God and Fascism
I am currently reading a book — one of a few I have on the go at the moment — by Karlheinz Deschner entitled God and the Fascists. It was originally published in 1965 in German with the title Mit Gott und die Faschisten. It documents the various alliances between European fascism and the Christian Churches in Italy and Germany.
I’ve mentioned the Nazi programme and agenda of “Positive Christianity” in the past and the parallel alliance of Shintoism, Buddhism and Japanese fascism at the same time known as “Holy War Buddhism” or “Imperial Way Buddhism”, documented in Brian Victoria’s Zen At War. I decided I needed to do more research into religion and fascism given that these things are becoming, once again, very closely associated and even mutually entangled. If “Islamofascism” makes any sense as a term (and I think it is much abused) then so does Christofascism or Buddhist Fascism. Fascism is no more inherent to Islam than it is to Christianity or Buddhism. It is the psychology of fascism that needs to be understood, not the garb in which fascism adorns and cloaks itself.
“Islamism” is, I think, a very pernicious term. If indeed fascism is inherent to Islam, that does not account for why there are pacifist and liberal strains of Islam (and may their tribe increase!). It is no more true of Islam than it is of Christianity or Buddhism, both of which also have succumbed to the lure of fascism, but also of resistance to fascism. German Churches and German Christians (and those of other nationalities as well) were as guilty of widespread and even enthusiastic collaboration with Nazism as the Catholic Church was with Italian fascism. It’s a very ugly history.
Take, by way of example, the famous Pastor Niemöller ostensibly known for his famous remark (although it is in dispute),
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
What is often not known is that Pastor Niemöller was initially an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler and Nazism, although he came to regret it later when the Nazis began to fully implement their “Gleichschaltung” of the Christian Churches in line with the fascist ideology of “Positive Christianity”. Many exceptionally brave Christians, notably Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and some not so famous ones, did distinguish themselves by resisting the fascists and paying the price of that resistance, but that was not true of Christians in general.
And the same may be said of Buddhists who enthusiastically embraced Japanese fascism. A very few brave ones resisted “fascistization” of Buddhism, and Victoria duly acknowledges them by name and their heroism — but so few, in fact, that he could name them. And after the war, the famous D.T. Suzuki justified “Imperial Way Buddhism” by stating that enlightenment didn’t specify whether one would become a communist, a socialist, a liberal or a fascist! And today, Buddhist monks in Myanmar are again fully engaged in “ethnic cleansing”.
All of which leads to the conclusion that there are noble forms of Islam and ignoble forms of Islam, noble forms of Christianity and ignoble forms of Christianity, noble forms of Buddhism and ignoble forms of Buddhism, noble forms of Hinduism and ignoble forms of Hinduism.
The Islamic State is, in my judgement, not an Islamic movement at all. It’s a fascist movement that has cloaked itself in the garb of Islam, and who have managed to find justifications for their rampant egoism and narcissism in Islamic scripture just as easily as Christians find excuses and justifications in Scripture for slavery, war, or totalitarianism. Buddhists have even fewer excuses for it but also manage to invent justifying rationales.
My suspicions that Daesh was actually a fascist movement and not principally a religious one at all were aroused by reading reports of the number of former Baathist Party members from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq that are operative in ISIS, as for example this Reuter’s article. My suspicions were further enhanced from learning that many Tunisian recruits into ISIS are not motivated by religious zeal but by the hopelessness of extreme poverty and are lured in by the promise of financial support for their families in much the same manner as Saddam Hussein recruited suicide bombers by promising a $25,000.00 honorarium to their families.
If that is the case, then the problem is not “Islamism” or religion per se, but something more basic and more primitive — fascism; an extreme form of narcissism that manages to anoint itself with holy water.
And if reports are correct, and not fabricated atrocity propaganda, that Daesh is trafficking in body parts and organ harvesting from those they deem kafir or apostates and heretics, and justifying it in terms of their particularly austere interpretation of Islam, then that’s not a whole lot different from the Nazi atrocity visited upon Jews or others deemed undesirable or Untermenschen, all likewise neatly tied up and arranged in terms of “Positives Christentum“.
At issue then is the psychology of fascism, and given the history of fascism that does not know race, creed, or colour. It’s something primal, brutal and neither religion nor reason knows of any defence against it, nor are religion or reason the cause of it, even if it seizes on these things and uses them for its own sinister purposes.
I haven’t finished reading Karlheinz Deschner’s book. I’ve barely begun it, in fact. So I can’t say how far down the rabbit hole it goes in describing this perverse alliance of religion and fascism. It is some darkness lurking beneath the veneer and the patina of self-righteous self-justification. It is something, known to Rumi too, lurking in even the battle cry of Franco’s fascist legions — “Long live death!” And if ISIS is, indeed, the “death cult” it has been accused of being, then it shares that also with fascists who proclaimed themselves ostensibly “Christian” too — or Buddhist, or Hindu, etc.