Islamic Fascism by Hamed Abdel-Samad

Islamic Fascism by Hamed Abdel-Samad

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By: Hamed Abdel-Samad ((New York: Prometheus Books, 2016, 255 pp.)

Review by: Rumy Hasan

During the parliamentary debate on 2nd December 2015 on the bombing of Islamic State targets in Syria, Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn made an impassioned speech in favour of the government’s motion. A key reason he provided was that Islamic State were “fascists and fascists must be defeated”. This was a rare instance of a leading European politician utilising the epithet ‘fascism’ to describe a Muslim organisation; it is almost always applied to white racist groupings with sympathies to Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists.

The Egyptian-German writer Hamed Abdel-Samad would doubtless agree with Benn that IS is a fascist organisation, but argues that the label should be applied to all Islamist groups – hence the title of his new book Islamic Fascism. He is not alone in this: others such as fellow Egyptian, activist and novelist Alaa Al Aswany, the Algerian dissident Mohamed Sifaoui, Lebanese-Palestinian journalist (now deceased) Samir Kassir, and writer Christopher Hitchens (also deceased) have made the same argument.


Some Striking Similarities

Abdel-Samad makes the case that the similarities between fascism and Islamism are striking: “Fascism’s ideology corrupts its followers with hatred and resentment, partitioning the world into friends and enemies and threatening those who oppose it with retributions. It opposes modernism, Enlightenment values, Marxism, and Jews, while glorifying militarism and self-sacrifice – even martyrdom. Modern Islamism shares all these qualities, having emerged simultaneously with fascism in the 1920s”. Abdel-Samad lambasts ‘experts’ who fawn over ‘moderate Islamism’, claiming it to be compatible with democracy. On the contrary, he asserts that deep down Islamists despise democracy and consider it a little more than a route to power.

A chapter is devoted to the Muslim Brotherhood, formed in Egypt in 1928, whose reformist pretensions must be debunked. Its slogan (or five pillars) ‘Allah is our objective; the Qur’an is our constitution; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; death for Allah’s sake is our highest goal’, according to Abdel-Samad make it a fascist organisation. Indeed, this reasoning stems from the Prophet Mohammed who, as well as subjecting his opponents to fear and terror, sowed seeds of intolerance at the heart of Islam with its “power-crazed god opposed to all others, never to be questioned and stopping at nothing to uphold his own power. Its first moments were those on which the earliest form of Islamic fascism was born”.

Abdel-Samad further argues that the close affinity is attested by the fact that leading Islamists were sympathetic to European fascists. Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood revered the militarism of Mussolini; Amin al Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, resided as Hitler’s personal guest during World War II; and the Indian Abu Ala Maududi enthusiastically spoke of the “brilliant and strong leadership of Hitler and his comrades”.


Abdel-Samad’s Poor Understanding

Yet, he maintains that the enmity between Muslims and Jews is a family feud, rooted in Abraham’s disputed legacy and the sovereignty of each school of monotheism. This is an odd family feud given that Mohammed had proclaimed that ‘the [last] hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews’.

While Abdel-Samad shows good understanding of Islam and makes a persuasive case of Islamism being a form of fascism, he displays poor comprehension of two issues that he dwells on: the Arab-Israeli conflict and the situation concerning Muslims in modern Europe. Regarding the first, he simply ignores the fact the 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homeland when Israel was created in 1948. Hence Arab opposition to Israel stems rather from this reality than over religious disputes. He goes on to view Hamas and Hezbollah as being fascist groups without recognising that both are national liberation organisations fighting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Lebanese lands.* Moreover, he does not realise that Hamas was created with the help of the Israelis (back in the 1980s, Israel favoured Palestinian Islamists over the PLO); and that neither Hamas nor Hezbollah have designs on a global jihad.

Abdel-Samad also displays a wilfully poor understanding of modern multi-ethnic Europe where large numbers of Muslims have settled in several European countries – many in segregated ghettos. Everywhere, Muslims have made demands on the host society so that they can practice their faith unimpeded, as if they are living in a Muslim country. Hence, with a rising Muslim population has arisen a concomitant increase in the number of mosques, madrassas, the veiling of women, men in Islamic attire, halal food, and curtailment of freedom of expression so that Muslims and Islam are not slighted.

It is this reality of ‘parallel lives’ that has generated concern about the willingness of Muslims to integrate into secular, western societies, and contributed to the present overwhelming opposition to large-scale immigration. Furthermore, it has led to the formation of significant political forces whose raison d’être is opposition to Islam, the apotheosis of which is PEGIDA, (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) founded in Germany in the Autumn of 2014, and with branches in many other countries, including the UK. The PVV (Dutch Freedom Party, currently leading in the polls) and AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) in Germany (the third largest party after only 3 years of existence) are also avowedly anti-Islam.

While Abdel-Samad recognises the existence of such organisations, he does not come to an understanding as to the reasons for their rise and popularity. Nor does he come to terms with former head of the German federal bank (Deutsche Bundesbank) Thilo Sarrazin’s bestselling book The Abolition of Germany, which is a coruscating critique of the influence of Islam in Germany, in which he “warns that Muslim immigrants are exploiting the German social system and degrading educational standards”. Abdel-Samad, rather than grappling with what the likes of Sarrazin are suggesting and why their ideas have attracted such support in politically correct Germany, simply does not like such interventions from native Europeans – and his appeal to ‘liberal multiculturalism’ patently ignores that it is this which is a core problem.

He then goes on make the preposterous comparison of Sarrazin with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a head of state – whom Abdel-Samad rightly castigates, asserting forcefully “whenever the likes of Erdogan seize the reins of power, their masks fall away”. Though he does not make it clear, given his book is entitled Islamic Fascism, he is suggesting that Erdogan’s policies are fascistic in character.

Despite its limitations and contradictions, this is a bold book with important insights. With Islamist movements now in existence in many parts of the globe, with invariably malign effects, the need to understand their character is of profound importance. In this endeavour, Hamed Abdel-Samad has taken an important step which others need to follow.


* A political organisation (eg the IRA, ISIS) may have nationalist aims but include terrorism in its method of achieving them. {Ed.}



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