Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The Madness of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week"
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?