Islamic Fascism

The term Islamofascism is a neologism which draws an analogy between the ideological characteristics of specific Islamist movements and a broad range of European fascist movements of the early 20th century, neofascist movements, or totalitarianism. In particular, this term relates the widely accepted pathogenicity of fascist belief systems to current radical Islamic belief systems.

Origins of "Islamofascism"

The term "Islamofascism" is included in the New Oxford American Dictionary, which defines it as "a controversial term equating some modern Islamic movements with the European fascist movements of the early twentieth century".[1] The term is used in this manner by writers like Stephen Schwartz[2] and Christopher Hitchens,[3] to describe Islamist extremists, including terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. William Safire makes particular note of Hitchens as a "popularizer" of the word, though Hitchens declined credit for coining it and preferred the phrase "fascism with an Islamic face" as a reference to both Alexander Dubček and Susan Sontag.[4][5] The terms Islamic fascism and Muslim fascism are also used by the French philosopher Michel Onfray, an outspoken atheist and antireligionist, who notes in his Atheist Manifesto that Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution "gave birth to an authentic Muslim fascism".[6]

The origins of the term are uncertain. William Safire writes that the "first use [he] can find" comes from Malise Ruthven in 1990, when Ruthven wrote in The Independent that "authoritarian government, not to say Islamo-fascism, is the rule rather than the exception from Morocco to Pakistan."[7][8] Albert Scardino writes that the term "seems to have appeared first" in a Washington Times piece, in which scholar Khalid Duran used it "as a criticism of hyper-traditionalist clerics."[9] According to the Times, this piece appeared in July 2001.[10]

The analogy between Islamism and Fascism

Proponents of the term argue that there are similarities between historical fascism and Islamofascism,[11][page needed] Christopher Hitchens made the following comparison:

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"Islamofascism Awareness Week"

The neologism is not only confined to the critical commentary of media figures, academics and Muslim groups. In 2007, the conservative writer and activist David Horowitz launched a series of lectures and protests on college campuses under the title of "Islamofascism Awareness Week".[12] Several Muslims and non-Muslims on different college campuses aware of the event came out in opposition to it.[13][14][15][16][17][18] The Muslim Student Group at Penn State University, for instance, said it feared "that this Islamophobic program will have hazardous consequences on the Penn State community."[19] The Harvard Republicans have also gone on record to distance themselves from the event.[20]

Support

American author and Richard Nixon speechwriter William Safire wrote that the term fulfills a need for a term to distinguish traditional Islam from terrorists: "Islamofascism may have legs: the compound defines those terrorists who profess a religious mission while embracing totalitarian methods and helps separate them from devout Muslims who want no part of terrorist means."[21] Christopher Hitchens also publicly defended the term in Slate, noting along with the fact that he finds the comparison apt, that the names for other forms of religious fascism, like clerical fascism have a less contested existence.[22]

Author Malise Ruthven, a Scottish writer and historian who focuses his work on religion and Islamic affairs, opposes redefining Islamism as `Islamofascism`, but also finds the resemblances between the two ideologies "compelling".[23]

Michael Howard has defended the use of the term drawing parallels between Wahhabism and European Fascist ideology.[24]

In an April 2010 article in The New Republic, historian Jeffrey Herf outlined the ideological linkage of Islamism with World War II Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda which was broadcast to Muslims throughout the Middle East:

The alliance between the Nazis and the Arab and Islamist collaborators in wartime Berlin was not simply one of convenience based on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Rather, collaboration rested just as much on shared values, namely rejection of liberal democracy and, above all, hatred of the Jews and of Zionist aspirations. Though the meeting of hearts and minds in wartime Berlin was relatively short, it was an important chapter in the much longer history of political Islamism.[25]

The term has been used by Mike Huckabee,[26] Clifford May,[27] and George W. Bush.[28]

Criticism

The term, "Islamofascism" has been criticized by several scholars[29] and journalists. Historian Niall Ferguson[30] and international relations scholar Angelo Codevilla consider it historically inaccurate and simplistic.[26] Author Richard Alan Nelson criticized the term as being generally used as a pejorative or for propaganda[31][32] purposes. Tony Judt argued in a September 2006 article in the London Review of Books that use of the term was intended to reduce the War on Terror to "a familiar juxtaposition that eliminates exotic complexity and confusion", criticising authors who use the term Islamo-fascism and present themselves as experts despite not having previous expertise about Islam.[33]

Critics such as former National Review columnist Joseph Sobran, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argue that "Islamofascism is nothing but an empty propaganda term." used by proponents of the "War on Terror".[31][34][35] Security expert Daniel Benjamin, political scientist Norman Finkelstein and The American Conservative columnist Daniel Larison, highlight the claim that, despite its use as a piece of propaganda, the term is inherently meaningless, since as Benjamin notes, "there is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term."[36][37]

Cultural historian Richard Webster has argued that grouping many different political ideologies, terrorist and insurgent groups, governments, and religious sects into one single idea of "Islamofascism" may lead to an oversimplification of the phenomenon of terrorism.[38] In a similar vein the National Security Network argues that the term dangerously obscures important distinctions and differences between groups of Islamic extremists while alienating moderate voices in the Muslim world because it "creates the perception that the United States is fighting a religious war against Islam."[39] Daniel Larison attributes proponent Hitchens' support of the phrase to his anti-religious stance.[40] British historian Niall Ferguson points out that this political use of what he calls a "completely misleading concept," is "just a way of making us feel that we're the 'greatest generation' fighting another World War."[30] Reza Aslan claims the term "falls flat" when describing groups like al-Qaeda, noting that they are anti-nationalist while fascism is ultra-nationalist.[41]

Commenting on the claimed incongruity between the "Muslim World" and "industrial state fascism," US journalist Eric Margolis claims that ironically the most totalitarian Islamic regimes, "in fact, are America's allies."[42]

The public use of the term has also elicited a critical response from various Muslim groups. In the aftermath of the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, George W. Bush described his policies as a battle against "Islamic fascists... [who] will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom". The Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote to him to complain, saying that the use of the term "feeds the perception that the war on terror is actually a war on Islam".[36] Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America also complained about this speech, claiming that it added to a misunderstanding of Islam. Mattson did acknowledge, however, that some terrorist groups also misuse "Islamic concepts and terms to justify their violence."[43]

In April 2008, Associated Press reported that US federal agencies, including the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, were advised to stop using the term 'Islamo-fascism' in a fourteen-point memo issued by the Extremist Messaging Branch, a department of another federal body known as the National Counterterrorism Center. Aimed at improving the presentation of the "War on Terrorism" before Muslim audiences and the media, the memo states: "We are communicating with, not confronting, our audiences. Don't insult or confuse them with pejorative terms such as 'Islamo-fascism,' which are considered offensive by many Muslims."[44]

One of the world's leading authorities on fascism, Walter Laqueur, after reviewing this and related terms, concluded that "Islamic fascism, Islamophobia and antisemitism, each in its way, are imprecise terms we could well do without but it is doubtful whether they can be removed from our political lexicon.[45]

See also

References

Further reading

  • Slate.com, Oct. 22, 2007
  • "Toward a Definition of 'Islamic Fascism'", Daily Star (Lebanon), August 19, 2006
  • Marty, Martin. Christian Post, August 21, 2006.
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey. L.A. Times, August 17, 2006
  • Nyquist, J.R. "Islam and Fascism".
  • Podhoretz, Norman. World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism. New York: Doubleday, 2007.
  • Pollitt, Katha. "Wrong War, Wrong Word", The Nation, August 24, 2006.
  • Scardino, Albert. "1-0 in the propaganda war", The Guardian, February 4, 2005.
  • Sullivan, Andrew. 'Interview' (satire) from INDC Journal
  • The Sham Islamo-fascistIslamOnline.net

External links

  • Oxford University Press blog.
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