Because certain movements in the Arab world of the 1930s and 1940s showed similarities to Mussolini’s and Hitler’s regimes, historians have drawn comparisons with the fascist and National Socialist dictatorships. But not even those arguing for the concept of a “generic fascism” are able to wholeheartedly subsume these movements under their fascist rubric. Fascism and National Socialism evolved in Europe, were shaped by the mood at the fin de siècle, became effective after the First World War in a unique political, social, economic and cultural atmosphere, and only lost their appeal in 1945 at the conclusion of the Second World War. They flourished in industrialized societies and aimed—in novel and twisted ways—at reversing the liberalization of 19th-century Europe. They emphasized power, national rebirth, military order and efficiency; and they were, in the case of Germany, driven by anti-Semitism and racism, resulting in totalitarian rule with genocidal consequences. National-socialist and fascist movements and regimes required the atmosphere and culture of liberal democracy as a foil—and liberal democracy was virtually nonexistent in the Near and Middle East. The preconditions for fascism were thus lacking. Colonial rule was still in place, traditional culture still prevailed in these mainly rural societies, and their small bourgeois parties showed greater allegiance to their clans than to liberal and secular ideologies.
This article looks at the changing significations of the word “fascist” within communist discourses in Iraq and in Israel. I do so in order to illustrate how fascism, a concept signifying a political theory conceptualized and practiced in Italy, Germany, and Spain, became a boarder frame of reference to many leftist intellectuals in the Middle East. The articles shows that communist discourses formulated in Iraq during the years 1941-1945 evoked the word “fascist” not only in order to discredit Germany and Italy but also, and more importantly, as a way of critiquing Iraq’s radical pan-Arab nationalists and Iraq’s conservative elites who proclaimed their loyalty to pan-Arabism as well. In other words, the article studies the ways in which Iraqi communist intellectuals, most notably the leader of the Iraqi Communist Party, Fahd, shifted the antifascist global battle to the Iraqi field and used the prodemocratic agenda of the Allies to criticize the absence of social justice and human rights in Iraq, and the Iraqi leadership’s submissive posture toward Britain. As it became clear to Iraqi communists that World War II was nearing its end, and that Iraq would be an important part of the American-British front, criticism of the Iraqi Premier Nūrī al-Saʿīd and his policies grew sharper, and such policies were increasingly identified as “fascist”. Within this context, Fahd equated chauvinist rightwing Iraqi nationalism in its anti-Jewish and anti- Kurdish manifestations with fascism and Nazi racism. I then look at the ways in which Iraqi Jewish communists internalized the party’s localized antifascist agenda. I argue that Iraqi Jewish communists identified rightwing Iraqi nationalism (especially the agenda espoused by a radical pan-Arab Party called al-Istiqlāl) as symptomatic of a fascist ideology. Finally, I demonstrate how Iraqi Jewish communists who migrated to Israel in the years 1950-1951 continued using the word “fascist” in their campaigns against rightwing Jewish nationalism and how this antifascist discourse influenced prominent Palestinian intellectuals
The article establishes an interpretive framework for Arab responses to fascism during the 1930s and World War II. Promoters of the Islamofascism paradigm refer to this period as simply a manifestation of the allegedly illiberal inclinations of a vast majority of Arabs and Muslims. They present Arab expressions of sympathy for fascism as conditioned by alleged authoritarian or totalitarian structures inherent in the Islamic religion. In a more nuanced interpretation, Arab reactions to fascism form a phenomenon that can only be understood in the local and chronological contexts of decolonization, in which fascism was a model and reference as a tool of social disciplining with the ultimate goal of getting rid of colonial control. According to this framework, totalitarian references in political discourse were a means to an end that was widespread at the time. Other, equally nuanced interpretations see pro-fascist trends in Middle Eastern states—as they became manifest in party platforms, uniformed youth organizations, or collaboration schemes with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy—as manifestations of global fascism as a ‘type’. According to this reading, totalitarian and racial ideological systems and leader- and discipline oriented forms of social organization have to be understood as representations of a worldwide trend comparable to Marxist or Capitalist ideology. Examples from India and Latin America provide a comparative framework for this. Neither of the two latter approaches subscribes to a thesis of an Arab “Sonderweg” in the adoption of fascism. Reactions in the Arab world in particular and in Muslim societies in general did not differ substantially from those in other colonial societies.
In this paper I want to reconstruct the genealogy of relating Islam to fascism and fascism to Islam by assembling evidence from Western discourses. Such a reconstruction of course suffers from the fact that it has to draw a picture based solely on a collection of idiographic interpretations. The result is more a mosaic than a coherent narrative. My purpose is not to discuss again the meaning of the current ideological discourse on Islamofascism and the use of Fascism as an epithet for Islamism or even for Islam.1 Nor do I want to examine the fallibility of identifying certain Islamic political traditions as “fascist” or to explore the historical interaction between Islamic political discourses and Fascism from the 1920s to the 1940s. My intention is to study the mechanism and meaning of relating Fascism to Islam and Islam to Fascism. Starting with a look at the semantic expressing this relation, I will continue by examining the scope of the current usage in the Western public. Next I will investigate the general application of Islam as an epithet for secular political traditions and cultures since the early 19th century. Finally, I will concentrate on the use of Islam as an epithet for Fascism and Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s. I will conclude with some observations on current practice, which fuses and equates the epithetical use of Islam and Fascism. My main thesis is that Islam has been instrumental in splitting off ideological and cultural traditions considered adversarial from one’s own social, political, or cultural context. The current usage of Islamofascism reverses this mechanism, as now fascism has become instrumental in splitting off Islam from the Western context.
The term “Islamofascism” for quite some time has had currency in polemical, but also in sober political discourses. However, it is clear that Islamic fundamentalism has very little, if anything, in common, in either origin or in form, with the historical phenomenon of fascism. If fascism is understood as what developed in certain historical constellations in Italy, Spain, and Hungary or as a specific exceptional form in German National Socialism, then it is something quite different from the movements of radicalized Islam. Islam, as a religion, is driven by different factors and follows goals very different from those of political fascism. One has to rigorously empty the political-scientifically established term “fascism” of content if one wants to make out superficial similarities. This must not be misunderstood: of course there is a modern (sometimes fanaticized) Arab nationalism; but as such it is not a substrate of Islam and thus does not substantially derive religiously from Islam. The Nazi (racial-biological) concept of the “national comrade” (Volksgenosse) has connotations different from those of membership in the Islamic Umma, which neither has anything do with an ideology of “blood” or race nor is determined by territorial presence, but rather includes Muslims living in the Diaspora—and in this respect is much more closely related to the Jewish-religious concepts of nation, people, and Diaspora than to the categories of the fascism that genuinely arose from Western modernism. It can therefore be assumed that the use of the term “Islamofascism” has little to do with an interest in analytical knowledge, but all the more with ideological polemics and political indoctrination.
The term “Islamofascism” has developed and taken root only recently. It is part of a terminology that has been integrated into the academic and pseudo-academic discourse, which defines and explains contemporary global Islamic jihadism. In real time, in the 1930s and during the Second World War, 1933-1945, this term was totally alien to Muslim intellectuals in Egypt and in the Arab Middle East. Islam and fascism or Islam and Nazism were perceived as diametrically opposed terms. For most Arab intellectuals and publicists, who represent what is commonly referred to as Islamic thought or were spokesmen of Islamic movements, it was inconceivable to conjoin these two vastly different doctrines and ways of life. Any attempt to harmonize Islam and fascism, not to speak of the very term Islamofascism or fascist Islam, would have been anathema. This article focuses on the life and work of the Palestinian communist intellectual Muḥammad Najātī Ṣidqī (1905- 1979) and his book al-Taqālid al-islāmiyya wa-l-mabādiʾ al-nāziyya: hal tattafiqān? (“The Islamic Traditions and the Nazi Principles: Can They Agree?”). In this book—which specifically reached out to a Muslim audience—Ṣidqī critically discusses Nazi ideology to show that Islam and Nazism are antithetical. He also strives for convincing the reader of the obligation to refute and to fight against “pagan” Nazi racism. Ṣidqī thus participates in a more broader Arab intellectual current of the 1930s and the time of the Second World War, in which Islam and fascism and Islam and Nazism were perceived as diametrically opposed terms.
The assumption of a historical collusion between Arab-Muslim public opinion and Fascism and Nazism is widespread. This paper questions this assumption by reconstructing various Arab-Muslim reactions in the Eastern Mediterranean that responded to the rise and establishment of Fascism and Nazism. Scrutinizing the discussions about key elements of Fascist and National Socialist ideologies, the diverse and often explicitly critical stances expressed in journals, books and pamphlets of the 1930s and 1940s will be worked out. Religious arguments were not limited to religious circles, however. Even in liberal and left-leaning circles Islam was invoked in attempts to challenge echoes of authoritarian and radical nationalist thought among Arab audiences. For these voices, Islamic traditions were seen as shielding local political culture against the influences of National Socialist and Fascist propaganda.
Albania’s eu accession hopes, but also the rise of enlargement fatigue, far-right fascism and Islamophobia in the continent. As one of Europe’s few Muslim majority countries, the debates here offer comparative value in a part of Europe often ignored in “Islam in Europe” deliberations. On the whole
Katherine E. Brown
research and policies. She argues that Islam becomes both the cure and the cause of radicalisation in mainstream research and policy. While politicians come up with phrases such as ‘perverted Islam’ ‘Islamo-fascism’ and ‘Islamic Supremacism’ to distance themselves from the idea they’re carrying out a
religiosity that had been stripped of its identity, and she further called on her readers to reject the fashion industry’s “beauty fascism” (in which she considered Âlâ to be deeply implicated). Âlâ, Böhürler argued, concerned itself only with beauty and physical appearance, even though living an Islamic way