Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Islamist and fascists

What is to be made of the phrase "Islamic fascists"?  Is anyone who uses it to be labelled "neo-conservative" and thus dismissed?  One neo-conservative, Daniel Pipes,  dislikes the use of the word fascist in the context of Islam:  'Few historic or philosophic connections exist between fascism and radical Islam. [..] Radical Islam has many more ties, both historic and philosophic, to Marxism-Leninism.'  ( article  via yankeewombat)

Fred Halliday,  on the other hand,  points out that 'long before [Islamic militants] were attacking “imperialism”, they were attacking and killing the left,' but he concludes:  'The habit of categorising radical Islamist groups and their ideology as “fascist” is unnecessary as well as careless, since the many differences with that European model make the comparison redundant'.  ( The Left and Jihad, via Jeff Weintraub)
Rageh Omaar,  writing about reaction to the uncovering of an alleged bomb plot in Britain on 10 August:
Several hours later I heard words on the radio, again out of the blue, that shocked me. [..]  [President George W Bush] spoke of Britain and the US fighting a "war against Islamic fascists". I'd only ever read that phrase used by a small and predictable list of columnists who share an unyielding belief that it is impossible to be western and Muslim. But outside this absolutist-minded circle of neoconservatives and left-wing intellectuals, I had never heard it spoken by a prominent western politician. I am no longer sure if Bush's successor, Democrat or Republican, would use different rhetoric about Muslims. What is Bush's point? Does he believe that it is Islam which is fascist, and not simply the individuals who wanted to blow up thousands of people, including fellow Muslims? ('Fascism in a soundbite', New Statesman, 21 August 2006)
Surely the second possibility is intended - that it is some individuals who are fascist,  not all Muslims. The phrase does not mean that 'it is impossible to be western and Muslim'.  But easier to repeat this canard than to explain why al Qaeda and the Taliban have absolutely nothing in common with fascists. Pipes gives some more examples of this canard.

The expression "Islamofascists",  on the other hand,  is to be deprecated, since it is open to misinterpretation.

Olivier Roy, interviewed on France Inter, argues that the term "Islamic fascists" is pointless,  since it does not lead to action  (ne permet pas de déboucher sur une politique concrète, sur de l’actionInter - activ, 11.9.2006;  the remarks are 17min 50 into the interview).  I find this argument bizarre:  the idea of fighting against fascism might lead us to have the will to continue supporting the elected governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I should make one thing absolutely clear:  I am not in favour of a ban on groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir.  If there is one thing on which Euston Group bloggers  (and others,  like Dstfw)  have a "party line",  it is this.  Michael Gove,  a British Conservative neo-conservative,  though thinks that Tony Blair should honour his promise to proscribe them,  made after the July 2005 bombings  (cf. Channel 4’s 'Who Speaks For Muslims?' on 7 July 2006 or this rather large report from a Conservative  thinktank (p28) - this is one of many things I would have written about earlier,  had not "events" intervened).

But their arguments should be firmly opposed:  a good example of this from The Pedant-General in Ordinary.  I was going to say that this is not always the case in the "mainstream media",  but the Islamists sometimes go so far in absurdity that a reaction reaches even the letters page of The Times.

Note: Since Fred Halliday mentioned the Spanish civil war,  there are some quite striking parallels, as I noted before.  Beevor, in his 2006 book,  recounts one contrapuntal  incident:  'Detachments [of troops taking part in the coup] attacked en route made barricades to defend themselves,  but these were charged by heavy lorries driven in suicidal assaults.' (p68) The tactic was,  of course,  being used by "our" side.  But it is important to distinguish tactics from ideology.  Incidentally, I finished reading the book a week or so ago, and hope to return to the topic in due course.

Update:  Stephen Twigg,  Labour MP and former minister said 'actually I think the fascist phrase with regard to al-Qaeda is an appropriate phrase.'  (Any Questions? 11 August 2006) Whether he counts as 'a prominent western politician',  I don't know.


Anonymous Alex said...

Fascits rejected the enlightment and belived in the romance of war and death. So do the terroist chaps, seems like a good name for them to me!

4:52 pm, September 19, 2006  
Blogger evision said...


6:03 am, March 24, 2010  

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