For decades, one of the most scoffed at clichés has been to compare someone or some group of people to Nazis. Adolf Hitler and his fellow Nazis were almost unimaginably evil, invading countries and attempting to exterminate entire races of people, so there was no more pejorative term in the modern lexicon than “Nazi”, but because they were so awful, the idea of comparing someone to then has long been considered both absurd and insulting to the many victims of the Nazis. Such comparisons have become emblematic of the type of overheated rhetoric that has seemed to infected public discourse in recent years. Everyone knows there is nothing as bad as the Nazis. Until now that is.
Islamic extremist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda are every bit as bad as the Nazis were. Neither ISIS nor Al Qaeda have killed as many people as the Nazis (at least not yet) but that is only due to lack of means, not lack of effort. Nazi lead Germany/Austria was one of the most powerful countries on earth at the time. Al Qaeda doesn’t actually control any territory, and though ISIS may control portions of two war torn, economically backward countries, they don’t even have a fighter jet, let alone an air force. What kind of carnage do you think ISIS would inflict if it were in charge of one of the world’s most powerful countries?
ISIS and Al Qaeda routinely execute civilians, and openly encourage their sympathizers around the world to attack innocent strangers in an attempt to instill terror. Even humanitarian workers providing aid to Muslims are taken hostage and beheaded. The horrifying thing about extremists like ISIS is that they don’t make any attempt to hide their atrocities against civilians. On the contrary, they actually promote them by sending graphic video all over the Internet and social media. The world only learned of the full extent of the Nazi’s death camps after they were liberated.
Islamic extremists and Nazis are similar in that they both advocated a hateful, destructive ideology. The only difference is that one was based on the dominance of a race and the other was based on the dominance of a religion. Though the groups are similar, the reaction to them by the rest of the world is much different.
Nobody in the West has ever felt the slightest hesitation in criticizing Nazis or their Neo-Nazi descendants. There are still many people in the West who passionately believe the Nazis were right, but they are met head on by the majority of citizens who are equally passionate in shouting down and ostracizing these extremists. With Islamic extremism, the West is much less passionate and decisive in its opposition. Nobody of any political persuasion has any reticence or restraint in attacking Neo-Nazis, and for that reason, they have very little political power.
For some strange reason though, seemingly intelligent people in the West seem to have a deep fear of criticizing Islamic extremism, almost to the point of denying that it exists. It is becoming increasingly absurd in light of recent events to deny this issue. It is also odd that people are so worried about inadvertently offending Muslims by criticizing radical Islam when the vast majority of the victims of Islamic extremism are in fact Muslims. Most of the people beheaded in Iraq are Muslims, as in Syria, as are the people being routinely flogged and jailed in Saudi Arabia.
Hopefully the barbarity of the recent attacks in Paris will not just wake up the civilized world to the true danger of radical Islam, and also start some candid discussions that focus more the issues and less about offending people. I suspect that most Muslims are actually far more concerned about ISIS and Al Qaeda than they are about offensive cartoons.