Hitler, Muhammad, and their respective flocks.
Cliff May deserves credit for his National Review Online column of Thursday (1/24/08) which dares to associate—however indirectly, and in the end, I am afraid, inadequately—those he terms, using layers of prophylactic rhetorical separation from orthodox Islam, either “militant jihadists,” or “Islamists,” and their movement as “militant Islamism,”—with Hitler, and his “movement,” i.e., Nazism.
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 generic “fanaticism”—ignore much more intimate, if uncomfortable to acknowledge, doctrinal and historical connections between ancient Islam, and modern Nazism, which I have elaborated, below.
Islam, Nazism, and Totalitarianism
During an interview conducted in the late 1930s (published in 1939), Karl 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 and Waldemar Gurian, 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.”
…with the aid of at least ten people, looks over the faiths of the Jews, Christians, and Parsis [Zoroastrians], and steals from them any scraps that he can use, shaping these elements according to his imagination. Thus everyone found in Muhammad’s sermons some echo of his accustomed faith. The very extraordinary thing is that with all this Muhammad achieved not merely lifetime success, the homage of
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, 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:
[Karl Barth] 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.
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
In a brilliant, dispassionate contemporary analysis, Ibn Warraq describes 14 characteristics of “Ur Fascism” as enumerated by Umberto Eco, analyzing their potential relationship to the major determinants of Islamic governance and aspirations, through the present. He adduces salient examples which reflect the key attributes discussed by Eco: the unique institution of jihad war; the establishment of a Caliphate under “Allah’s vicegerent on earth,” the Caliph—ruled by Islamic Law, i.e., Shari’a, a rigid system of subservience and sacralized discrimination against non-Muslims and Muslim women, devoid of basic freedoms of conscience, and expression. Warraq’s assessment confirms what G.H. Bousquet concluded (in 1950) from his career studying the historical development and implementation of Islamic Law:
Islam first came before the world as a doubly totalitarian system. It claimed to impose itself on the whole world and it claimed also, by the divinely appointed Muhammadan law, by the principles of fiqh [jurisprudence], to regulate down to the smallest details the whole life of the Islamic community and of every individual believer… the study of Muhammadan Law (dry and forbidding though it may appear)… is of great importance to the world of today.
Islam Über Alles?—The Convergence of Jihad, Islamic Jew-Hatred, and Nazism
Thirty-fours years ago (1973/74) 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.
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…
And even 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.
This October 1957 US intelligence report on von Leers’ writings and activities for Egypt and the Arab League confirmed his complete adoption of the triumphalist Muslim worldview, desirous of nothing less than the destruction of Judeo-Christian civilization by jihad—a vision all too prevalent today:
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