By Nick Li
Apparently last week I was too busy celebrating National Pizza Month, Mother-in-Law Day, United Nations Day, and of course Horseless Carriage day (see picture) to notice that it was Islamo-fascism awareness week. The official web-site declares:
During the week of October 22-26, 2007, the nation will be rocked by the biggest conservative campus protest ever – Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a wake-up call for Americans on 200 university and college campuses. The purpose of this protest is as simple as it is crucial: to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat. Nothing could be more politically incorrect than to point this out. But nothing could be more important for American students to hear. In the face of the greatest danger Americans have ever confronted, the academic left has mobilized to create sympathy for the enemy and to fight anyone who rallies Americans to defend themselves. According to the academic left, anyone who links Islamic radicalism to the war on terror is an "Islamophobe." According to the academic left, the Islamo-fascists hate us not because we are tolerant and free, but because we are "oppressors." Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is a national effort to oppose these lies and to rally American students to defend their country.
An interesting response is here. As for the relative threat posed by global warming or terrorism, I believe the former is a more serious threat to our civilization and way of life (and here I mean both democracy and our capitalist/consumption society) in the long-run, but I am at higher risk of death or injury from the latter (though still substantially below car accidents or death by accidental fire). But I doubt anyone of any political stripe can really prove it either way, so no statement about the relative threat of either can really be a lie or a fact – they are just beliefs. Since language can be so powerful, I decided to explore the origins and usage of the term. Wikipedia has an interesting article. Apparently the term is used to the following similarities between historical fascism and some (all?) practitioners of fundamentalist islam –
– rage against historical humiliation – inspiration from what is believed to be an earlier golden age (one or more of the first few Caliphates in the case of Islamism); – a desire to restore the perceived glory of this age — or "a fanatical determination to get on top of history after being underfoot for so many generations" — with an all-encompassing (totalitarian) social, political, economic system; – a belief that malicious, predatory alien forces (Jews in the case of Nazi Fascists or Islamofascists) are conspiring against and within the nation/community, and that violence is necessary to defeat and expel these forces; – exaltation of death and destruction along with a contempt for "art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence", and strong commitment to sexual repression and subordination of women; -offensive military, (or armed) campaign to reestablish the power and rightful international domination of the nation/community.
Do these criteria apply to fascism in the 20th century? Which groups or regimes should we classify as “islamo-fascist" – Al-Quaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqusa martyrs brigade, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Iraq under Saddam, Moqtada al-Sadr, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Sudan, muslim separatists in China, the Phillipines, or India? Is Islamism the same thing as Islamo-fascism? Is Arab-Nationalism (i.e. the Baathist party of Syria or Iraq, Fatah) a form of Islamo-fascism or is it something else (perhaps just fascists who happen to be muslims)? Is there a difference between Muslim fundamentalists and Islamo-fascists? Is there anything that we can call Christo-fascism or Judeo-fascism in the world or are the only groups and states practicing fascism in the Muslim world? I think these are all interesting issues raised by the campaign, and I hope and pray that the term "Islamo-fascism" becomes a starting point for a discussion of different movements and forces in the Muslim world and leads to greater exploration, rather than becoming another term that precludes further thought. One of the dangers of lumping Islam and Fascism together is the risk that this conceptual cross-fertilization makes it easy for people to say "Well, I know fascism is bad, so X group of muslims must also be bad and I don’t really need to think about it anymore" – calling people, regimes or groups "evil" often has the same effect. On oppression of women: Official discrimination against women is no doubt greater in many muslim states, especially some of the ones that are Western allies like Saudi Arabia (more so than Iran, Iraq, or Syria, which have been referred to as "islamo-fascists" at different points). Violence is notoriously hard to measure – international statistics make many Muslim countries look much better than Western countries and other developing countries but the statistics say as much about enforcement and reporting as they do about incidence. So any comparison of rates of violence against women is bound to be highly biased, and claims are probably informed more by prejudice than by any real data. Having said that, I hardly need to point out the problem is hardly unique to the Muslim world. The official statistics for the United States and many other non-Muslim conferences are horrific (see here and here ). I don’t want to be a "hate America" or "hate the West" first person – I just think we shouldn’t be too complacent about where we are and how far we have to go to live up to the ideals that we try to promote globally. And on that note, congratulations to Cristina Kirchner for becoming Argentina’s first elected female President. Notice how descriptions of her can’t escape little sexist comments like "Kirchner is noted for her wardrobe and shoe collection" or epithets like "fashionista" or "Imelda." Just like comments about Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe. – Nick