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Fascism—National Socialism—Arab “Fascism”: Terminologies, Definitions and Distinctions

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image of Die Welt des Islams

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.


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