Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What Is 'Islamofascism'?

Stephen Schwartz explains the meaning of Islamofascism:
"In my analysis, as originally put in print directly after the horror of September 11, 2001, Islamofascism refers to use of the faith of Islam as a cover for totalitarian ideology. This radical phenomenon is embodied among Sunni Muslims today by such fundamentalists as the Saudi-financed Wahhabis, the Pakistani jihadists known as Jama'atis, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In the ranks of Shia Muslims, it is exemplified by Hezbollah in Lebanon and the clique around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran."
He describes some of the attributes of the fascist organizations of Hitler and Mussolini and explains similarities with the Islamofascist organizations of today. Schwartz writes that like the organizations of Hitler and Mussolini, "Islamofascism . . . pursues its aims through the willful, arbitrary, and gratuitous disruption of global society . . . "
"These are not acts of protest, but calculated strategies for political advantage through undiluted violence. Hezbollah showed fascist methods both in its kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and in initiating that action without any consideration for the Lebanese government of which it was a member. Indeed, Lebanese democracy is a greater enemy of Hezbollah than Israel."
He notes that German and Italian fascism rested on a resentful middle class, and of course, this is often heard about the Islamofacist organizations of today.

He points out that the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini was imperialistic and that
"Islamofascism has similar ambitions; the Wahhabis and their Pakistani and Egyptian counterparts seek control over all Sunni Muslims in the world, while Hezbollah projects itself as an ally of Syria and Iran in establishing regional dominance."
The fascism of Germany and Italy was paramilitary and Al-Qaida and Hezbollah are paramilitary.

Since President Bush used the term there have been suggestions that the term is meant to tarnish and inaccurately portray adherents of the Islamic faith. Schwartz does not intend to use the term in this way, nor need the term be used in such a way:
"I do not believe these characteristics are intrinsic to any element of the faith of Islam. Islamofascism is a distortion of Islam, exactly as Italian and German fascism represented perversions of respectable patriotism in those countries. Nobody argues today that Nazism possessed historical legitimacy as an expression of German nationalism; only Nazis would make such claims, to defend themselves. Similarly, Wahhabis and their allies argue that their doctrines are "just Islam." But German culture existed for centuries, and exists today, without submitting to Nazi values; Islam created a world-spanning civilization, surviving in a healthy condition in many countries today, without Wahhabism or political Shiism, both of which are less than 500 years old."
I think it is important to thoughtfully consider Schwartz's commentary because I think it has not been very helpful to talk about "a war on terror." Since terror seems to me to be a tactic, the phrase "war on terror" seems to say we are at war with a tactic, and not at war with a defined enemy. The enemy is not Islam. The enemy are people who choose to use force to subject others, including those of Islamic faith, to submit to their particular view of how the world should work and be organized. The enemy in this war does indeed seem to me to be fascist in nature. I think we have a better chance of adequately confronting our enemy if we talk about the true character of those who seek to kill and subjugate others. The conflicts in this wider war do indeed seem to me to involve forceful efforts by some to take liberty from others. Perhaps we cannot protect our liberty if we do not adequately perceive the fascist nature of our enemy in this so-called "war on terror?"

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