Hitler’s belief in a dominant race can be transformed to fit any number of neo-fascist hate groups around the world today. You see it in how Modi twists the Nazi flare to turn the focus from race to religion while still maintaining nationality as the core of his Hindu nationalist platform. India's take on a Nazi like state still needs the issue of nationality, often associating Islam with other ethnicities outside of India, to drive the fanaticism behind making a state based on radical Hinduism. But take a little trip over to Malaysia and you find Nazism alive and well in a nearly perfect transplant of the German version. That is because Malaysia’s nationalists have a very diehard focus on race that, like Germany, uses religion as a prop. When Malaysian Nazis speak about their brand of nationalism, they are solely speaking about the white supremacist style “blood and soil" brand of it.
Malaysia as we know it today was formed on the racist belief that the dominant Malay ethnicity had a right to all of Malaysia. This was in spite of the fact that Malays are not the Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia but rather, given a more accurate and much longer timeline, relatively new to the migration of peoples who have swept over the lands that currently comprise Malaysia and Indonesia. Yet with the focus of nationality being the present, and only on the states formed out of colonial maps, the justice for Indigenous Peoples who have been made second class citizens by Malaysia is not of concern for the nationalists of today. The Malaysia they know is one where the Malay is king and all others are either to be subjects or driven out. That not so pleasant aspect of post-colonial Malaysia, one intentionally overlooked by racists like Malaysia's PM Mahathir, gives the roots of radical nationalism like that seen among Malaysia’s neo-Nazis. It is the racist foundation of society that feeds the “fringe" by allowing them to tap into what the rest of society has conveniently ignored but so frequently benefited from.
Mahathir’s own written works could be dissected to show how political power in Malaysia has only ever been harnessed through the deliberate and skillful manipulation of Malay privilege as well as both overt and outright racism towards other ethnic groups. Mahathir gained much of his influence via grievance politics and promises of securing the privileged status of Malays while offering justification for the discrimination faced by minorities in Malaysia. While Malaysian politicians have often pretended to be working on behalf of all ethnic groups in Malaysia, they more often than not have served the interests of the dominant ethnic group at the detriment of minorities. This persistent pandering to the racist views of the majority has engendered a climate in which the most depraved of extremists can find fertile soil and feel comfortable growing without fear of being cut down. From jihadists to Nazis, Malaysia’s problem with radicals is one of its own making and a direct consequence of society’s willingness to look the other way.
In the early 2010’s the political movement Perkasa was compared to the American Tea Party by Malaysian commentators as the Malaysians watched their own far-right take to the streets. One striking indication of how little Malaysians wanted to deal with their own racism was in how commenters repeatedly whitewashed the blatant racism of America’s Tea Party movement in hopes of diminishing the equally Nazi-like racism of Perkasa. While political commentary did often admit that Perkasa had racist motivations behind its fascist politics, the comments were always immediately followed up with explanations for why Malays could magically not be racists. Around the same time the Nazi music scene in Malaysia was kicking off as far-right groups found a soundtrack for their Nazi inspired movements. The band Boot Axe, taking direct inspiration in its name from white supremacist terminology and references to Nazi “jackboots", rose to the forefront of the skinhead style scene. Swastikas, deaths head emblems and the Nazi SS were all on clear display as the skinheads ignored the fact that they were all far too brown to have ever been accepted as Nazis by the originals. Hate filled lyrics showed that they irony of their Nazi fetish didn’t matter much to the Malay supremacists. Hate was all they had and all they needed.
A hatred of minorities among the Nazi scene in Malaysia uses events like the pogroms of Chinese communities in Malaysia during the 13th of May, 1969 ethnic violence. The racism of Malaysian society as a whole was on full display on that day in 1969. The Malaysian majority used ethnic Chinese communities as scapegoats for a political loss suffered by the politicians who had spent their time race baiting the ethnic majority. Nazis in Malaysia today view themselves as the next batch of storm troopers prepared to dish out the same violence upon any and all minorities in Malaysia, regardless of the fact many ethnic minorities they hate are the actual Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia. Their belief that they are defending the socioeconomic interests of their race (which technically is a hodgepodge of ethnic groups that passed through the region over time) shows the racially inspired hatred of the movement. But there is another aspect to Malaysian Nazism… religion.
When Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir calls Jews “hook-nosed” and “the source of all the world’s problems" he is not just appealing to the anti-semitism that is so prevalent in Malaysia but is directly appealing to Malaysia’s neo-Nazi movement. His hate filled literature and speeches are lapped up by Malaysia’s Nazis because their brand of Nazism uses a view of Jewish people that is filtered through German Nazism as well as less than moderate interpretations of Islam. Just as how Mahathir views Malay identity as being intertwined with Islamic identity in the Middle East, Malaysia’s Nazi movement views Hitler’s Final Solution as a key part in dealing with the people Mahathir claims are “the source of all the world’s problems.” Largely due to the fact that this view of Malay identity does not limit Malaysia to its borders but extends it to Jerusalem and all of the Islamic world. The irony of including Muslims on the basis of their faith, ignoring their racial diversity, as allies while excluding minorities in Malaysia solely on the basis of ethnicity is not lost on the Nazis though. Many of Malaysia’s neo-Nazis bridge the gap here by tweaking Malay identity to include the jihadist mantra of defending the ummah as something of their sacred duty.
Religion is frequently used as a intoxicant among extremists regardless of political leanings, ethnocentric views or outright hatred of their targeted victims. The love and peace of the faith itself is discarded in favor of cherry picked verses that would otherwise justify the violent ends of the radicals when interpreted as they wish. Malay Nazism is no exception. By relying on Islamic verses that profess less than tolerant views of homosexuality and non-Abrahamic faiths, Malay Nazism draws a hard line that mirrors that of Islamic extremists of any other background. Taking a page from their Christian Nazi comrades, the Malay Nazis use scripture to justify their hatred of LGBT communities by claiming homosexuality threatens their view of a “pure Malay race". Many of these deviate along the same lines that white supremacists do by once again circling their hate for LGBT people back to their hatred of Jewish people by claiming Judaism is the root of homosexuality (yet Judaism is equally intolerant of LGBT people). This illustrates rather well the method in which religion, all religion, is frequently used to insulate the group and encourage the otherizing of groups deemed unworthy or outcasts. Which is why Nazism, everywhere, so often relies on religion as a method of securing its prospective followers and hardening its existing extremists.
How Can Asian Nazis Even Exist?
This question has been asked by many articles written by Malaysian authors wishing to push the notion that Nazism is a whites only problem. That somehow Malaysians are incapable of being rabidly racist to the point of adopting one of Europe’s worst sins as their own. Yet Nazism does not grow out of nowhere. This brand of extremism needs specific conditions to be met before it can spring up like a weed that can never fully be exterminated. Neo-Nazism thrives when society’s majority decides to secure their own interests at the expense of all others. It takes root in a climate of hostility towards those perceived to be outsiders, when nationalism dictates who is a member of the group and who must go away. Nazism is a byproduct of the indifference society shows towards the most vulnerable and the most easily scapegoated. When Malaysia permits the ethnic majority to dictate who is and is not Malaysian, it feeds the growth of extremists like the Malaysian Nazis. When Malaysia goes looking for minorities to blame for the ineptitude of its government, it raises a generation of potential skinheads. Mahathir’s time as Prime Minister has been a godsend to the growing Nazi movement in Malaysia. But no one politician is to blame. Instead it is Malaysian society as a whole, the same as American society shares collective blame for Nazis on its streets, for the rise of Nazism in Malaysia. Malaysians have tolerated and frequently coddled its extremists because these skinheads are no threat to the Malay majority. And yet Nazism in Malaysia is no less a threat to the global community than White Supremacy is. When Americans ignored neo-Nazis during the 1980s and 1990s the consequences were felt in Oklahoma City and later around the world. Malaysia’s neo-Nazis are not isolated. Their music, their symbols and their chants are shared with their white counterparts. The internet has made the world smaller in a million ways and one of those has been that hate can spread from fingertips on iphones and be around the world in a blink of an eye.