Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Madness of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week"

Protesting against "Islamo-Fascism"? How about chilling the f--- out instead?

The term "Islamo-Fascism" gained some currency even among left-of-center intellectuals in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Invoked to characterize the fundamentally anti-liberal and anti-democratic ideology of the al-Qaeda and its ilk, the term was also meant to force the radical left to acknowledge the ideological incompatibility between the visions of bin Laden et al. and the progressive ideas espoused by the former.

The question whether the ideologies of al-Qaeda and others qualify as "fascism" is legitimate though academic. Just as historians speak of "clerical fascism" in interwar Austria and Spain, and critics of such movements as KA"CH refer to its fascist techniques of mobilization, it should be acceptable to evaluate the fascist characteristics of today's violent Islamist movements. However, the frightening farce of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" being staged at Berkeley and other University of California campuses at this moment ought to convince us all to banish the specific term "Islamo-Fascism" from our political vocabularies.

There are some who will argue that the expression "Islamo-Fascism" describes only a particular ideology that, while basing its legitimacy on Islam, does not embody the religion as a whole. Those people should ask themselves honestly whether this is how such a term is understood when it enters our discourse. I think it is clear that this term maligns an entire religion and its adherents in a way that is hateful and violent - just as the expressions "Judeo-Fascism" and "Judeo-Bolshevism" do. Such terms do not aim to make subtle distinctions; they are fighting words that inevitably spill over into our conceptions of Muslims or Jews as a whole.

The organizers of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" claim that they want to "rally American students to defend their country." But do we really need to introduce more hatred and polarization into our public sphere in order to better defend the safety and liberty of American citizens?


Anonymous said...

We call it Islamo-fascism to separate that movement from actual Islam which is a religion of peace (so we are told at least).

Are you saying that the terrorists DO represent mainstream Islam?

Noah S. said...


I think you misread the post.


I agree with you that the term should be removed from public discourse on political Islam, if only because of the radicalizing effect it has on people who lack either the time or the desire to engage with the subject seriously. If "Islamo-fascism" is repeated enough -- and it has been -- the two individual parts of the phrase eventually develop an identity in the minds of the American public.

I would point out, though, that the use of this phrase differs in nature from "Judeo-fascism" or "Judeo-Boslshevism." While "Islamo-fascism" is meant (in theory, at least) to describe anti-democratic/authoritarian/militaristic political movements that draw their authority directly from religious dogma, the "Judeo-" varieties are normally mobilized to describe political movements which are composed either exclusively or disproportionately of Jews, regardless of their religious beliefs. In other words, the former is a religious, the latter an ethnic, signifier.

What they do have in common is the unfortunate conjoining suffix "o" which, when used in politics, often smacks of propaganda ("Islamo-", "Judeo-"), and when in academics, of pretension ("ethico-," "politico-"). I know you know what I'm talking about...

Anonymous said...

Islamo-Fascism is a perfect term for what we face. You remind me of the people in the Harry Potter books who feared uttering the name Voldemort.

Noah S. said...

A defense of the term by Chris Hitchens - purely for interest - not necessarily representative of the opinion of the link-provider: