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Islamo-Fascism I: What Bush said, and why it is objectionable


US President Bush's remarks about "Islamo-Fascism" and "Islamic Fascism" created quite a stir. As usual, most of the commentary has added to the confusion, intentionally or out of ignorance. The storm refuses to go way, so we better tackle it. I will do so in a series of articles.

To set the record straight, what Bush said originally about the subject of Islamo-fascism was:

"Islamic terrorist attacks serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane. Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom."
(George W Bush, President of the United States speaking before the National Endowment for Democracy, October 6, 2005 )

Subsequently, on August 10, 2006, Bush said, speaking of the arrest of the airline plotters:

The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.

Bush did not invent the term Islamo-fascism, which is variously attributed to Christopher Hitchens and others. The first comment, which clearly separated Islam from Islamist terrorist extremists, drew fire from anti-Islam extremists, who insist that all of Islam is the enemy of humanity. Others, however, insisted that Bush was identifying Islam with fascism, despite his clear denial. This stand was reinforced by the second comment, which really appeared to some to brand all of Islam as "Fascist." It was hailed by bigots of the right who misunderstood it that way, with Bush (Finally) Names the Enemy" and At Last! Bush Calls a Spade a Spade!.

By now it is treated as established fact in much of the Middle East that President Bush said that Islam is fascist, but it isn't so.

In Al-Jazeera, Laith Saud wrote recently:

George Bush, the president of the United States, continually links Islam with fascism...

Of course Bush did not do anything of the kind. What doesn't Saud understand about "Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam."?

"Islamic Fascism" does not imply that all Muslims are fascists, any more than "Jewish Philosophy" implies that all Jews are philosophers or "Christian Democrats" could be understood to mean that all Christians are Democrats.

At list one Muslim understood this very well. In Asharq al Awsat of August 14, 2006, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed wrote:

When US President George W. Bush described those who plotted to kill thousands of passengers in ten airliners as Muslim fascists, protests from a number of Islamic societies in the west and the east were voiced against this description.

What is wrong with using a bad adjective to describe a terrorist as long as he is willing to personally call himself an Islamist; declares his stance, schemes, and aims; while his supporters publicly call for killing of those whom they consider infidels, or disagree with them religiously or politically.

The strange thing is that the protesting groups, which held a press conference, would better have held it to denounce the deeds of those affiliated to Islam, who harmed all Muslims and Islam.

Bush did not say that the Muslims were fascists; he said that the Muslim fascists were the problem, i.e. he distinguished between an extremist group and the general innocent peaceful Muslims. Yes, fascism is a word that has bad connotations, and is used here to approximate the meaning to the listeners...."

Nonetheless, the "Islamo-fascist" and "Islamic Fascists" terms seem to have been dropped. A New York Times op-ed and others had a go at attacking the Islamo-Fascism or Islamic Fascism concept. mostly on the basis that it was just "spin" that didn't work To an extent it was spin, but then so are most things. At the time that the "democracies" were fighting actual Fascists, black people were still getting lynched in the southern USA, and one of the "democracies" was Stalinist Russia. So that was "spin" too. When Woodrow Wilson was fighting a war to "make the world safe for democracy," women could not vote in most of the USA, Britain or France.

In fact "Fascism" was coined as a spin term. As Mussolini revealed in a footnote to his article, The Doctrine of Fascism, he coined the term first, and then looked for an ideology:

If Fascism does not wish to die or, worse still, commit suicide, it must now provide itself with a doctrine.... I do wish that during the two months which are still to elapse before our National Assembly meets, the philosophy of Fascism could be created.

What seems to annoy some western critics about the use of the term "fascism" in conjunction with Islamism, is that it makes the nature of Islamism all too clear. Certain so called "progressives" and "liberals" who are apologists for the Iranian regime, the Hezbulla, Osama Bin Laden or the Hamas, would rather not be reminded that these are reactionary, repressive movements that hang homosexuals, stone female adulterers and object to religious tolerance and liberal conceptions of the family and the state. The quandary of such progressives is illustrated by Brian Whitaker, who finds himself legitimizing the notion that ending the Israeli occupation will somehow help the status of Palestinian homosexuals.

The principle valid objection to the use of "Islamofascism" or "Islamic Fascism" as a political slogan is that some Muslims object to it. Bush wears two hats. As a politician, he has to win the hearts and minds of American voters. However, as a statesman, he must win the hearts and minds of Muslims, and should not be using terminology that they find objectionable.

In historical and political analysis, we should generally shy away from use of slogans, as these usually prevent thought and tend to label the person who uses them as belonging to a particular political sect and presenting a political opinion rather than considered analysis. "Islamofascism" has generally been a term of right-wing writers unsympathetic to Islam - "neocon" "islamophobes." Of course, the same people who object so vigorously to the term "Islamofascism" often have no problem with slogans like "American imperialism," "Zionism is racism" or "Israeli apartheid state." Different phrases for different fanatics. The question is, to what extent the term "Islamofascism" actually tells us something about the nature of Islamism. That will be explored in subsequent articles.

Articles in this series:

Islamo-Fascism II: What some experts say

Islamo-Fascism III: How to Measure Fascism

Islamo-Fascism IV: The Twentieth Century dictatorships and Islamism

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000521.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 5 comments

Very nice Ami, seems your articles have been more objective lately. Sounds almost like a transcript for a documentary. If you pitch it right, you may even get someone to fund it.

Posted by OMFG @ 10/06/2006 11:17 PM CST

Ami, Islamic Fascism is an oxymoron. If islam is a religion of peace, than Bush should not use the word islam to describe the terrorists. That is his mistake. Now wether he is doing that on purpose or not is up to him. If I were president, I would have labelled the terrorists as just that, animals, and killers and murderers. I would not have even mentioned the word Islam. That is like saying an "evil christian". There is no such thing. If a person becomes evil then they are not christian anymore. My opinion, I think Bush is racist, and that is why he links Islam with terrorism. There is no link. IF there is a link between the mass religions, it is not terrorism, but it is stupidity, hypocrites, lies, and IGNORANCE. True religion does not promote bad behaviour, therefore one cannot say, AS BUSH SAYS, "Islamic terrorist attacks serve a clear and focused ideology." AGAIN, THE WORD "ISLAMIC" AND THE WORD "TERRORIST" DO NOT FIT TOGETHER.

Posted by john @ 10/09/2006 04:41 PM CST

John, I think in this instance Ami (and Bush) are right and you are wrong.

"Islamic Fascism" is not an oxymoron any more than the term "Christian Fascism" would be to describe Franco or more recent Falangists, or "Hindu Fascism" to describe Shiv Sena in India. If we are talking about a totalitarian regime or system of thought which uses religion as a key element then yoking the two terms together is valid.

It's irrelevant whether the behaviour of the fascists is incompatible with what moderates see as the core values of the religion. As Abdul Rahman al-Rashed says, it's the Islamists who've chosen to associate totalitarianism with Islam, not their critics.

Posted by Spike @ 11/08/2006 03:24 PM CST

Spike, oxymoron works when one fully understands that religion is supposed to be about peace and love and about supposidely doing what god wants. So it is an oxymoron when idiot of any religion claim they are following their religion. They might know it is an oxymoron because they are simply too stupid and dishonest to reflect on their actions. So yes it is an oxymoron to say anything related to terrorism with any form of "TRUE" religion. Bush was not intelligent enough to make the distinction. He should have just said terrorists, killers, murderers, animals, anything, but not say or even mutter religion.

Posted by john @ 11/10/2006 05:34 PM CST

Gee, maybe it's the tendency of these murdering Islamists to declare their admiration for Haj Amin al Husseini, or the popularity in paperback of Mein Kampf in the Arab world. That would tend to make ME call them fascists. Go figure. Call me intolerant for that.

Heaven forbid we should actually LISTEN, or READ what they say on THEIR websites. That might prevent us from actually responding to what, for them, is unlimited warfare, and to US, is another "Police Action".

Arab Islamic Jihadists RELY on the fact WESTERN nuevo intellectuals think so weakly. Their declaration of Jihad after the Cole Bombing went unreported for weeks, simply because the west gave them no credibility.

Here is what I predict. We will grow tired of anything past a TV sitcom timeframe, and leave IRAQ. After turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was, they will launch attacks on the US, as they did before, for the same reasons as before. The american free press will be shocked, as they were before.

Gee, there was a tough prediction.

Posted by Tony @ 12/28/2006 04:48 PM CST

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