>Fascism and "Islamo-Fascism". A Clarification.


The Minaret of Freedom Institute has prepared a “background briefing” on both Islam and Fascism, to help prepare students, or anyone else interested, to counter the claims by Neo-Conservatives forthcoming in their imminent “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”. From October 22-26 luminaries such as David Horowitz, Rick Santorum and politically-correct-politically-incorrect Ayan Hirsi Ali will speak at a variety of prominent universities.

Though Horowitz is unabashedly on the right (having broken with the left some years back), Ali’s conservatism is somewhat contested, as she’s a fierce atheist and feminist Social Democrat. What’s notable is that the neologism “Islamo-Fascism” is a term arguably coined, or at least early on propagated, by the ex-Trotskyist, current coercive humanist and uber-secularist Christopher Hitchens…and the neo-cons bought it hook, line and s(t)inker.

Here is an excerpt from the MI briefing:
For all Muslims, ranging from mainstream to extremists, the objective of one’s life is to worship God (Qur’an 51:56). For extreme militants, indiscriminate violence accompanied by vague
references to establishing an Islamic state is a moral means of resisting foreign
occupation and of rebellion against oppressive regimes. Injustice? Yes. Fascism? Hardly.
Any terrorist who worships the state instead of God, as fascists do by definition, ceases to
fit the definition of a Muslim, one for whom there is no god but God (the Creator of the
Universe, the God of Abraham, peace be upon him).

I agree with the author that illiberal Islamic militants/terrorists are not fascist. Fascism is a much abused word, and its liberal dispensation can be partly traced to the Communist use of the term in the first half of the twentieth century, when any organization not explicitly Communist (including the left and libertarian “isolationists” of the 1930s) was more or less defined as “Fascist” – a reactionary ideological deviation. Fortunately it’s easy to know just who was fascist by looking at those who invented the label and applied it to themselves: the Fascists of Italy, under the intellectual direction of Giovanni Gentile and Benito Mussolini. With this understood, we can see that the Nazis were not in fact fascist, but Nazi, or more specifically National Socialist German Workers. Likewise, Al Qaeda is not fascist, but a militant Sunni Salafist clandestine organization.

I’ll grant that in a sense I’m simply wrong to deny the label “fascist” to illiberal religious and nationalist organizations. One thing that certainly distinguished Fascism from Communism or other relatively “rational” and “scientific” doctrines is its celebration of superstition, holism, cultural symbolism (sometimes racism) and intuition. Fascism, then, as a label used to tag groups that fit some or all of the above criteria, could be shown to be applicable to a wide variety of groups, no matter how disparate and otherwise unrelated. Indeed, everyone from radical environmentalists, to advocates for the self-determination of Siberian peoples, to zealous believers in Intelligent Design are fascist when the term is upheld solely via the thin thread of its metaphysical presuppositions.

Unfortunately the MI briefing leaves itself wide open to criticism by overstepping the proper bounds of label-making in its use of the term Fascist to describe, for example, the Phalangist Party of Lebanon. It’s motto is “God, Nation and Family”. But this kind of rhetoric is often employed by anti-colonialist, revolutionary parties such as the FLN in Algeria, which are scarcely described as “fascist”, at least no more than the Universal Negro Improvement Association, whose founder, Marcus Garvey, actually described himself and his organization as fascist (Gregor, 2006).

The MI briefing, by allowing a group (including the neo-cons, it claims) to be called “fascist” when it in fact is not the official Fascist party, but rather shares its characteristics, actually undermines its attempt to spare the “f” word designation for Islamic militants. After all, is not Bin Laden a mystical, holistic theocrat? Though it does make clear, through citation of Mussolini himself, that Fascism was a state-centric concept; in this way, the parties it instead declares fascist (neo-cons, Phalangists), or at least fascistic, would indeed more easily lend themselves to such a description.

The fact of the matter is that the generous use of the word “fascist” has been used, ever since the second world war, to smear a person or group one doesn’t like in an effort to rally observers to their side. After all, World War 2 was the “Good War“, and Fascists (the axis) were those that Americans fought and died to vanquish. To dub someone a Fascist is the ultimate declaration of assignment of an enemy status. What’s interesting, given the original Communist use of the term as a smear, is that today’s most prominent “far right” conservatives are some of the most ludicrous abusers of the word.


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