his victory is one of the greatest victories of fanaticism and triviality. All idolatry, everything mythical, everything free in religion, all the multifarious ramifications of the hitherto existing faith, transport him into a real rage, and he hits upon a moment when large strata of his nation were highly receptive to an extreme simplification of the religious.
The Arabs, Burckhardt emphasizes, Muhammad’s henchmen, were not barbarians and had their own ingenuities, and spiritual traditions. Muhammad’s successful preaching among them capitalized upon an apparent longing for supra-tribal unification, “an extreme simplification.” Muhammad’s genius, “lies in divining this.” Utilizing portions of the most varied existing traditions, and taking advantage of the fact that “the peoples who were now attacked may also have been somewhat tired of their existing theology and mythology,” Muhammad,
Burckhardt concludes that despite this achievement, Muhammad was not a great man, although he accepts the understandable inclination,
…to deduce great causes from great effects, thus, from Muhammad’s achievement, greatness of the originator. At the very least, one wants to concede in Muhammad’s case that he was no fraud, was serious about things, etc. However, it is possible to be in error sometime with this deduction regarding greatness and to mistake mere might for greatness. In this instance it is rather the low qualities of human nature that have received a powerful presentation. Islam is a triumph of triviality, and the great majority of mankind is trivial…But triviality likes to be tyrannical and is fond of imposing its yoke upon nobler spirits. Islam wanted to deprive distinguished old nations of their myths, the Persians of their Book of Kings, and for 1200 years it has actually prohibited sculpture and painting to tremendously large populations.
University of Notre Dame historian Waldemar Gurian, a refugee, who witnessed first hand the Communist and Fascist totalitarian movements in Europe, concluded (circa 1945) that Hitler, in a manner analogous to the 7th century precedent of Muhammad as described by Burckhardt, had been the simplifier of German nationalism.
A fanatical simplifier who appeared as the unifier of various German traditions in the service of simple national aims and who was seen by many differing German groups—even by some people outside Germany—as the fulfiller of their wishes and sharer of their beliefs, with some distortions and exaggerations—such, as long as he had success, was Adolf Hitler.
Based upon the same clear understandings, and devoid of our era’s dulling, politically correct constraints, Karl Barth, like Carl Jung (cited earlier), offered this warning, also published in 1939:
Participation in this life, according to it the only worthy and blessed life, is what National Socialism, as a political experiment, promises to those who will of their own accord share in this experiment. And now it becomes understandable why, at the point where it meets with resistance, it can only crush and kill—with the might and right which belongs to Divinity! Islam of old as we know proceeded in this way. It is impossible to understand National Socialism unless we see it in fact as a new Islam [emphasis in original], its myth as a new Allah, and Hitler as this new Allah’s Prophet.
Both philosopher Bertrand Russell, in 1920, and sociologist Jules Monnerot three decades later (in 1953), viewed the 20th century’s other major strain of totalitarianism, emergent Bolshevism, and established Soviet-style Communism, as in Monnerot’s words, “The Twentieth-Century Islam.”
Russell wrote presciently in his 1920, Theory and Practice of Bolshevism, that,
Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.
By 1953, Monnerot (in his Sociology and Psychology of Communism) saw the “absolute tyranny” of Soviet Communism as “comparable to Islam,” for being both “a secular religion [emphasis in original] and as a universal State [emphasis in original].” He elaborated, in particular, on this concordance between the triumphal emergence of the Islamic and Soviet empires, as follows:
This merging of religion and politics was a major characteristic of the Islamic world in its victorious period. It allowed the head of State to operate beyond his own frontiers in the capacity of commander of the faithful (Amir-al-muminin); and in this way a Caliph was able to count upon his docile instruments, or captive souls, wherever there were men who recognized his authority. The territorial frontiers which seemed to remove some of his subjects from his jurisdiction were nothing more than material obstacles; armed force might compel him to feign respect for the frontier, but propaganda and subterranenan warfare could continue no less actively beyond it.
All religions are exclusive, but Islam is quite notably so, and immediately it developed into a state which seemed to be all of a piece with the religion. The Koran is its spiritual and secular book of law. Its statutes embrace all areas of life…and remain set and rigid; the very narrow Arab mind imposes this nature on many nationalities and thus remolds them for all time (a profound, extensive spiritual bondage!) This is the power of Islam in itself. At the same time, the form of the world empire as well as of the states gradually detaching themselves from it cannot be anything but a despotic monarchy. The very reason and excuse for existence, the holy war, and the possible world conquest, do not brook any other form.
Historian Stoyan Pribichevich’s 1938 study of the Balkans “World Without End” demonstrates how Burckhardt’s conception of Islamic despotism applied to Ottoman rule. Pribichevich provides these illustrations, beginning with his characterization of the Ottoman Sultans:
Each was a blood descendant of Osman [d. 1326, founder of the Ottoman dynasty]; the commander of all armed forces; the Caliph, the religious chief of all Moslems; the Padishah or King of Kings with the power of life and death over even his own cabinet ministers; the indisputable executor of the Prophet’s will—the Shadow of God on Earth.
But like the Janissaries [military slaves taken from the families of the subjugated Christian populations while adolescents, and forcibly converted to Islam, as part of the Ottoman devshirme levy system] they were Kuls, slaves whose lives and properties belonged to the master. Cases occurred where a Grand Vizier was put to death at a mere whim of the Sultan.
Thus Pribichevich concludes, regarding the Ottoman Sultanate, “Of all known dictators the Sultans were the most dictatorial.”
And Pribichevich goes on to explain how this dictatorial Ottoman Sultanate operated within the overall context of Islam’s religio-political totalitarian system, consistent with Bousquet’s observation (from 1950), based upon the latter’s analysis of Islamic Law:
Then, Islam was a totalitarian religion. The Koran regulated not only the relationship of man to God, but all aspects of political organization, economics, and private conduct. Although the Sultan was the sole legislator, his laws, the sheri [Shari’a], were expected to conform to the sacred text. Now, for the proper interpretation of the Prophet’s phrases, there was a body of learned priests and jurists, the Ulemas. While no born Moslem could become a member of the Janissaries, no ex-Christian was ever allowed to enter the sacred corporation of the Ulemas. These theologians were not the slaves of the Sultan, but their opinions nevertheless were only advisory. So, the whole exotic structure of the Ottoman state can be summed up this way: the Koran was the empire’s Constitution; the Sultan, its absolute executor; the Janissaries, the soldiers and administrators; and the thinking Ulemas, a sort of Supreme Court.
Finally, investigative journalist John Roy Carlson’s 1948-1950 interviews of Arab Muslim religious and political leaders provide consummate independent validation of these Western assessments. Perhaps most revealing were the candid observations of Aboul Saud, whom Carlson described as a “pleasant English-speaking member of the Arab League Office.” Aboul Saud explained to Carlson that Islam was an authoritarian religio-political creed which encompassed all of a Muslim’s spiritual and temporal existence. He stated plainly,
You might describe Mohammedanism as a religious form of State Socialism…The Koran give the State the right to nationalize industry, distribute land, or expropriate the right to nationalize industry, distribute land, or expropriate property. It grants the ruler of the State unlimited powers, so long as he does not go against the Koran. The Koran is our personal as well as our political constitution.
And after interviewing Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna himself, who “preached the doctrine of the Koran in one hand and the sword in the other,” Carlson observed:
It became clear to me why the average Egyptian worshipped the use of force. Terror was synonymous with power! This was one reason why most Egyptians, regardless of class or calling had admired Nazi
Islam Über Alles?—The Convergence of Jihad, Islamic Jew-Hatred, and Nazism
Thirty-fours years ago (1974) Bat Ye’or published a remarkably foresighted analysis of the Islamic antisemitism and resurgent jihadism in her native
The pejorative characteristics of Jews as they are described in Muslim religious texts are applied to modern Jews. Anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism are equivalent—due to the inferior status of Jews in Islam, and because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad.
Here the Pan-Arab and anti-Western theses that consider
Nazi academic and propagandist of extermination Johannes von Leers’ writings and personal career trajectory—as a favored contributor in Goebbel’s propaganda ministry, to his eventual adoption of Islam (as Omar Amin von Leers) while working as an anti-Western, and antisemitic/anti-Zionist propagandist under Nasser’s regime from the mid-1950s, until his death in 1965—epitomizes this convergence of jihad, Islamic antisemitism, and racist, Nazi antisemitism, as described by Bat Ye’or.
In subsequent essays published during 1938 and 1942, von Leers produced analyses focused primarily on Muhammad’s interactions with the Jews of Medina. Collectively, these essays reveal his pious reverence for Islam and its prophet, and a thorough understanding of the sacralized Islamic sources for this narrative, i.e., the Koran, hadith, and sira, which is entirely consistent with standard Muslim apologetics.
Citing (or referring to) the relevant foundational text sources (i.e., Koran 13:36; 8:55-58; 59:1-15; the sira and canonical hadith descriptions of the fate of individual Jews such as Abu Afak and Ka’b ibn Ashraf, and the Jewish tribes Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir, Banu Qurayzah, as well as the Jews of the Khaybar oasis), von Leers in his 1942 essay “Judiasm and Islam as Opposites,” chronicles Muhammad’s successful campaigns which vanquished these Jews, killing and dispersing them, “…or at most allow[ing] them to remain in certain places if they paid a poll tax.” Von Leers further describes the accounts (from the hadith, and more elaborately, the sira) of Muhammad’s poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess, and also notes the canonical hadith which records Caliph Umar’s rationale for his putative expulsion from northern Arabia of those remaining Jews who survived Muhammad’s earlier campaigns:
On his deathbed Mohammed is supposed to have said: “There must not be two religions in
And von Leers even invokes the apocalyptic canonical hadith which 46 years later became the keystone of Hamas’ 1988 charter sanctioning a jihad genocide against the Jewish State of Israel:
Ibn Huraira even communicates to us the following assertion of the great man of God: “Judgment Day will come only when the Moslems have inflicted an annihilating defeat on the Jews, when every stone and every tree behind which a Jew has hidden says to believers: ‘Behind me stands a Jew, smite him.’”
Von Leers’ 1942 essay concludes by simultaneously extolling the “model” of oppression the Jews experienced under Islamic suzerainty, and the nobility of Muhammad, Islam, and the contemporary Muslims of the World War II era, foreshadowing his own conversion to Islam just over a decade later:
They [the Jews] were subjected to a very restrictive and oppressive special regulation that completely crippled Jewish activities. All reporters of the time when the Islamic lands still completely obeyed their own laws agree that the Jews were particularly despised… Mohammed’s opposition to the Jews undoubtedly had an effect—oriental Jewry was completely paralyzed by Islam. Its back was broken. Oriental Jewry has played almost no role in Judaism’s massive rise to power over the last two centuries. Scorned, the Jews vegetated in the dirty alleys of the mellah, and were subject to a special regulation that did not allow them to profiteer, as they did in Europe, or even to receive stolen goods, but instead kept them fearful and under pressure. Had the rest of the world adopted a similar method, today we would have no Jewish question—and here we must absolutely note that there were also Islamic rulers, among them especially the Spanish caliphs of the House of Muawiyah, who did not adhere to Islam’s traditional hostility to Jews—to their own disadvantage. However, as a religion Islam has performed the immortal service of preventing the Jews from carrying out their threatened conquest of Arabia and of defeating the dreadful doctrine of Jehovah through a pure faith that opened the way to higher culture for many peoples and gave them an education and humane training, so that still today a Moslem who takes his religion seriously is one of the most worthy phenomena in this world in turmoil.
And earlier, in a 1938 essay, von Leers further sympathized with, “the leading role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem [Hajj Amin el-Husseini] in the Arabians’ battles against the Jewish invasion in
Leers’ description of the origins of the Muslim “forename,” Omar Amin he adopted as part of his formal conversion to Islam in a November, 1957 letter to American Nazi H. Keith Thompson, highlights his personal and doctrinal connections to the Mufti, with whom he engaged in a longstanding collaboration:
I myself have embraced Islam and accepted the new forename Omar Amin, Omar according to the great Caliph Omar who was a grim enemy of the Jews, Amin in honor of my friend Hadj Amin el Husseini, the Grand Mufti.
Leers’ ceaseless efforts as a formal propagandist for the Nasser regime and Arab League were complemented by a staggering array of additional writing activities before and during this last decade of his life, including: translating modern Arabic treatises on jihad and Islamic financing into German; writing the Foreword to an anti-Zionist analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict by an Egyptian scholar; and reviewing and promoting the works of neo-Nazi and Fascist ideologues as editor (while in Buenos Aires) of Der Weg (most prominently, his 1951 review of Francis Parker Yockey’s “Imperium”), while maintaining a prolific worldwide correspondence with individual Fascists, designed to garner their support for his global jihad. Thus he wrote (again, to American Nazi H. Keith Thompson) in 1957 and 1958,
 One thing is clear—more and more patriot Germans join the great Arab revolution against beastly imperialism. In
This recently declassified October 1957 US intelligence report on von Leers’ writings and activities for Egypt and the Arab League independently confirms his complete adoption of the triumphalist Muslim worldview, desirous of nothing less than the destruction of Judeo-Christian civilization by jihad:
He [Dr. Omar Amin von Leers] is becoming more and more a religious zealot, even to the extent of advocating an expansion of Islam in
Leers’ final vision of an Islamic supremacist hegemony—as formulated in the two decades after World War II—has had a profound influence on contemporary trends, now robust, from
The extent to which Nazi convert to Islam Omar Amin von Leers’ ugly vision has been implemented over the past 50 years—his “successful” living legacy—supports a simple, profoundly disturbing conception articulated by writer Lawrence Auster. Oblivious to the firmly entrenched politically correct orthodoxy, Auster has termed Muhammad a “successful Hitler.” Auster argues that Muhammad, whom he also calls “one of the great geniuses of history,” conceived
… a highly flexible and therefore sustainable ideology and program of subversion, conquest, and domination (as well as a sustainable way of life), while Hitler’s ideology and program had no internal brakes. It was pedal to the metal, aiming at the instant and total destruction of other countries and of Western civilization as a whole, and thus making it necessary for other countries utterly to destroy Hitlerism.