The Meaning of Islamofascism
Islamofascism is a term more controversial than it should be. That’s a major part of the reason the University of Rhode Island College Republicans are attempting to make people aware of its meaning through their sponsorship of Islamofascism Awareness Week at URI.
URI Women’s Studies Professor Donna Hughes laid out some different options for describing the nexus of fundamentalist Islam and the willingness to use violence to achieve political goals in her Islamofascism Awareness Week lecture delivered last night (and posted immediately below).
Christopher Hitchens explained the commonalities between Islamofascism and the archetypal historical example of fascism, Nazism, in yesterday’s Slate Magazine…
Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. (“Death to the intellect! Long live death!” as Gen. Francisco Franco’s sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined “humiliations” and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual “deviance”—and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures.Stephen Schwartz has also explained why the ideology of modern Islamic terrorists is, in a precise academic sense, appropriately labeled as fascism. Writing in the Daily Standard last year, Schwartz said…
Fascism is distinguished from the broader category of extreme right-wing politics by its willingness to defy public civility and openly violate the law. As such it represents a radical departure from the tradition of ultra-conservatism. The latter aims to preserve established social relations, through enforcement of law and reinforcement of authority. But the fascist organizations of Mussolini and Hitler, in their conquests of power, showed no reluctance to rupture peace and repudiate parliamentary and other institutions; the fascists employed terror against both the existing political structure and society at large. It is a common misconception of political science to believe, in the manner of amateur Marxists, that Italian fascists and Nazis sought maintenance of order, to protect the ruling classes. Both Mussolini and Hitler agitated against “the system” governing their countries. Their willingness to resort to street violence, assassinations, and coups set the Italian and German fascists apart from ordinary defenders of ruling elites, which they sought to replace. This is an important point that should never be forgotten. Fascism is not merely a harsh dictatorship or oppression by privilege.Schwartz would disagree with Wednesday night’s URI speaker, Robert Spencer, on where the roots of Islamofascism lie. Spencer believes that Islamofascism is a direct and natural outgrowth of Islamic theology. Schwartz believes that Islamofascism is a modern totalitarian movement that takes on the trappings of Islam, when convenient, to gain a legitimacy and a respectability that openly fascist ideologies can never possess.
Islamofascism similarly pursues its aims through the willful, arbitrary, and gratuitous disruption of global society, either by terrorist conspiracies or by violation of peace between states. Al Qaeda has recourse to the former weapon; Hezbollah, in assaulting northern Israel, used the latter. These are not acts of protest, but calculated strategies for political advantage through undiluted violence. Hezbollah showed fascist methods both in its kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and in initiating that action without any consideration for the Lebanese government of which it was a member. Indeed, Lebanese democracy is a greater enemy of Hezbollah than Israel.
Fascism rested, from the economic perspective, on resentful middle classes, frustrated in their aspirations and anxious about loss of their position. The Italian middle class was insecure in its social status; the German middle class was completely devastated by the defeat of the country in the First World War. Both became irrational with rage at their economic difficulties; this passionate and uncontrolled fury was channeled and exploited by the acolytes of Mussolini and Hitler. Al Qaeda is based in sections of the Saudi, Pakistani, and Egyptian middle classes fearful, in the Saudi case, of losing their unstable hold on prosperity–in Pakistan and Egypt, they are angry at the many obstacles, in state and society, to their ambitions. The constituency of Hezbollah is similar: the growing Lebanese Shia middle class, which believes itself to be the victim of discrimination.
But they would both agree that Islamofascism is something real that people should not fear discussing.