The use of the term “Islamo-fascism” to describe the doctrines and objectives of radical Islam has been attacked by media outlets, organizations, and individuals who believe that such language is actually an example of “Islamophobia.” In October 2007, for instance, The Nation magazine quoted Barnard College religion professor Elizabeth Castelli calling “Islamo-fascism” a “made-up term” designed to “close off debate, impose a particular position and set of arguments, and invite the harassment of individuals who hold alternative positions.” That same month, a Daily Kos post stated: “Of course, while there may be Islamic radicals that promote theocracy, ‘Islamic Fascism’ is a misnomer. In fact, the only case I know of in the world right now where that [sic] a religious group can truly be claimed to be promoting fascism is the American religious right’s forming bedfellows with the corporate fascists if the corprotists [sic] will let them have their own far-right ‘Christian’ theocracy.”
“Islamo-fascism” made its first entry into the English language in September 1990, when the Scottish historian Malise Ruthven, writing in Britain’s Independent newspaper, described how traditional Arab dictatorships used religious appeals in order to maintain their iron grip on political power.
In 2007, the late Christopher Hitchens pointed out numerous parallels between Islamo-fascism and the brand of fascism that had been practiced by the likes of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis:
“Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. … 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 … 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.”
A basic tenet of German fascism was the notion of a master race and its superiority to all others. The Islamo-fascist variant of this is what Hitchens called the concept of “the ‘pure’ and the ‘exclusive’ over the unclean and the kufar or profane.”
The historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson buttresses Hitchens’ observations:
“‘Islamic fascism’ [is] the perfect nomenclature for the agenda of radical Islam, for a variety of historical and scholarly reasons…. First, the general idea of ‘fascism’—the creation of a centralized authoritarian state to enforce blanket obedience to a reactionary, all-encompassing ideology—fits well the aims of contemporary Islamism that openly demands implementation of sharia law and the return to a Pan-Islamic and theocratic caliphate. In addition, Islamists, as is true of all fascists, privilege their own particular creed of true believers by harkening back to a lost, pristine past, in which the devout were once uncorrupted by modernism…. Because fascism is born out of insecurity and the sense of failure, hatred for Jews is de rigueur. To read al Qaeda’s texts is to reenter the world of Mein Kampf…. Envy and false grievance, as in the past with Italian, German, or Japanese whining, are always imprinted deeply within the fascist mind…. Second, fascism thrives best in a once proud, recently humbled, but now ascendant, people. They are ripe to be deluded into thinking contemporary setbacks were caused by others and are soon to be erased through ever more zealotry.”
Moreover, Al-Qaeda’s demands that countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia be dissolved into one great revived caliphate is a goal that has points of resemblance with Hitler’s quest to create a “Greater Germany,” or with Mussolini’s fantasy of a revived Roman empire.
While not exactly similar, both Islamo-fascism and European fascism are totalitarian systems of thought that stress suicidal tactics and sacrificial ends; both would rather see the destruction of their own societies than any compromise with infidels or any dilution of their doctrinal orthodoxy.
This section of DiscoverTheNetworks takes the position that “Islamo-fascism” is both a valid term and a legitimate topic for intellectual discussion.
Islamic Fascism 101
By Victor Davis Hanson
September 25, 2006
Defending Islamofascism: It’s a Valid Term — Here’s Why
By Christopher Hitchens
October 22, 2007
It’s Fascism — And It’s Islamic
By Victor Davis Hanson
September 7, 2006
The “Islamo-Fascism” Debate
Symposium conducted by Jamie Glazov
February 8, 2008