ISLAMISTS VS. "ISLAMOFASCISTS"
A desultory debate on the extent of totalitarianism within Islamism has reemerged in the blogosphere due to President Bush saying " Islamic Fascist
" in reference to Islamist terrorist groups. There's a lot of objections to that term
on pragmatic as well as technical
grounds ( some Islamists are quietists, others accept democracy, some are "moderate" authoritarians, some are takfiri extremists with scores to settle against "apostate" Muslims) or the utility of the analogy.
Twentieth century totalitarianism in its Marxist, Nazi and Fascist manifestations have some commonalities with radical Islamism, notably opposition to liberal democracy, as well as important fundamental differences, radical atheism being a noteworthy example. Juan Cole's
assertion that Fascism is incompatible with Islamism because Islamists reject the nation-state ignores the fact that Nazis emphasized not the state ( that was Mussolini's version) but the "Aryan race". Hitler himself was emphatic on that point, that the German state was an inconsequential thing before the wellbeing of the German" racial community". "Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Fuhrer" puts the state at the bottom of the pyramid.
Quite frankly, the most radical Nazis looked forward to a postwar, de-Christianized, Judenfrei, European racialist superstate that incorporated all "teutonic" nationalities under Nazi dominion. State, race, religion - fascism is a collectivistic and exclusivist creed and religion is probably at least as durable an emotive basis for Fascism as nationalism or racism. While some radical Islamists have been " eucumenical" in their desire to build a united, Islamist, Ummah others like the psychopathic Zarqawi took a violently takfiri and exclusionary approach to Caliphate-building.
Nevertheless, "Islamic Fascism" as a term has a number of problems given the diverse, at times inchoate and dynamic nature of radical Islamist movements. At HNN
, Dr. Tim Furnish
, a stern critic of radical Islamists, found " Islamic Fasicism ", for his own reasons, as objectionable as did Juan Cole
:"Does this paradigm fit with the ideology of Islamic terrorists? That ideology has four major aspects: 1) a starting point of victim-hood, especially vis-à-vis the West and Christianity; 2) an intermediate goal of re-pietizing Islamic society via imposition of “true” shari`ah (Islamic law); 3) a long-term goal of re-creating the early Islamic ummah (community) under a new caliphate, which would eventually encompass the entire planet; and 4) the preferred methodology to achieve these goals of jihad. Put up against the characteristics of fascism, Islamic-based fundamentalist ideology seems obviously to share the emphasis on the group (the ummah) and a clear sense of being victimized. Also, since a caliphate, historically, has been essentially an Islamic monarchy, the dictatorial aspect should be included as common; likewise for repression of opposition, since pre-modern Islamic regimes (and, indeed, most modern ones) have not been known for their political tolerance. The other three elements of fascism—extreme nationalism or ideas of racial superiority, socioeconomic regimentation and extreme militarization—really are not prominent themes in Islamic political thought and praxis, today or in the past. So, definitionally, while “Islamic fascism” at first glance appears appropriate, upon more careful consideration its descriptive value is nominal at best.
A second point is that the term reinforces the questionable tendency of us in the West, and especially in the U.S., to see every new global threat as a reprise of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Perhaps this is because World War II was the last war that all Americans agreed was truly legitimate, for every war since then—Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq both times (albeit much less so the first time)—has had its critics. Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be more useful to the conduct of, and debate about, the undeniable global problem of Islamic-based terrorism if we analyzed the issue on its own terms? The differences between Nazi Fascism and Islamic-based terrorism are myriad, starting with the fact that the former was a state ideology and the latter is not (at least not yet). And whatever one wishes to say about Usama bin Ladin and his ilk, they are not devotees of racial purity. Religious purity, to be sure—but that calls for a different response. "
In an intellectual parallel, there is a fashionable tendency to call every modern ( or historical) mass atrocity "genocide". An ahistorical error which cheapens the value of the term for the actual victims of genocide and obscures what was unique about such horrors like American Slavery or China's Cultural Revolution; rendering elusive the very characteristics that makes these terrible events worth examining in their own right.
Perhaps, we ought to accept that the crimes of Islamist terrorism and the delusions of Jihadi ideology are distinctive enough to stand on their own merits and not try to paint them over with swastikas or hammers and sickles.