Earlier this week, ESPN commentator and world religions expert Curt Schilling got suspended for a missive that compared Muslims to Nazis. Unfavorably. Though Schilling had tried to delete the image, Monitor’s Arash Karami captured the tweet for posterity:
— Arash Karami (@thekarami) August 25, 2015
As Vox’s Max Fisher notes, this is more offensive than it seems. Schilling not only suggested “the religion of Islam is akin to Nazi Germany,” but he got the relationship wrong. Whereas “Nazi-era Germans … overwhelmingly supported and fought for the Nazi regime,” Muslims “are the most likely to be killed by ISIS, and they are the most likely to actively fight ISIS.”
For years now, Islamophobes have argued that Muslims don’t condemn terrorism. Because this clearly contradicted the copious evidence that Muslims do (here’s some more: I condemn terrorism) Islamophobes tried another strategy. Yes, Muslims might say ISIS isn’t Islamic, but they’re being disingenuous—or even deluded! Not only is ISIS Islamic, it’s “very Islamic,” it’s fundamentally faithful to Islam, it IS Islam, and poor Curt Schilling, he’s just a victim of trickle-down Islamophobia. When you think of evil, after all, who do you think of? Probably Adolf Hitler.
It’s a wonderful and comforting comparison. It’s always good for the soul when someone else’s civilization is the greatest evil ever, but when your civilization beat that civilization it’s also reassuring because, if you could do it before you can do it again. Make America Great Again! Hence the constant conflation and confusion of Islam for Nazism.
It’s no surprise we’ve got Pamela Geller’s creepy subway ads trying to argue that it’s Islamic for Muslims to hate, and want to kill, Jews; Mike Huckabee claiming Barack Obama is lining up Israelis for the next holocaust (Obama becomes a collaborator, or a traitor, while the Iranians, it goes without saying, are Nazis); or Sarah Palin comparing ESPN to ISIS. Some time back, there was also a move to relabel political Islam “Islamofascism.”
But incredulity aside, let us address, as Fisher said, this assumption that “the religion of Islam is akin to Nazi Germany.” Are Muslims really as dangerous as Nazis?
Fascists to fanatics
National Socialism, what we call Nazism, came to power in 1933, promising a 1,000-year Reich. In twelve years, the movement nearly captured a continent, but was broken by the Soviet Union and then done in by allies pushing from every direction. Much of its leadership committed suicide, fled into hiding, or was apprehended, tried and punished. What they left behind is hard for the mind to wrap itself around. Some twenty-five million Russians died in a war that the Nazis started. Eight million Germans died. Roughly six million Jews and millions more Roma, unwanted Slavs, inconvenient Eastern Europeans and others who were methodically massacred.
All told, between 50 and 80 million died, in twelve years, six of which they weren’t even really fighting through. Using the low estimate that comes to over 4 million people per year, or roughly the city of Los Angeles. Wiped out. Annually.
How many people have Muslims killed? Noted Islamophobe Pamela Geller has been bandying the number “270 million” around for some years now, though considering the source we should take that with several spoonfuls of salt.
But okay, let’s pretend there’s a world in which the Venn diagram that contains Pamela Geller and fact includes some visible overlap. Let’s say Muslims really have killed 270 million people. There was that one time when Pamela Geller accidentally said jihad has been a threat for “millions of millions of years,” but nobody seriously believes the crater that took out the dinosaurs was caused by a supersized car bomb.
Islam has been around for about 1,400 years, give or take a few lunar months. The Nazis had twelve years to do their worst, and managed to wipe out some 50-80 million human beings from the face of the Earth, which is pretty much why Hitler is the go-to guy for abomination. Muslims, who are not a political party, ethnicity, race, nation, region, state, government, continent, and have all sorts of different motivations and perspectives on the world, had 1,400 years—and killed 270 million people? That averages out to 193,000 people per year. Compared to the Nazis’ 4 million? We’re at 5% Hitlerian lethality.
Although, of course, if you’re going to compare apples to oranges, you should make sure you have an equivalent amount of each. The Nazis did not represent all of Germany, but they leveraged the full power of German society to accomplish their ends. In 1939, there were roughly 70 million Germans in that country. In that year, there were some 70 million Muslims just in what became Pakistan. Today’s world Muslim population is estimated at 1.6 billion. If a nation of seventy million killed fifty million in twelve years, and a religion of hundreds of millions, and possibly billions, killed two hundred seventy million in fourteen centuries, well, that sounds radically unequal to me. Islamophobes should work harder at making stuff up.
If modern Muslims were as murderous as Nazis, they’d have to be killing 95 million people per year. Which, fortunately, is not happening. Not to mention we’ve only been comparing one European fascist party to the alleged entire history of Islam—as described by the worst, most bigoted critics of Islam—and Islam comes out looking considerably less deranged.
In conclusion: Max Fisher is right, Curt Schilling is wrong. While, yes, ISIS militants believe they are justified in their actions by Islam (or so they claim), and they are of course Muslim, the same can be said of their Muslim opponents—which, of course, includes pretty much every other Muslim on earth.
The truth is, there are a handful of Muslims who believe Islam is a political ideology which must overrun the planet, but most Muslims oppose them. Not only are Muslims not nearly as dangerous as Nazis, we also oppose the Nazis in our midst.