TEL AVIV – A columnist for a Bahraini daily said she was shocked to discover than many young Arabs idolize Adolf Hitler.
Writing in Al-Watan, Entesar Al-Banna described entering a classroom and hearing young Arab girls proclaim that their favorite historical figure was the German Fuehrer.
“In a course for teenage girls, where I was present, the instructor asked the girls an ordinary question: ‘Who is your favorite figure?’ Most of the answers were interesting, and included new media figures with whom I am not familiar, especially from Snapchat. But the shocking answer given by several of the girls – which compelled me to argue with them – was that they were fans of Hitler!” she wrote in article published earlier this year and translated this week by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
“I interrupted one of the girls who said that Hitler was her favorite figure, asking her: ‘Are you serious or joking?’ She looked at me, amazed, and replied: ‘Yes, I am serious.’ This led another girl to add: ‘I too love Hitler’s personality.’ I asked the first girl: ‘What do you like about Hitler’s personality?’ She responded, very confidently: ‘His strength, and his ability to unite his country’s military and leadership and to stand fast in war.’ I asked her: ‘Do you realize that his strength caused an entire world war, and the destruction of Germany and France?’ She responded: ‘Yes. I read his book Mein Kampf and was impressed by his strength, his faith, and his perseverance.’”
“I told her: ‘But Hitler was a dictator who heeded nothing but his inner voice, and was a racist who recognized only the German Aryan race.’ She responded: ‘So what? It was enough that he was strong!’” the writer added.
Al-Banna assessed that the trend stems from the wave of extreme violence and instability sweeping the Arab world and the sense of helplessness young people feel.
She said the incident compelled her to investigate further, and doing so revealed that the “fandom” of Hitler adoration was widespread among Arab youth who feel he was a figure who “challenged the world with his strength.”
“Some said they admired him for killing the Jews, but most were enchanted by his strength, determination, and steadfastness,” she writes.
Al-Banna noted that one of the girls she spoke to said she was also a fan of Che Guevara for being a “strong militant personality.”
She responding by telling the girl of the “difference between Hitler’s racist and dictatorial values and Che Guevara’s universal values, which favor the oppressed peoples and strive for justice and liberation.”
Al-Banna asserted that younger generations are developing “twisted values,” which include a desire for power and control as well as challenging the “other.”
This phenomenon “reflects the reality of a crisis-ridden, unstable society,” and is manifest in everything from “suppression of free expression to the use of extreme violence on all levels – verbal, physical” and online violence, she concludes.