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Islamofascism:

The term Islamofascism strikes me as a pretty apt description of the political and religious movement of which al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, and other extremist Muslim groups are members. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Islamofascism" is,

The advocacy or practice of a form of Islam perceived as authoritarian, intolerant, or extremist; spec. Islamic fundamentalism regarded in this way.

1990 Independent 8 Sept. 15/8 Islamic societies seem to have found it particularly hard to institutionalise divergences politically: authoritarian government, not to say 'Islamo-fascism', is the rule rather than the exception. 2002 National Rev. (U.S.) (Nexis) 10 Apr., You cannot deny that a brand of Islam is most certainly at war with us. You can call this brand Islamofascism, radical Islam, Wahhabism, whatever you want. 2005 N.Y. Rev. Bks. 13 Jan. 22/4 Our enemy — variously known as Islamofascism, Islamist extremism, global jihad — has no rational agenda beyond its desire to destroy the United States out of remorseless, theologically inspired hatred for its values.

The link to fascism strikes me as quite sound: It is authoritarian, in the sense of not allowing genuine democracy, suppressing speech and religious dissent, and aiming to control many aspects of people's private lives through force of law or violence (consider the Taliban regime). It is also linked to fascism's historical desire to gain political power through military conquest; not all militarism is fascist, but fascism in the 20th century has been so closely linked to militarism that fascist should probably be used in such a way that all fascism is militarist. The link to Islam is unfortunatelly also quite sound; Islamofascism is a strain of Islam, though fortunately there are many other much better strains.

The rivals strike me as suboptimal: "Islamism," which I am told is the more common academic term, is too likely to be confused with simple Islam, and seems to me to contain a more solid condemnation of Islam than the more specific term "Islamofascism" includes. "Jihadism" is a possible alternative, but raises its own problems, especially given that the term "jihad" may in some situations have nonmilitant meanings. Fortunately, "fascism" these days has a connotation that's negative beyond cavil, more so than "jihad."

And, yes, if there were Jewish or Christian movements that aimed to govern the way the Taliban did, or tried to fight the way al Qaeda does, I would of course think that Judeofascism or Christianofascism would be perfectly proper terms to label them.

UPDATE: Commenter Vovan suggests: "It is a loaded term designed specifically to include Shi'a groups that the current administration finds undesirable. A commonly accepted academic term for the developments in Sunni Islam that EV describes is Salafi, and since the groups that directly attacked United States belonged to that version of Islam, there simply isn't a need to create a new term, that not only is overly inclusive, but is intentionally misleading."

Really — no need to create a new term when the "commonly accepted academic term" Salafi is available? How many people outside a narrow sliver of the academy know what Salafi means? Plus why limit yourself to the Sunni strand, given that many critics of Islamofascism are against Shia analogs, such as the more authoritarian strands of the Iranian mullocracy? The goal is a combination of quick comprehensibility and precision, and not just precision or academic purity alone.

FURTHER UPDATE: Commenter randal writes: "What's wrong with 'militant Islam'? Oh I remember, the right thinks it's too legitimizing, believe it or not. Hence 'Islamofascism.' It's being pushed on us precisely because it comes across as sufficiently insulting to Muslims."

Actually, the commenter is mostly right, until the last word. "Militant Islam" is inadequate, I think, because it doesn't carry an important implication of "Islamo-fascism" -- that it's not only aggressive towards outsiders, but also oppressive towards its own citizens. (That's also a problem with "jihadism.")

The point of many critics of Islamo-fascism, Christopher Hitchens being just one noted example, is that Islamo-fascism isn't just a danger to the west; it's bad even for Middle Eastern women, gays, political dissenters, religious dissenters, and any other noncoformists. "Fascism" captures that; "militan[ce]" does not. So the goal is to be properly and accurately pejorative towards this strand of Islam (though not to Muslims generally).

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Islamofascism,
  2. Islamofascism:
neurodoc:
I can hear the hoofbeats now. The usual apologists, faux political scientists, quibblers, contrarians, et al. will be arriving any minute now in a highly agitated state to dispute you, EV.
10.10.2007 5:51pm
Anderson (mail):
[Insert here previous VC comment threads on same exact subject.]
10.10.2007 5:58pm
Richard S (mail):
What about the Social-Democratic elements of Fascism in Italy and National Socialism in Germany?
10.10.2007 6:01pm
Vovan:
It is a loaded term designed specifically to include Shi'a groups that the current administration finds undesirable. A commonly accepted academic term for the developments in Sunni Islam that EV describes is Salafi, and since the groups that directly attacked United States belonged to that version of Islam, there simply isn't a need to create a new term, that not only is overly inclusive, but is intentionally misleading.
10.10.2007 6:05pm
AK (mail):
The term works to the extent that the Islam-inspired violence is done with the objective of establishing a centralized, militarized, authoritarian Islamic government. I think that describes the Taliban and many of the elements within Iraq pretty well.

But a fair portion of Islam-inspired violence is focused not on establishing a state, but on carrying out violence for its own sake. Killing the Jews, crusaders, infidels, etc., is what Allah wants, so that's what Allah gets. It's closer to nihilism than fascism.

Of course, those Muslims who just want to blow stuff up because Allah says so will be very happy in a strict Islamic state, and those seeking to establish such a state would be more than happy to have the autodetonators on their side. There's bound to be substantial overlap between the two.
10.10.2007 6:13pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Vovan,

Were they Sunni or Shia who took over our embassy in Iran?
10.10.2007 6:13pm
Mikeyes (mail):
Vovan,

I grant you that there probably is not a need for another term in academics, but the fact is that the term "islo-fascism" is already out there in general use by far more people than there are Arabists in the world (and not all of them are drinking the Kool-Aid.)

While there are plenty of reasons not to use the term, it has an emotional impact that outweighs such quibbling as whether or not it is accurate and will probably continue to be used for a long time in spite of the availability of a more precise term. This is the English language after all, a garbage pit of words and emotions.
10.10.2007 6:15pm
Ramza:
I complain more of the overuse of islamofascism to describe any form of a group or movement you don't like about the middle east. Conflating all groups with one movement, even when they have little or nothing in common besides they are all muslim.

This is human nature, describing things we don't know in a universal tone. Assuming the worse, assuming a group we don't understand is united. That said it still makes me cringe and get depressed or really angry when I read comments such as this.

As for Iran, Mr. Giuliani said that "in the long term," it might be "more dangerous than Iraq."

He then casually lumped Iran with Al Qaeda. "Their movement has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us," he said.

Mr. Giuliani was asked in an interview to clarify that, inasmuch as Iran had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Further, most of its people are Shiites, whereas Al Qaeda is an organization of Sunnis.

"They have a similar objective," he replied, "in their anger at the modern world."

In other words, he said, they hate America.

That was said by Rudy Giuliani Link. Then again he isn't the only such person to make such stupid comments in a position of political power. Consider the head of the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee Silvestre Reyes who made these comments:

Silvestre Reyes, the Democrat chosen to head the House of Representatives committee, was asked whether members of Al Qaeda came from the Sunni or the Shia branch of Islam.

"Al Qaeda, they have both," he answered, adding: "Predominantly probably Shi'ite."

In fact, Al Qaeda was founded by Usama bin Laden as a Sunni organisation and views Shia Muslims as heretics. The centuries-old now fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq.

Jeff Stein, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, then put a similar question about Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group. "Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah . . ." replied Mr Reyes. "Why do you ask me these questions at five o'clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?" Go ahead, said Stein. "Well, I, uh . . ." said the congressman.
Link 2

These are the politicians, there are even more uneducated people who flabbergast way too much on the airways who know even less than them on the Middle East about the Middle East. One of their favorite words of choice, Islamofascism.
10.10.2007 6:15pm
dearieme:
No; the Jew-hating surely suggests Islamonazi?
10.10.2007 6:15pm
CDU (mail):
A commonly accepted academic term for the developments in Sunni Islam that EV describes is Salafi, and since the groups that directly attacked United States belonged to that version of Islam, there simply isn't a need to create a new term


Anyone who thinks the U.S. hasn't been attacked by Shi'a terrorist groups is sorely mistaken.
10.10.2007 6:19pm
ejo:
don't forget the lie that sunni and shiite terrorist organizations can't work together or that non-religious ME governments can't support religious terrorism. no one has spewed that nonsense yet... 3.. 2.. 1..
10.10.2007 6:24pm
Climkadiddler:
The apologist has arrived! I'm sorry Mr. Volokh, but I must respectfully disagree with you. Throughout your post, you never game a clear definition of fascism. Fascist regimes are totalitarian, yes, and they are militaristic, but the primary trait of fascism is extremenationalism. The origin of the word fascist is the fasces, the bundle of rods tied to a ax wieled by ancient Roman officials. Mussolini picked the word because he knew it would stir the blood of patriotic Italians. Extremist Muslims, however, are by no defintion nationalists. On the contrary, their ideology is popular in dozens of different countries. Of course fascism has been popular in more than one country as well, but it has to be localized to be effective. National Socialism isn't really an export ideology.
10.10.2007 6:24pm
samuil (mail):
Yes, the word is included in the New Oxford American Dictionary, defining it as "a controversial term equating some modern Islamic movements with the European fascist movements of the early twentieth century". Critics of the term argue that associating the religion of Islam with fascism is offensive and inaccurate.

The term itself is nonsensical and is only there as a propaganda instrument for those that have already fallen for the rest of the War Party's trollop.
10.10.2007 6:25pm
randal (mail):
And, yes, if there were Jewish or Christian movements that aimed to govern the way the Taliban did...

Get ready for Judeofascist Awareness Week. Jewish lobby, or Judeofascists? Likud, or Judeofascists? With such a poorly defined, emotionally charged term, it's all in the eye of the beholder.
10.10.2007 6:27pm
Ramza:

It is a loaded term designed specifically to include Shi'a groups that the current administration finds undesirable. A commonly accepted academic term for the developments in Sunni Islam that EV describes is Salafi, and since the groups that directly attacked United States belonged to that version of Islam, there simply isn't a need to create a new term, that not only is overly inclusive, but is intentionally misleading.

I would replace Salafism with Militant Salafism. Salafism is extremely common viewpoint, yet the vast majority of Salaf members are not going to ram planes into buildings, even though such members which Islam would be more "pure" and more in common with there mind of what Muhammad spoke and the first three generation of followers (who actually met the man, instead of the generations of later leaders who in the Salaf's viewpoint corrupted and twisted "their" religion).

Note I am an athiest, and I find most Salaf people kooky just like I find the Christian Reconstructionists kooky. What is this obsession with returning to a more "pure" mindset/viewpoint/etc
10.10.2007 6:28pm
ejo:
Critics of the term argue that associating the religion of Islam with fascism is offensive and inaccurate-well, perhaps those critics, finding the term offensive and inaccurate, might do something about modifying the behavior leading to the use of the term. otherwise, there is a phrase about the shoe and if it fits that springs to mind.
10.10.2007 6:38pm
WHOI Jacket:
Randel, what do you think they mean when "ZIONIST!" rolls off the tongue?

Christianist!
10.10.2007 6:42pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
Islamofascist seems like a better description of Saudi Arabia than of al-Qaeda.
10.10.2007 6:43pm
PersonFromPorlock:
It's hard at this late date to say exactly what fascism is, besides a political euphemism for 'bastard', but it seems to me that the name doesn't fit radical Islam any better than any other great-cause movement's would. Great causes are much of a muchness.

On the other hand, if we want a mildly printable way of saying "Islamic bastards", then "Islamofascism" does very well.
10.10.2007 6:46pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
The "War Party" has their very own trollop (Samuil, 5:25pm)? Why wasn't I told? More important, how do I find out whether she's already booked up for this weekend?
10.10.2007 6:48pm
Vovan:
Those who are quick to point out the Lebanon bombings and the Iran Hostage crisis, should probably ask themselves "What would Reagan do" in response to those attacks?

American interests have been attacked all over the world by a number of divergent groups, however, unlike the 9/11 attack, and the subsequent Taliban non-cooperation, most of those attacks, including the Marine bombings and the embassy takeover, were perpetrated with largely non-religious goals in mind. Placing the perpetrators of those attacks under the broad blanket of "Islamo-fascism", only obscures their real motives, and adds nothing to our understanding of the forces driving them forward.
10.10.2007 6:48pm
Ex-Fed (mail):
I guess there's something a bit too pat, too twee, smacking of too much effort, about it. It seems like a term coined by a campaign focus group. "Umm, Islamocommies? Islamomalice? Islamohomo?" "Nah, not on the nose." "Well, focus groups show that people really don't like fascism. Or taxes." "Can we spin the Islamic radicals as being pro-tax? That would have some nice synergies in the mid-terms." "Nah." "OK, go with the fascist thing. But keep Islamohomo in our back pocket for emergencies."
10.10.2007 6:53pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
So how does this differ from mainstream Islam? How can I decide whether a given Moslem is an Islamofascist or not?
10.10.2007 6:53pm
djw1:
Any connection between Islam and Fascism is largely one of recognition rather than imitation.

Islam, from its origins was as much a theory of state as a theology, and indeed, there is probably more transmitted instruction from the prophet on the conduct of state and worldly affairs than in purely religious matters. This makes considerable sense, in that Muhammed's success was tied to his assumption of worldly and religious authority in Medina and then Mecca. To a certain extent, Islam can be viewed as Muhammed's rejection of the Christian insistance on separating that which is rendered unto Caesar from that which belongs to God; Islam sees no sphere of life in which their god does not participate. The subsequent consolidation of both temporal and religious powers is necessarily authoritarian, hence the recognition by some Muslims, in European fascism, of a kindred model of state.

Islam is, however, a complex phenomenon, and its history is marked by continued conflict over who, exactly, is a legitimate authority. Beyond sectarian differences, there are four competing legal traditions, and no clergy similar to either the Jewish or Christian priesthood was foreseen or universally accepted. Indeed -- and this is the single most important feature of Islam, and one from which a democrat Islamic state could possibly emerge -- final authority over the interpretation of both the Qu'ran and the Hadith is ceded neither to clergy nor scholars but to the inspired reading of the individual believer, a phenomenon possibly paralleled in the west only by the "soul compentency" idea of traditional moderate Baptists.
10.10.2007 6:55pm
gp1985:
EV- you are missing the point. This isn't about what muslim radicals do or do not support. People who use the term islamofascism are using it not to describe the movement, but to rally public opinion around the concept that terrorists are as formidable as a military force as the nazis, imperial japan, and other fascist movements. If the public thinks that terrorists are as formidable as fascists of yore, then the public may be more willing to embrace militarism and military spending that would be difficult to endorse, absent some kind of truly existential threat, like that posed by the Nazis during WWII.
10.10.2007 6:58pm
ScottVA:
It seems to me as if the definition is very much too broad and vague. Is Saudi an Islamofascist state? Iran? Taliban Afghanistan? I have real trouble with the term just because it is so vague--even given Eugene's explanation (that somewhat sidesteps the question of just what fascism is!) I don't really know to whom it should and should not apply. As you mention Eugene, the connotation of fascism is overwhelmingly negative--I would go so far as to say that "fascist" is almost a connotation without meaning! Bush is a fascist, Islamofascist, etc etc..it's virtually a slur without meaning in common usage!

Islamist on the other hand I think is NOT meant to be a synonym, and is more closely related to "fundamentalist." Unless you're claiming that all fundamentalist Muslims are by nature both monolithic and Islamofascists?
10.10.2007 7:06pm
samuil (mail):
Vovan, excellent points.
Spasibo
10.10.2007 7:09pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> I complain more of the overuse of islamofascism to describe any form of a group or movement you don't like about the middle east.

Yawn.

Thanks to our neo-comm friends, "fascist" now means "someone I don't like", there's no requirement that said dislike be based upon any specifics. Given that, why should its use wrt Islam be any different?

In short "Islamofascist" means "Moslems the speaker doesn't like".
10.10.2007 7:13pm
Ramza:

Thanks to our neo-comm friends, "fascist" now means "someone I don't like", there's no requirement that said dislike be based upon any specifics. Given that, why should its use wrt Islam be any different?


Neo-Comm as in Neo-Conserative or Neo-Communist?

well I have an equal dislike for the term Neo-Conservative, another extremely ambiguous term which people throw around on anybody they don't like. If you mean Neo-Communist who are these Neo-Communists?
10.10.2007 7:23pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Any connection between Islam and Fascism is largely one of recognition rather than imitation.
Maybe, except that there are historical and ideological ties between some of the predecessors of some of the groups that we call Islamofascist and both the Nazis and the Fascists. My understanding is that the Sunni version is more closely tied historically and ideologically to Fascism and Naziism, while the Shiite side more closely tied to Communism. I have seen several times the suggestion that the two strands be called "green" (Sunni/ Fascist/ Nazi) and "red" (Shiite/ Communist). So, maybe we should call the Sunni (Salafi?) version "Islamofascism", except for when it has a strong anti-Jewish content, at which time we can call it "Islamonaziism" (unless you want to also consider the "homophobic" side of the movement too). But the Shiite side would then be called "Islamocommunism".
10.10.2007 7:32pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Thanks to our neo-comm friends, "fascist" now means "someone I don't like", there's no requirement that said dislike be based upon any specifics. Given that, why should its use wrt Islam be any different?
Except that in this case, it is not all that historically inaccurate. There are historical and ideological ties between the movements.

IMHO, what is historically inaccurate is the attempt to tie GWB, the current Administration, etc. to Fascism or Naziism. What must always be remembered is that these movements, along with Communism, advocate force and violence in order to usher in and maintain, at least in the near term, a socialist utopia.
10.10.2007 7:38pm
Vovan:

It is also linked to fascism's historical desire to gain political power through military conquest; not all militarism is fascist, but fascism in the 20th century has been so closely linked to militarism that fascist should probably be used in such a way that all fascism is militarist. The link to Islam is unfortunatelly also quite sound; Islamofascism is a strain of Islam, though fortunately there are many other much better strains.


This part of the definition that EV constructs, cannot, in it of itself, be reconciled with the goals of Shi'a Islam. After all, majority of fundamentalist, and even militant Shi'as believe in an impending apocalyptic return of the messiah - presumably signaling the end of the world. Thus, earthly possessions - including militant conquest become unnecessary to a true believer. Sure, he might pillage and plunder with the best of them, but in doing so, he will be driven by a practical and economic set of motives, not by the manifestation of his faith.

This particular aspect of the Shi'a religion greatly separates them from the average Salafi - to whom, presumably, military conquest can be justified in terms of the need to revert to the true caliphate first established under the prophet.

So, if militancy is removed as one of the goals driving the Shi'a movement, the need for the term "Islamo-fascism", as defined by the EV, becomes redundant, since militant salafism (Thank you, Ramza) already encompasses the definition created by EV, without needlessly including other, tenuously related, groups.
10.10.2007 7:38pm
frankcross (mail):
Words change. It is true that radical Islam lacks some fundamental attributes of the traditional meaning of fascism (such as nationalism and corporatism). But radical liberals spent decades using fascist as simply a synonym for right wing authoritarianism. By this definition, radical Islam certainly qualifies. If you want to embrace the new meaning used by those radical liberals.
10.10.2007 7:50pm
Vovan:

Really -- no need to create a new term when the "commonly accepted academic term" Salafi is available? How many people outside a narrow sliver of the academy know what Salafi means? Plus why limit yourself to the Sunni strand, given that many critics of Islamofascism are against Shia analogs, such as the more authoritarian strands of the Iranian mullocracy? The goal is a combination of quick comprehensibility and precision, and not just precision or academic purity alone.


I would think that popularization of the academic term, instead of the creation and distribution of a false equivalent would better suit the interests of precision. But if the goal of comprehensibility, involves the creation of a term that convolutes two distinct cultural, societal and religious outlooks with no regard for their myriad of differences - then surely the Turks deserve the special "Islamo-nazis" definition, since they seem to be only ones with a genocide under their belt.
10.10.2007 7:53pm
spider:
Following Ramza's 5:15 post, try this gem from Mitt Romney, May 2007:


Violent, radical jihadists want to replace all the governments of the moderate Islamic states, replace them with a caliphate. And to do that, they also want to bring down the West, in particular us. And they've come together as Shi'a and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda with that intent.
10.10.2007 7:56pm
randal (mail):
What's wrong with "militant Islam"?

Oh I remember, the right thinks it's too legitimizing, believe it or not. Hence "Islamofascism." It's being pushed on us precisely because it comes across as sufficiently insulting to Muslims.
10.10.2007 7:58pm
samuil (mail):
the islamic terrorists are not the Wehrmacht. It is the fact that they are not a monolithic, cohesive fighting force that gives them the advantage in asymmetric warfare. They can still be villains without being a reincarnation of the SS. Here is another reason why Islamofascist means nothing. The word fascism conjures up images of storm troopers or well-organised corps of youth cadres, the fascisti themselves, beating up the odd communist or dissenter. It does not conjure up images of the irregular mujahideen in the hills of Afghanistan, suicide bombers or religious fanatics.

Now this world-domination stuff is, frankly, a lot of hot air. They can plan to dominate the world all they like, just as Muslims have, in theory, hoped to bring the rule of Islam to the entire world, but to say that they want to dominate the world doesn't make them fascist (nor does it mean that their plan to "dominate the world" has a chance of being realised).

Communists wanted, in theory, to dominate the world, and they could appeal to people of all nations with a universalist ideology, which lent their plans for worldwide revolution more plausibility than any amount of rhetoric about the restoration of the Caliphate has (if this is the old Umayyad Caliphate of the early years we're talking about, every Islamic revival movement for the last thousand years has wanted to "restore" this with no success). But did their desire to dominate the world make them communofascists? No, and people would call you a fool for saying things like this.

Alexander the Great certainly liked to conquer places, and perhaps if he had lived longer he would have dominated even more of the known world--would he have been a precocious Macedoniofascist? The Mongols might have been said to have aspirations for something like global domination--was Genghis Khan a Mongolofascist? Put that way, I would hope that intelligent people would see that this kind of cluttered, idiotic term not only does not define or describe who we are fighting but introduces layer upon layer of obfuscation and confusion.

Why not use jihadi or jihadist? If need be, we could expand it to Salafi jihadist, since many of the jihadists we're really talking about are Salafists. The Indians have gotten along for decades with the term jihadi, since it expresses very simply and concretely what these people are on about: waging jihad. That necessarily emphasises their Islamic character, while avoiding all of the extremely stupid concoctions of propagandists.
However, I believe describing our war as a war against all jihadis everywhere is a fundamental mistake. Moreover, the war in Iraq is only marginally and accidentally connected with this in any case. Our war is plainly not really or necessarily with Hizbullah or the ISF in Algeria or the Muslim Brotherhood, though this does not therefore mean that we should stupidly forge ahead in pressuring governments in the countries where these groups are found to include them in the "democratic" process. It remains a war primarily and very specifically against Al Qaeda and its offshoots among Salafists and Wahhabis in the Near East and jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As a short, simple term, nothing beats jihadi.
In modern political discourse when we are talking about jihadis, we are not without alternatives. Only the intellectually lazy, or propagandists or those inured to leftist habits of labeling all enemies as fascists could be satisfied with a term as clunky, inaccurate, ridiculous and all together misleading as Islamofascist .

The questions every conservative should ask the Republican who barks Islamofascist at him are these: "Why fascist? Why make the comparison with fascism? Why do you, Republican, have this obsession with the word 'fascist' that seems more appropriate to a far-left liberal? Could it be that you have adopted leftist categories of thinking in your quest to spread "democratic revolution"? Can it be that all of this prattling about "ideological nations" has knocked a few screws loose and sent you into Soviet propaganda mode?" Indeed, I have to wonder whether we will soon hear about Islamocounterrevolutionaries (try saying that one five times fast!) and Islamoenemiesofthepeople. Conservatives should be very worried that this kind of language has become part of their lexicon and should be appalled at the people who have been propagating it, not just because it is inaccurate and sloppy, but because it betrays a strange affinity to old Marxist argumentation that was historically used as a means of distorting the truth about political enemies and Soviet policy. This sort of rhetoric should not have any part in formulating U.S. foreign policy today.


D.Larison, the best in destroying modern neocon/GOP myths
10.10.2007 8:08pm
cvt:
Before they seized power, the Nazis and Italian fascists were nationalist mass movements opposed to established democracies. Neither was a religious movement. Where is the parallel to the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other extremist Muslim groups? They are not nationalist mass movements opposed to established democracies. The things you mention, authoritarianism, governmental control of private lives, and militarism, are not distinctive features of fascism or extremist Muslim groups. Do you think the Soviet Union was fascist? It fits your definition.

Your argument seems like a thin rationalism for a term that is primarily useful as a propaganda tool for people who advocate a military attack on Iran.
10.10.2007 8:19pm
CCMCornell (mail):
As suggested, fascist has been so overly used by demagogues of all stripes that even with a reasoned comparison to accepted definitions of fascism (vague as they are), future use of the term will always be tainted.


American interests have been attacked all over the world by a number of divergent groups, however, unlike the 9/11 attack, and the subsequent Taliban non-cooperation, most of those attacks, including the Marine bombings and the embassy takeover, were perpetrated with largely non-religious goals in mind. Placing the perpetrators of those attacks under the broad blanket of "Islamo-fascism", only obscures their real motives, and adds nothing to our understanding of the forces driving them forward.


When taking claim to the barracks bombings and other acts, Hezbollah ("Party of God") identified themselves as Islamic Jihad - hardly a non-religious move. To deny any similarity between militant Sunni and Shia groups seems mistaken. They both rely on terror and identity to "Islam" in their efforts to subdue the population. Efforts to thwart them will require similar strategies, both in the military and in promoting civic and political freedom. Are there differences that need to be appreciated? Of course, and those differences will likely require differences in strategy at lower levels. But that doesn't mean we can't view the problem of militant Muslim groups as some sort of single category.
10.10.2007 8:19pm
CCMCornell (mail):

Why not use jihadi or jihadist?


The problem with "jihad" to describe militant Muslim groups is that jihad doesn't mean armed struggle - just "struggle." Jihad is a duty of all Muslims to struggle to live a pious life, and in the everday, jihad is nonviolent. It can refer to struggles of the self to resist temptation or to do good deeds. It can also refer to efforts to promote Islam through study, writing, politics, etc. These are, of course, similar to many practices in many religions though I don't know of any analogous terms that encompass them all.

If we start using a generic Muslim word like "jihad" to describe militants and terrorists, you risk lumping the entire religion and culture into it - or at least the perception of lumping it all together. Islamofacism, as troubled a term as it is, at least tries to be more specific.
10.10.2007 8:30pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Of course fascism has been popular in more than one country as well, but it has to be localized to be effective. National Socialism isn't really an export ideology.
Tell it to Austria.

It was called "National Socialism," but it was ethnically based, not nation-based.
10.10.2007 8:37pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Extremist Muslims, however, are by no defintion nationalists. On the contrary, their ideology is popular in dozens of different countries."

The extremist believes in the Uma, which is a unified, world-wide, Islamic state led by the Caliph. In their mind, it would be ideal if the whole world was the Uma, but first they see the unifcation of all existing Muslim states into one. They definitely are nationalists with their allegiance to the Uma.
10.10.2007 8:44pm
wooga:
"the islamic terrorists are not the Wehrmacht. It is the fact that they are not a monolithic, cohesive fighting force that gives them the advantage in asymmetric warfare. They can still be villains without being a reincarnation of the SS."

Samuil, didn't you learn about the WW2 Islamic Nazi SS division? Those historical Islamofascists really WERE the wehrmacht, and they still exist (underground) in the former Yugo lands.
10.10.2007 9:05pm
wooga:
frankcross,
Fascism /= corporatism. There is a fake quote attributed to Mussolini claiming they were the same. Anti-capitalist lefties like to recycle the quote again and again. However, in historical reality, fascism (especially in Italy) involved state control over industry via governmental union boards. Corporatism is a different beast altogether.
10.10.2007 9:08pm
CCMCornell (mail):
"the islamic terrorists are not the Wehrmacht. It is the fact that they are not a monolithic, cohesive fighting force that gives them the advantage in asymmetric warfare. They can still be villains without being a reincarnation of the SS."

Samuil, didn't you learn about the WW2 Islamic Nazi SS division? Those historical Islamofascists really WERE the wehrmacht, and they still exist (underground) in the former Yugo lands.


Small correction - as I understand it - wehrmacht and the SS are not interchangeable terms and neither was a member of the other. The wehrmacht was Germany's traditional military. The SS was an independent military arm of the Nazi party raised by Himmler.
10.10.2007 9:13pm
neurodoc:
Climkadiddler, based on what you said above, I would not call you an "apologist." You offer no excuses for those who might be called "Islamofascists," you just quarrel with the term itself. I would call you a "quibbler," someone who focuses on a relatively minor detail ("the primary trait of fascism is extreme nationalism"). And you are wrong about that relatively minor detail too ("Extremist Muslims, however, are by no defintion nationalists.")

Osama and his adherents want to turn the clock back more than a thousand years and resurrect the Caliphate, a theocracy governing all of the Islamic world. Of course, what we understand as "nations" did not exist then, and would not exist were the Islamofascists to succeed. How silly to maintain that because they can be seen as a "transnational" movement, it is clearly wrong to view them as "fascistic," that is fascist-like. Their aspiration is all the world's Muslims living as part of one big Islamic "nation" under Sharia, something I would count as the most extreme of nationalism, albeit the "nation" would be the umma. (Isn't one feature of extreme nationalism the exclusivity, so that one either belongs or doesn't. In their nightmare world, infidels would not "belong," only be allowed to live as a subordinated, oppressed group.)

Did Hitler cease to be a fascist when he invaded places that Germany had not a hint of a claim to, e.g., the Balkans, the Baltics, Russia, etc.? At that point, was it no longer about "extreme nationalism" for the Nazis, or because their intention was always to conquer and dominate/exploit in the name of the Fatherland, Hitler and his followers remained exemplary fascists? If Hitler was the fascist of fascists (he was a fascist wasn't he, even though Mussolini may have had first dibs on the word and concept), then Osama bears not the slightest resemblance to him and cannot be called "fascistic"?
10.10.2007 9:17pm
wooga:
Another point which David Nieporent alluded to, but most people here miss. Nazism was based primarily on racial grounds, not national grounds. Think about it, the Nazis killed a lot of 'racially impure' Germans, but let a lot of 'racially pure' Austrians live.

This notion that "Fascism = extreme nationalism" is shoddy history. Fascism certainly had nationalist elements, but it was more statist than nationalist.

Now, cue the lefties trotting out their "14 characteristics of fascism" email to claim that fascism means neoconservatism (written by some hippie who fraudulently claimed he was a doctor and polisci phd).
10.10.2007 9:18pm
wooga:
CCMCornell,
Stop spoiling my snappy comeback with historical technicalities. ;)
10.10.2007 9:19pm
Russell Abbott (mail):
Fascism has been defined by Robert Paxton as:

a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

In his book Paxton works hard to separate fascism from traditional authoritarian regimes, the main points of difference being extreme nationalism and frenzied support of the masses not present in authoritarian regimes. This rules out Saudi Arabia and the Taliban, for example, whose regimes are not popular amongst its people. Al Qaeda is much closer, but I'll let Jeff Mankoff take over from here:

There is no question that al-Qaeda, and Islamic radicalism more generally, spring from the same sources of resentment and humiliation as the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s. In both cases, the replacement of an old order with instability and foreign domination, whether exerted by French troops in the Rhineland in 1923 or more recently, American support for corrupt Arab autocracies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have created a wave of xenophobia and longing for an idealized, if mythical, past.

Like European fascists, al-Qaeda extols militarism, coupled with a rejection of Enlightenment rationalism. Both emphasize the community, whether the global Islamic "umma" or the German "volk," which must be regenerated through the purging of alien elements. Al-Qaeda also espouses radical antisemitism, which it shares with most, though not all, European fascists.

Al-Qaedas use of religion as an inspiration for violence and intolerance also has precedents. World War II-era fascist regimes in Croatia, Slovakia and Romania all justified their genocidal actions on the basis of establishing religious purity. The Slovak fascist leader, Jozef Tiso, was even a Catholic priest.

Yet if the ideologies of fascism and Islamic radicalism share similarities, the political and military approaches of the two movements differ sharply, and these differences render Bush's comparison meaningless in the realm of strategy. For example, Al-Qaeda is not a mass movement akin to Mussolinis Blackshirts. Instead it is a small, conspiratorial organization whose influence flows more from its ability to inspire small numbers of fanatical followers with its mastery of modern communication technology than from its ability to become a mass movement or a force in electoral politics.

Even the nature of al-Qaeda's violence is different. Al-Qaeda mostly targets foreign enemies (the West) rather than "enemies" --whether Jews, socialists, or Serbs -- within fascist-ruled states or occupied territory. Most important, European fascists all glorified the state and sought to seize state power for themselves. Al-Qaeda rejects the legitimacy of existing states in the Muslim world, which were largely created by European colonialists.

Let's keep fascism for the real fascists. What term would I use? I'm sticking with Salafism even if EV doesn't like it.

In addition, it's worth considering that "islamofascism" might be actually detrimental:

Applying the template of fascism to al-Qaeda does more to obscure than to clarify the current situation. Fascism in Europe was destroyed when the states it ruled were occupied and their governments replaced. Al-Qaeda is not a government, and it is unlikely to ever rule a state. The United States and its allies have already occupied the one state ever to come under direct al-Qaeda control, Afghanistan, without eradicating the threat. The occupation of Iraq, modeled on that of post-1945 West Germany, has been an even bigger failure.

Al-Qaeda will continue to remain in the shadows, and the struggle against it will involve spies, diplomats and police more than soldiers. Conflating the threat of al-Qaeda with fascism makes for good political rhetoric, but it represents a failure of imagination, a failure to recognize the novel nature of this new threat.

This is, I think, one of the biggest mistakes that America has made in its pursuit of Salafists--using the nation-state as the primary socio-political unit to break up the Middle East. Other factors, like ethnic/religious/tribal identity, etc., factor into people's day-to-day lives far more. Saying "Iran is evil," is using an imprecise rhetorical bludgeon that causes more problems than it solves. We need to be more intelligent in our dealings with the Islam and the Middle East, and that's a good place to start.
10.10.2007 9:29pm
sashal (mail):
Islamofascist. I cannot stress strongly enough how stupid this word is, as are its close cousins Islamic fascist or the latest absurdity, Islamo-Nazi. I understand what people think they mean when they say it, and to a large extent I share the same opposition and revulsion to the reality to which this term obscurely refers, but I am obliged to recognise that it is a meaningless term. It takes the enemy of the moment, Islam, and in an attempt (not terribly convincing) to tell us that the war does not have a religious dimension or to say that we have beaten these sorts of people before or to claim that they are just like the people we have fought before we attach to it the handy label of fascist. Never mind that most people couldn't give a serious, working definition of fascism that would be even remotely accurate, or that there are no substantive similarities between Islam and fascism except for their ready justification, use and glorification of violence and their shared commitment to a life lived as struggle.

Islam is submission to an almost entirely transcendent deity; fascism is a doctrine that claims that you can create your own transcendence through labour, struggle and action. One is theocentric, whatever you may think of their god, while the other is anthropocentric. Islam is a religion that makes no sharp distinction between the political and the spiritual realms; fascism is a political religion that elevates materialistic politics to the level of the sacred. Islamic civilisation, while severely burdened by the constraints of its religion, has still managed to create poetry, architecture and largely geometric art of some real skill and accomplishment; fascism has historically always been tied to kitsch and modernism and the ugliness associated with them. They are, it is true, both appeals to the masses, but appeals based in entirely different things: one the complete subjugation of everything to the will of Allah, the other the exaltation of a nation or nation-state to the point of earthly godhood. Both are pernicious and hostile to the creative synthesis of Christian civilisation and are historically most hostile to Christianity as a creed and way of life, but they remain distinct and very separate phenomena that we could not more press together into one term than we could could talk about "conservatocommunism."
10.10.2007 9:50pm
sashal (mail):
Unsurprisingly, it is neoconservatives, whose roots are in the Trotskyist-Social Democratic Left, who are promoting use of the term. Their goal is to have Bush stuff al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran into an "Islamofascist" kill box, then let SAC do the rest.

The term represents the same lazy, shallow thinking that got us into Iraq, where Americans were persuaded that by dumping over Saddam, we were avenging 9/11. ~Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative
10.10.2007 9:53pm
neurodoc:
Elliot123, looking back at your 7:44PM post, I see that at last there is something we can agree upon. I did not see that post before I posted something along the same lines.

cvt, are not the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the other extremist Muslims groups opposed to every form of government other than Islamic theocracies, including any established democracies they might run into? ("Before they seized power, the Nazis and Italian fascists were nationalist mass movements opposed to established democracies.") Would you allow "mythology" in lieu of "religion," so that we might see Naziism as a quasi-religious one, with mythic "Aryanism" substituting for a theology? ("Neither was a religious movement.")

Vovan, you think the Turks should be styled "Islamo-nazis" because almost 100 years ago, before Ataturk and the modern nation of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire perpetrated a genocide against the Armenians? (I'm not trying to diminish the crime in any way, just puzzling at the suggested linkage of "Islamo" when Islam had nothing to do with it, and "Nazi" when there was nothing to it that prefigured the real Nazis other than the heinous crime itself.) And all who could be charged with perpetrating genocides should be counted "(...)-nazis," including the Cambodians (Cambodo-nazis) with their "autogenicide," the Hutus (Hutu-nazi) who did it to the Tutsis (Hutu-nazis), and perhaps the Serbs (Serbo-nazis) who did it or tried to do something like it to the Bosnians and Croats (or that was a civil war?)? Sorry, but I don't find your reductio ad absurdum argument at all persuasive, "Islamofascism" survives this one easily.
10.10.2007 9:57pm
neurodoc:
sashal: It takes the enemy of the moment, Islam...
No one can accuse you of pussyfooting around the core issue. (Or didn't you mean to say what you said so straight up?)
10.10.2007 10:02pm
frankcross (mail):
wooga, fascism was corporatism. The Mussolini quote was fake but the reality is there. The problem is that those lefties who make the argument don't know what corporatism means. It is not government by corporation. It is where the government insinuates itself into corporate life, using big businesses to run the country in the interests of the government, which is part of what Mussolini did.
10.10.2007 10:06pm
Justin (mail):
We should use a misloaded term that people don't realize the correct meaning of because the correct word isn't well known? Are you sure you are making a normative argument?
10.10.2007 10:16pm
Justin (mail):
That should be "loaded" not "misloaded"
10.10.2007 10:17pm
Toby:
While were are becoming so sensitive to nuance...

Were Baathists Fascist or not...Why?

How about Nasser? THe United Arab Republic?

I think that Baathists were Fascists, and the Nassir was a Nationalist Socialist, and that neither was Islamic. I also am uncomfortable with the easy way Islamofascism rolls from the lips, but am not so sure that, if considered in the bigger picture, as were Austria and the Sudetenland, if considering the Umma to be the Nation of Islamofasciscm is that far oof base.
10.10.2007 10:39pm
Beem:

Were Baathists Fascist or not...Why?

For what it's worth, I think Sadaam adopted Stalin as his model dictator.

So maybe its Islamo-Commie-Fascism...though somehow I don't think that phrase is going to takeoff.
10.10.2007 11:05pm
Hoosier:
Iraqi Baathists were close in a number of ways. I think that to exclude them, one would have to hew to the line that ONLY Italy under Il Duce fits the definition.
10.10.2007 11:14pm
LM (mail):
Ex-Fed inter omnes unus excella.
10.10.2007 11:31pm
cathyf:
I kinda like the term "death eater" myself. But of course you have to have read Harry Potter to get it...
10.10.2007 11:32pm
pst314 (mail):
"They definitely are nationalists with their allegiance to the Ummah."

Yes. The fascists had their ideology of Das Volk, in which the individual was radically subordinate to the state, the state were militantly hostile to those who did not belong to das Volk, and this militancy was of primary importance in defining the relationship of the individual to the state. Islam has its doctrine of the ummah and dar al islam vs. dar al harb (house of islam vs. house of war) which mandates perpetual war against the infidel until all the world is subjugated.
10.10.2007 11:32pm
locofoco:
Do the folks at Volkh, who subscribe to the current war against Islamofascism, realize that the term is an equally "apt" description of the current regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Iran is actually quite democratic to all of these with the possible exception of Pakistan. All these regimes are easily as fascist as Mussolin's Italy and all, of course, are kept in power through the aid of the Bush administration and previous administrations.
10.10.2007 11:43pm
wooga:
frankcross,
I agree that you can define corporatism to bring it within fascism, but that 'corporatism' under the popular lefty meaning is not fascism. You are probably correct, as my political theory knowledge of 'corporatism' is much weaker than of 'fascism'.
10.10.2007 11:56pm
Rickm:
Toby,
Could you support your assertion that Nasser was a "National Socialist" (which I take not to read a nationalists that was also socialist). If you can't support your assertion, could you explain how NO serious historian or analyst of fascism could reasonably assert that Nasser's regime was fascist?
10.11.2007 12:38am
randal (mail):
Hey EV, thanks for the lift out. Still...

So the goal is to be properly and accurately pejorative...

Why is the goal to be pejorative? "Red menace" is "Communism" as "Islamofascism" is to ____?

Whatever's in the blank is the term I would prefer. EV agrees: "Islamofascism" is intentionally propagandistic. I don't like to parrot propaganda, even "proper[] and accurate[]" propaganda.
10.11.2007 12:42am
Rickm:
This is Griffin's one sentence definition of fascism: "Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism." I don't think this radical/militant/islamist movement is populist, nor is it ultranationalistic.
10.11.2007 12:58am
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Leaving aside the question of what we call them (although I'll suggest Jihadis or Jihadists, as that's what they are proposing and/or in the process of), the fact is, contra Vovan, that the motivation of the Jihadis is almost totally religious; the "non-religious" aspects of Jihadism (or Islamism) are still mainly religious, because, as has been pointed out, Islam is a totalist system.

With no separation of church and state as in Christianity (and most other religions, including modern Judaism), and with the state and the law being prescribed by the holy scriptures (the Koran and the Hadiths, etc.), any otherwise secular causes for discontent and disaffection are by default religious under Islam. Qtub and other Islamists made their case on religious grounds, which is logical given the basic tenets of Islam.

Here in the West, with our separation of Church and state, and our secular (even in religious nations like the US) society, and given that the days of religious persecution of non-conformists, heretics, witches etc. are long past (but not in Islamic nations - no reformation and enlightenment there, alas...), we have great difficulty accepting the fact that people can be motivated by religion to perform suicide bombings, subject people to horrid tortures, etc. We had best figure this out sooner rather than later, or we shall be in serious trouble.

One advantage that the Crusaders had in fighting the Muslims was that their thinking was a lot closer to their enemy's. This led to all sorts of atrocities which we don't want to repeat, but it also led to much clearer understanding of the motivation of their enemies. Today, the Jihadis attack us and we ask why they are doing this, what have we done to them, and their reasons don't make any sense to our mindset.
10.11.2007 1:02am
Elmer (mail):

It's being pushed on us precisely because it comes across as sufficiently insulting to Muslims.

I'd say it's flattery, not an insult. The movements in question would love to be responsible for killing 6 million Jews, to have terrified most of the world and conquered a decent chunk of it, albeit briefly. I'd much prefer a pejorative that they don't like; sorry I can't think of one.
10.11.2007 1:06am
TGGP (mail) (www):
Fascism was an actual ideology but people insist on applying it to all politics they don't like, as Orwell put it. There is virtually no linkage ideologically between the fascists and modern islamists. For their similarities you can call them authoritarian or totalitarian, which we also lump communist regimes under. The term is also used to conflate secular nationalists like Saddam Hussein with anti-nation-state caliphate reviving fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden. They are very different ideologies. Just because some people claim to oppose Western Imperialism doesn't make them communist, though many who did were.

I am suspicious of political labels which nobody is able to claim. Fascism was once something people did admit to believing in, now it is mostly a pejorative. Islamofascism has never been anything but, and it is has not been a helpful one either.
10.11.2007 1:07am
Katherine (mail):
Any slim hope of getting this term taken seriously as anything but propaganda died when it got applied to not only Sunni &Shi'ite extremists, but also secular dictatorships like Syria &Iraq. To me, it means "Muslims we don't like".
10.11.2007 2:14am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Just plain 'Islam' is adequate for all purposes. Islam, all varieties, is dedicated to the supremacy of dar al-Islam and suppression of dar al-Harb (that would be us).

Some are more urgent about it than others, but you'd have to look hard to find any Muslim who would say, flat out: I do not subscribe to the eventual, divinely-promised triumph of Islam over all.

In fact, I've never found any Muslim who would say that, and I've tried.

What we really need is a term to describe a Muslim who believes in living on equal terms with infidels. If we had the term, then we'd have to find someone to label it with.

That might be hard.
10.11.2007 2:22am
Guest101:

Some are more urgent about it than others, but you'd have to look hard to find any Muslim who would say, flat out: I do not subscribe to the eventual, divinely-promised triumph of Islam over all.


And that's different from Christian doctrine how, exactly?
10.11.2007 2:26am
cvt:
neurodoc, you ask:

Would you allow "mythology" in lieu of "religion," so that we might see Naziism as a quasi-religious one, with mythic "Aryanism" substituting for a theology?
Hitler and Musolini were not mythological figures, unfortunately. They were all too real, and they did not compete with any imaginary deities. "Mythic Aryanism" was a racist ideology. Calling it a religion to make a comparison with Islamic beliefs dignifies it more than you probably want to.

Also, you missed my point about fascism being an anti-democratic movements. Of course, fascists were opposed to communism as well as democracy. But the Nazi and Italian fascist movements, unlike the Islamic movements, developed in opposition to democratic societies. They had newspapers and political parties and participated in elections until they seized power and destroyed the democratic institutions.
10.11.2007 2:50am
LM (mail):
CVT:

But the Nazi and Italian fascist movements, unlike the Islamic movements, developed in opposition to democratic societies. They had newspapers and political parties and participated in elections until they seized power and destroyed the democratic institutions.

You mean unlike, for example, Hamas and Hizbolah?
10.11.2007 3:15am
orson23 (mail):
I beg to strongly differ with EV. Jihadism ought to be the preferred term.

While "Islamofascism" is not without recent historical justification (see Paul Berman), it is too narrow, self-deceiving, and orientalist.

Instead, as Mary Habeck explains in "Knowing The Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and The War on Terror " -- they call themselves "Jihadists." And as Rice University's David Cook explains in "Understanding Jihad," Muslim jurists have always understood Jihad in terms of militancy, ie, fighting against the Infidel.

Thus, the barrier that a term like "Islamofascism" imposes for us is the conceit that the problem in the GWOT is merely recent instead of an original doctrine of Islam. While "Jihad" could be non-militant, it has never been expressed this way by the religion's dominant schools and most authoritative expositers.

Terrorism today thus poses the problem of pacifying an inevitably -- but not inherently - militant religion. This will never change until the religion itself reforms. "Islamofascism" substitutes a familiar mis-understanding -- the lie that our enemy is some strange variant on True Islam - where what is needed is a deeper, more profound understanding of the challenge as traditionalist Islam clashes with modernity in our inevitably globalizing world in nativist fashion.

If Islam can reform its doctrine of Jihadism and the duty to wage Jihad, then there is no conflict between them and the world. Without this, there will always be war between us -- one way or another.

The problem for neoconservatives lies in defining the GWOT in familiar historical terms for an unfamiliar nativist-driven conflict: World War IV, where the Cold War was WWIII, which followed WWI. If the GWOT is World War IV, then the enemy must be Islamofascism. Sancta simplicitus!

But, as I've argued at the last conference of The Historical Society, the best historical analogy to today's GWOT is the Indian Wars of the later 19th century. There are many more startling and more accurate analogues to this than the familiar neocon reference points: tribal warrior society caught up in a revival nativist religion in the face of overwhelming modernism, the US role in finishing a many centuries conflict other nations, the wars character as a pacification struggle rooted in civilizational development and its lack, among many others.

Hence, Jihadism ought to identify our enemy -- not "Islamofascism." Extirpate Jihad, and peace can reign
10.11.2007 5:09am
cvt:
LM: yes, unlike them. Hamas and Hezbolah have genuine popular support because of their resistance to the Israelis, and are not fascist movements.
10.11.2007 5:15am
Tom952 (mail):
it's bad even for Middle Eastern women, gays, political dissenters, religious dissenters, and any other noncoformists


How about, "it's bad for all Middle Eastern people, including women, gays, political dissenters, religious dissenters, and nonconformists."
10.11.2007 10:06am
faux facsimile:
I don't see what's wrong with the term "Islamofascism". It's just as descriptive as "Global War on Terror".

It isn't as if there are other movements in the world that are dictatorial, repressive and undermining the West.
10.11.2007 10:29am
Just Dropping By (mail):
I'd take the assertions of proponents of the term "Islamofascism" that it is a legitimate word because of historical connections between fascist movements and Islamist movements far more seriously if those same proponents were equally attentive about calling India's BJP "Hindufascist" given that it has far more direct connections to European fascists than most Islamist groups.
10.11.2007 10:38am
pst314:
"Any slim hope of getting this term taken seriously as anything but propaganda died when it got applied to not only Sunni &Shi'ite extremists, but also secular dictatorships like Syria &Iraq."

Katherine, are you aware that the Baath parties of Syria and Iraq were founded as explicitly fascist movements in imitation of the European fascist parties of the 1930's?
10.11.2007 11:28am
Rickm:
pst314: Katherine, are you aware that the Baath parties of Syria and Iraq were founded as explicitly fascist movements in imitation of the European fascist parties of the 1930's?


really? but wait! one of the founders of the Ba'ath was.... a christian! hard to square that with ISLAMO-fascism.
10.11.2007 11:40am
George Smith (mail):
By all means, lets come up with a term that doesn't offend the people we're trying to describe.
10.11.2007 12:47pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
The public may be more willing to embrace militarism and military spending that would be difficult to endorse, absent some kind of truly existential threat, like that posed by the Nazis during WWII.
The Japanese managed to kill one person in the 48 US States. The Nazis managed to kill zero. The Caliphists manged to kill circa 3000 in more than a dozen attacks in the US so far. Their actions were pretty existential for those victims.

Robert Francis Kennedy was the first to die in an Arab terrorist attack in the US (albeit by a Christian). That was in 1968. Since then there have been numerous small attacks from the CIA gate sniper, to the Empire State Building shooter, to the Seattle Jewish Community Center shooting.
10.11.2007 12:57pm
neurodoc:
cvt: yes, unlike them. Hamas and Hezbolah have genuine popular support because of their resistance to the Israelis, and are not fascist movements.
So one of your criteria for what can be described as "fascism" is that there cannot be "genuine popular support" for it? That is the logical implication of your response, that is if you were still trying to explain to us your notion of what does and does not constitute "fascism."

(I will try to return later to say more about the arguments you have advanced in support of your criteria for "fascism," including the religion one and that fascism only arises in opposition to democracy.)
10.11.2007 1:02pm
neurodoc:
Just Dropping By, the BJP does not project itself beyond India's borders, so it is not of much concern to non-Indians, save perhaps for those who worry that it might spark greater intra-communal violence or more cross-boarder conflict, especially with Pakistan. But no one has yet denied the possibility that the BJP could be considered "fascist," so go ahead and make your case that it is. Note, though, that cvt maintains that movements driven by religion, which the BJP certain is, cannot yield fascism. (I'm not clear yet whether he believes that after Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany, and Franco's Spain, the mold was broken and there can never be true fascism again, which would be another reason why the BJP couldn't be counted a fascist movement, at least not in his book. With convincing evidence I could be persuaded, however.)
10.11.2007 1:12pm
abb3w:
Climkadiddler: Throughout your post, you never game a clear definition of fascism. Fascist regimes are totalitarian, yes, and they are militaristic, but the primary trait of fascism is extreme nationalism. The origin of the word fascist is the fasces, the bundle of rods tied to a ax wieled by ancient Roman officials. Mussolini picked the word because he knew it would stir the blood of patriotic Italians. Extremist Muslims, however, are by no defintion nationalists.

I would disagree (as have others). They generally support in the long term the restoration of the Caliphate as a global empire. More precisely, I'd add that both groups were Monocultural Supremacists, as well as (as EV notes) militant and authoritarian. That is to say, their way, for everyone, everywhere, and kill all those who won't fit in.

Anderson: [Insert here previous VC comment threads on same exact subject.]

Preferably as pointers only, such as to a suggestion I made earlier for Islamocratists when one wishes a discussion with reduced danger of an encounter with Godwin's law... or objections like Climkadiddler's over the nature of facism.

djw1: Any connection between Islam and Fascism is largely one of recognition rather than imitation.

I remain not entirely convinced. A trawl around the web turns up several references to these two books, which suggests links between the two movements in the 20th century. Alas, my local library has neither.

cvt: Do you think the Soviet Union was fascist? It fits your definition.

A good point. However, when you add the emphasis on Monoculturalism, I think the Soviets were more tolerant of minor local diversity. They wanted everyone to be communists, and Russian-dominated communists, but not Russian communists.

That said, there was less distinction between the views of Soviet Communism and the Facist views on corporate-state interaction than the Soviets would have liked to have pointed out. As the few Wobblies and such left have been known to argue, the Soviets stopped being really communist around when they booted out Trotsky, and became Stalinist bureaucrats.

Russell Abbott: Fascism has been defined by Robert Paxton as: "a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood" [...]

A good point; the victimhood element seems important. There often seems to be a certain amount of scapegoating involved, too. However, I'd disagree with the import you attach to the distinction of internal alien scapegoats (such as the Nazis blaming the Jews) versus external alien scapegoats (such as Islamowhackos blaming Western imperialism) for their decline.

locofoco: Iran is actually quite democratic to all of these with the possible exception of Pakistan.

Depending on what you mean by "democratic". I'll agree the use in the West is generally sloppy. What they refer to as "democratic priniciples" are more exactly two sets of principles: democratic/representative on one hand, but also limited government on the other. Western democracies say that there are some things a government can't do, shouldn't do, and mustn't do. Bill of Rights, Magna Carta, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citzen, what have you, the underlying idea is the same: some unwaivable amount of sovereignty remains to the individual.

Rickm: but wait! one of the founders of the Ba'ath was.... a christian! hard to square that with ISLAMO-fascism.

Yeah, and as I noted above, Trotsky was a founding member of the Soviet Politburo. That doesn't mean he and his sympathizers were welcome in later years. Organizations evolve.
10.11.2007 1:24pm
Rickm:
ab3w:

I remain not entirely convinced. A trawl around the web turns up several references to these two books, which suggests links between the two movements in the 20th century. Alas, my local library has neither.


Have you actually read this books? The connection that they try to make between Nazism and Islamic terrorism is based on one singular individual, Haj Amin el-Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a notorious Nazi sympathizer. If this is where your argument rests, you have a pretty weak argument. Much of Hussein sympathies for the Axis powers in WWII were the result of Germany and Palestine having a common enemy: The British. This fact--no one denies the importance of anti-imperialist sentiment in the Middle East--is often omitted from discussions on the alleged Nazi/Islamic connection. French controlled mandates, such as Lebanon and Syria, had no such comparable sympathizer like the Mufti. Also, both those books lack ANY scholarly authority.



The point is that no respected scholar of Fascism has seriously argued that there is a connection between Fascism/National Socialism and present day Islamic terrorism. If you, or anyone else, is going to argue for a connection, then I suggest you explain why this is so.
10.11.2007 1:43pm
Mike Gallo (mail):
I disagree fundamentally with much of the language being thrown around here.

IMHO, calling any muslim "radical" or "militant" or "fascist" is equivelant to calling anyone who shows up at Catholic Mass more often than the "ChrEasters" religious zealots or fanatics. I don't like such labels because they attempt to legitimize an absurd construct like Islam by giving it an artifical range of application.

It is more accurate to call "moderate" muslims apostates than true muslims "radical."

Perhaps it is simply my perception.
10.11.2007 1:48pm
hardy callcott (mail):
Islamo-fascism is a very valid description for the Ba'ath party (both in Iraq and Syria), which consciously modeled itself on the Italian Fascist and German Nazi parties. It is much less historically accurate as applied to fundamentalist Islam (the sense in which term is now most often used). Fascism (in its European form) involved delegitimizing as disempowering all forms of religion because they served as a possible alternative center of power to the totalitarian state. Again - very accurate description of what the Ba'ath party sought to achieve. But quite inconsistent with the fundamentalist Islamic agenda.
10.11.2007 1:50pm
pst314:
"hard to square that with ISLAMO-fascism."

I was not sufficiently clear. My intended point was that although it would be odd to call Baathists islamo-fascists, they are indeed fascists. (And isn't it curious how prone the Middle East has been to fascism in one form or another?)
10.11.2007 1:59pm
Rickm:

Fascism (in its European form) involved delegitimizing as disempowering all forms of religion because they served as a possible alternative center of power to the totalitarian state.


I think the point that I am trying to make--and one that scholars of fascism have made--is that Fascism in Europe was a sui generis phenomenon. I have not seen a cogent argument that explains why the term authoritarians is inadequate to describe the Ba'ath party or Islamic terrorism, but fascism is. Whatever violent phenomenon we are facing now is--like facism--a sui generis movement. This warrants a unique and original name that describes this movement.

Of course, if all you care about is propaganda, then Islamofascism will do just fine.
10.11.2007 2:00pm
pst314:
Remember Mussolini's infamous slogan, "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state"? That sounds rather like the Islam.
10.11.2007 2:01pm
Rickm:
In Roger Griffin's, The Nature of Fascism, he notes that although there were many similarities between Fascism and the Iraqi Ba'ath party, the analogy "breaks down" because the Ba'ath repressed "genuine populism". p178
10.11.2007 2:06pm
Vovan:
neurodoc

Vovan, you think the Turks should be styled "Islamo-nazis" because almost 100 years ago, before Ataturk and the modern nation of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire perpetrated a genocide against the Armenians? (I'm not trying to diminish the crime in any way, just puzzling at the suggested linkage of "Islamo" when Islam had nothing to do with it, and "Nazi" when there was nothing to it that prefigured the real Nazis other than the heinous crime itself.) And all who could be charged with perpetrating genocides should be counted "(...)-nazis," including the Cambodians (Cambodo-nazis) with their "autogenicide," the Hutus (Hutu-nazi) who did it to the Tutsis (Hutu-nazis), and perhaps the Serbs (Serbo-nazis) who did it or tried to do something like it to the Bosnians and Croats (or that was a civil war?)? Sorry, but I don't find your reductio ad absurdum argument at all persuasive, "Islamofascism" survives this one easily.


I think you pinpointed the core of my argument for me. There already is a term, Salafi, that describes millenarian Islamic movements like Al'Qaida, and even for the sake of argument Hamas. This term could just as easily be popularized without creating a new term - "Islamo-fascism", presumably to specifically include the Shi'a sect, whose apocalyptic ideology has very little in common with the explicit militaristic goals of the Salafi movements.

An argument that Iran deserves the "Islamo-fascist" label because it is a Shi'a country whose government has some fascistic aspects, overlooks the fact that Khomeini actually had to "re-write" Shi'a religious concepts to attain power. Thus, Iran's fascistic tendencies, whatever they may be, are not dependent on the Shi'a faith per se, but function independently of the core concepts of Shi'a Islam. Similarly, Turkish genocide of Armenians occurred independently of the Islamic beliefs of the Turks. In both instances, Islam a collateral and not a dispositive factor.

Thus, if Shi'a are lumped together under the "Islamo-fascist" label, simply because they practice a form of Islam, then Turks should be included under the "Islamo-fascist" label as well, because they surely did not stop being Muslim when they committed the Armenian genocide.
10.11.2007 2:35pm
CJColucci:
I seem to recall some posts and threads about the appropriateness of using the following terms:
"Constitution in Exile"
"Christianist"
"Neoconservative"
It isn't worth my time and effort to do it, but it would be amusing to compare the attitudes and arguments of various posters and commenters who have posted on both those topics and on "Islamofacsism."
10.11.2007 2:44pm
Mark F. (mail):
Remember Mussolini's infamous slogan, "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state"? That sounds rather like the Islam.

But only if the state is in accord with Islam. Islam means submission to the will of God, not the state.
10.11.2007 2:55pm
Rickm:
Pst345 wrote

Remember Mussolini's infamous slogan, "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state"? That sounds rather like the Islam.


If your argument that a widespread social movement in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s is structually the same as the current wave of Islamic terrorism rests on a quote from Mussolini coupled with the silly observation that this "sounds like" Islam, then you have no argument.
10.11.2007 3:06pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Referring to Islamic political triumphalism, Guest101 wants to know 'And that's different from Christian doctrine how, exactly?'

It's exactly opposite from Christian doctrine, which advocates a universal church but anticipates that many (some sects, like Presbyterians, estimated about 99.999999%) will decline to take part.

For them, Hell awaits. But they get to live as they please while up here.
10.11.2007 3:18pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
From an interview with Hirsi Ali as reported in Reason Magazine.


Reason: So when even a hard-line critic of Islam such as Daniel Pipes says, "Radical Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution," he's wrong?

Hirsi Ali: He's wrong. Sorry about that.

Reason: George Bush, not the most conciliatory person in the world, has said on plenty of occasions that we are not at war with Islam.

Hirsi Ali: If the most powerful man in the West talks like that, then, without intending to, he's making radical Muslims think they've already won. There is no moderate Islam. There are Muslims who are passive, who don't all follow the rules of Islam, but there's really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There's nothing moderate about it.

Reason: Here in the United States, you'd advocate the abolition of—

Hirsi Ali: All Muslim schools. Close them down. Yeah, that sounds absolutist. I think 10 years ago things were different, but now the jihadi genie is out of the bottle. I've been saying this in Australia and in the U.K. and so on, and I get exactly the same arguments: The Constitution doesn't allow it. But we need to ask where these constitutions came from to start with—what's the history of Article 23 in the Netherlands, for instance? There were no Muslim schools when the constitution was written. There were no jihadists. They had no idea.



Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a young black Muslim woman) was a member of the Dutch Parliament until she fled to the US for safety after death threats against her. She returned to Holland after the US removed her security detail.
10.11.2007 3:23pm
Rickm:
And Ayaan Hirsi Ali feels the way about Islam as most atheist-raised-catholics feel about Christianity: they hate it.
10.11.2007 3:26pm
Adeez (mail):
When government controls the corporations, we have communism.

When corporations control the government, we have fascism.

I don't remember who stated this publicly, but I'm sticking to it.
10.11.2007 3:40pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
And Ayaan Hirsi Ali feels the way about Islam as most atheist-raised-catholics feel about Christianity: they hate it.

Sure, but those Catholics-turned-atheists don't have credible death threats against them by the Pope. Nor have those Catholics been the victims of ritual sexual mutilation, legal parental beatings, forced marriages and imprisonment. Moreover it's not a capital crime in Catholic countries to convert away from the religion.

Using terms like "Islamofacism," assumes that a kinder and gentler form of Islam exists apart from the extremists. That is the pertinent question here.
10.11.2007 3:49pm
neurodoc:
She returned to Holland after the US removed her security detail.
No, she returned to Holland when the Dutch government stopped paying for her security detail here in the US. And now with her back there in Holland, it is a big issue again.
10.11.2007 3:52pm
Rickm:

Using terms like "Islamofacism," assumes that a kinder and gentler form of Islam exists apart from the extremists. That is the pertinent question here.


Well, if there is no difference, there are 1.2 billion Fascists roaming the globe. Some live in the US. In fact, THERE IS ONE RIGHT DOWN THE HALLWAY FROM ME!!!!! Thank god they've been fasting for the past month! LETS GET 'EM!
10.11.2007 3:54pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I suspect we are watching an exercise in the evolution of a living language. People see a class of people who want to kill them. They are Al Queda and similar organizations, some state sponsored, some not. The common motivating factor is Islamic supremacy. The chosen tactic is killing people.

They have started using the term Islamofascist to describe these folks. Some better educated and informed people take issue with the term, but nobody really cares; that's how languages evolve. We don't ask the academics for permission to use a word, it just enters the common usage.

There might be a problem if there were confusion over who the term refers to. To date, the only ones who seem confused are the better educated people who defend the narrower meaning of "fascism." But, the population doesn't care what they think, the word has entered common usage, and I suggest it is here to stay.

I'll grant the academics may be correct now, but the meaning of the term will simply be changed by people who speak the language everyday.
10.11.2007 4:21pm
abb3w:
Rickm:
abb3w: I remain not entirely convinced. A trawl around the web turns up several references to these two books, which suggests links between the two movements in the 20th century. Alas, my local library has neither.
Have you actually read this books?


No, as I thought "my local library has neither" would indicate plainly; perhaps I misestimated some of the readership. Since I've not read them, I'm unable to judge the fullness of your claims; certainly, I agree efforts by others in Islam to oppose the Nazi genocide indicate that Islam and Fascism are not inherently synonymous.

Rickm: The point is that no respected scholar of Fascism has seriously argued that there is a connection between Fascism/National Socialism and present day Islamic terrorism.

No historical continuity, perhaps. The eye of the octopus is independently evolved from that of the human, but that doesn't make it any less an eye. Taxonomic similarities may create a logical connection, even if the histories are generally independent.

And on the other hand, I've found a mention that Arafat was Haj Amin el-Hussein's nephew; this begs the point: have any of those "serious scholars" you mention (without names, by the by) expressly asked the question of historical and dismissed it? Or merely not investigated?

Rickm: I have not seen a cogent argument that explains why the term authoritarians is inadequate to describe the Ba'ath party or Islamic terrorism, but fascism is.

The previously mentioned element of obsession with perceived victimhood and decline, and a corresponding sense of being deprived their rightful superior place in the world.

Adeez: "When government controls the corporations, we have communism. When corporations control the government, we have fascism." I don't remember who stated this publicly, but I'm sticking to it.

It's almost accurate. Corporatism is when the corporations control the government; fascism is when the government controls the corporations; and Soviet communism is when the government is the only corporation.

Elliot123: But, the population doesn't care what [better educated people] think, the word has entered common usage, and I suggest it is here to stay.

Spot on. As someone who has been losing the war for the meaning of "Hacker" since shortly after it started in 1983, I'll agree. On the other hand, I also suggest the debate over word choice is unlikely to die soon... and it's possible such debate might lead to a more universally acceptable and exact term.

"Never argue with a pedant over nomenclature. It wastes your time and annoys the pedant." Miles Vorkosigan, in Lois McMaster Bujold's Memory
10.11.2007 5:08pm
ejo:
the only problem with the theory is those who decry use of the word don't seem particularly brighter, more educated or informed than the proponents of its use. to the contrary, I see a lot more of the "it can't be fascism as it isn't led by an Italian named Mussolini" from the former as opposed to the descriptions of why it is appropriate that have been offered from the latter.
10.11.2007 5:11pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Well, if there is no difference, there are 1.2 billion Fascists roaming the globe."

But how many of those 1.2 billion are devout? How many Muslims who unwilling to engage in violence themselves nevertheless support the actions of the radicals?

The May 2007 Pew Report gives some numbers in a table on page 53. Below are the percentage of Muslims who think that suicide bombings targeting civilians are Often/Sometime Justified?

US 8%
France 16%
Spain 16%
UK 15%
Germany 7%
Nigeria 46%
Jordan 29%
Egypt 28%
Turkey 17%
Pakistan 14%
Indonesia 10%

Other Pew surveys, for example the Global Attitudes Project, give different numbers. For example there the Jordan figure is 57% instead of the 29% figure, which comes from a 2006 survey. I don't know if this a sampling problem, but it's hard to believe that attitudes in Jordan would change that much in one year.

Pew (a left/liberal organization) tries to spin these numbers, but even 8% is a large really large fraction to hold such an extreme view. Moreover these are the people willing admit to holding such a position. No doubt the true figure is much larger.
10.11.2007 5:22pm
neurodoc:
abb3w: "Never argue with a pedant over nomenclature. It wastes your time and annoys the pedant." Miles Vorkosigan, in Lois McMaster Bujold's Memory
Thanks. Couldn't be more on point.
10.12.2007 12:13am
TokyoTom (mail):
Islamic "fundamentalist" would be more accurate than "Islamofascist", but it is unsatisfying - not only because it doesn't serve up as much of an emotional punch to be wielded by those who prefer the thrill of waging battles subsidized by perpetual access to the American pocketbook (as opposed to the boredom of strict attention to limited and transparent government, protection of civil rights and limits to rent-seeking), but because it also points a finger at those of other faiths who gird their loins for battle against Islamicists with the self-assurance that, after all, that God is on THEIR side.
10.12.2007 1:07am
TokyoTom (mail):
Eugene, I just ran across a humorous reaction to your recent WSJ op-ed on the importance of Presidential candidates showing symbolically that they REALLY love America by wearing flag pins. I didn't see a cross-link to that op-ed elsewhere on your blog, so take the liberty of posting the reaction here.
10.12.2007 1:41am
Harry Eagar (mail):
I don't think Islamofascism is needed since Islam says all that needs saying. However, if you are going to link the two, then it is antihistorical to derive 21st c. Islamic practice from 20th c. European practice.

21st c. Islamic practice is a direct continuation of 14 unbroken centuries of aggressive intolerance.

If there was any influence, it went the other way. In fact, there was a little. Hitler knew a little (very little) about Islam and admired its ruthlessness. But I don't think that qualifies Naziism as an offshoot of political Islam.
10.12.2007 2:53am
Aleks:
Re: They generally support in the long term the restoration of the Caliphate as a global empire.

I'm not sure that they support a "global" empire, but certainly they desire a pan-Islamic Caliphate, embracing all Muslim lands.

Re: 21st c. Islamic practice is a direct continuation of 14 unbroken centuries of aggressive intolerance.

Nonsense. Islam was expansivist (militarily) in just two eras: the 7th-8th centuries (the expansion of the original Caliphate across lands badly depopulated by a series of natural disasters) and the 15th-17th centuries (the era of the Islamic empires: the Ottoman, Persian, Moroccan and Moghul). In other eras Islam was either (mainly) quiescent, or in a state of decay. Obviously this was true during the 18th, 19th and part of the 20th century when European powers ended up controlling much of the Middle East and Central Asia. Moreover if you consider actual results, Europe/Christendom was far more aggressive ancd expansivist than Islam. Which religion is more widespread and which languages are spoken by more people in the world today-- it isn't Islam or Arabic.
10.12.2007 3:27pm
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
The perfect term is Caliphascism

The same person who first (AFAIK) used that term also invented the perfect word for suicide-bomber: splodeydope.

Aleks:

Islam is every bit as militantly expansionist as it can manage to be. It is a reach vs. grasp kind of thing.
10.14.2007 7:40pm