by Andrew G. Bostom
Hat tip: Dr. Jean-Charles Bensoussan
Cliff May deserves credit for his recent National Review Online column “The New True Believers.” May 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.
Carl Jung: 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 Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with wild god. That can be the historic future.
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, upon which I will elaborate.
Diana West has summarized how the prevailing usage of the term “Islamofascism” 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.My discussion introduces a doctrinally and historically relevant context if the currently much abused term “Islamofascism” is to be understood and employed appropriately, acknowledging the direct nexus between Islam, pre-modern despotism, and modern totalitarian ideologies.
Islam, Nazism, and TotalitarianismDuring 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 Germany,
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 Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with wild god. That can be the historic future.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 Nuremberg tribunal. Speer’s narrative includes this discussion, which captures Hitler’s racist views of Arabs on the one hand, and his effusive praise for Islam on the other:
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 France into Central Europe during the eighth century, his visitors had told him, they had been driven back at the Battle of Tours. Had the Arabs won this battle, the world would be Mohammedan today. For theirs was a religion that believed in spreading the faith by the sword and subjugating all nations to that faith. Such a creed was perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament. Hitler said that the conquering Arabs, because of their racial inferiority, would in the long run have been unable to contend with the harsher climate and conditions of the country. They could not have kept down the more vigorous natives, so that ultimately not Arabs but Islamized Germans could have stood at the head of this Mohammedan Empire. Hitler usually concluded this historical speculation by remarking, “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?”A similar ambivalence characterized Nazi Germany’s support for Arab Muslim causes in the World War II era. For example, in December 1937, Hitler 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 anti-Semitic policies were directed at Jews exclusively. The spokesman elaborated:
The difference between Germany’s attitude toward Jews and Arabs has been clearly shown in the exchange of letters between the former Prime Minister of Iraq, Rashid Ali, and the German Institute for Racial Problems. We have never said the Arabs were inferior as a race. On the contrary, we have always pointed out the glorious historic past of the Arab people.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 led 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.Burckhardt emphasizes that the Arabs, 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
…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 Arabia, but founded a world religion that is viable to this day and has a tremendously high opinion of itself.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 group – 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.
Religions of this kind acknowledge no frontiers. Soviet Russia is merely the geographical centre from which communist influence radiates; it is an ‘Islam’ on the march, and it regards its frontiers at any given moment as purely provisional and temporary. Communism, like victorious Islam, makes no distinction between politics and religion…In a brilliant, dispassionate contemporary analysis [Islam, Middle East and Fascism], 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., Sharia, 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.But already in the mid-19th Century, Burckhardt, expanding upon his characterization of Islam’s founder, Muhammad, as a despot, described the theocratic polity he created as a particularly extreme religious despotism, created (and expanded) via jihad, which sought to invalidate the pre-Islamic past of its new votaries, by shaming that heritage.
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.
The strongest proof of real, extremely despotic power in Islam is the fact that it has been able to invalidate, in such large measure, the entire history (customs, religion, previous way of looking at things, earlier imagination) of the peoples converted to it. It accomplished this only by instilling into them a new religious arrogance which was stronger than everything and induced them to be ashamed [emphasis in original] of their past.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 EarthAlthough the Sultan had a Council composed of ranking dignitaries, headed by an erstwhile “Prime Minister,” the Grand Vizier who advised him, Pribichevich notes:
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 [Cairo to Damascus] 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 Germany. It helped explain the sensational growth of the Ikhwan el Muslimin [Muslim Brotherhood]
Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School.
He is the author of: The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books (2005), The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Prometheus Books (2008), Sharia Versus Freedom. The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, Prometheus Books (2012), The Mufti's Islamic Jew Hatred. What the Nazis Learned From the 'Muslim Pope', Bravura Books (2013), and Iran's Final Solution for Israel. The Legacy of Jihad and Shi'ite Islamic Jew-Hatred in Iran, Bravura Books (2014).
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Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.