Saturday, September 16, 2006

There's no such thing as Islamo-fascism!

Since George Bush adopted the term “Islamo-fascism,” every else started using the term without examining its meaning. In truth there is really no such thing as Islamo-fascism and using it doesn’t serve any purpose in the so-called war on terror both in theoretical and practical sense.

Was Saddam Hussein “Islamo-fascist”? No. Saddam was despotic but not Islamic. His party was totally secular. Does fascism applies to him? No. His “nationalism” was probably just a pretext. Totalitarian control over Iraq’s political, social, cultural, and economic seems to be there, a major variable in fascism. The cult of personality is also present. But did Saddam glorified the race, state, and the nation and encourage mysticism the way Hitler of Mussolini did? These variables are not clear. Iraq under Saddam doesn’t seem to posses the Sorelian syndicalism that is, theory, should be part of the true characteristic of fascism.

Is Iran Islamo-fascist? I don’t think so. The syndicalist character is not present. Iran is no industrial society and its leaders do not pretend to lead a working class movement seeking to transform capitalism into an economic force for some millenarian future. For all its authoritarian tendencies, rulers like the Ayatollahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad do not seem to have complete control over all aspects of political life in Iran. It’s not a one party state. In fact, there are elections in Iran and there are several political parties, contrary to true nature of fascism. It’s probably an ersatz democracy; but it’s not totally totalitarian.

The Taliban regime was definitely ruthless and attempted to impose control over all aspects of Afghan society. But was Taliban “Islamic”? Some Muslim moderates say the Taliban’s actions and its excesses may not be Islamic. But granting that it is, was it fascist in the real sense? Definitely not because Taliban does not glorify the race; Islam in fact preaches the umma or the universal community of believers. For Muslims, their community and sense of brotherhood transcend beyond races and class. It is in the same sense that Al Qaeda could never be classified Islamo-fascist.

In short, countries like Iran, Iraq under Saddam, and Afghanistan under the Taliban as well as groups like Al Qaeda are not Islamo-fascists. Some of them are probably Islamic but not fascists. But all of them are probably just authoritarians and plain despotic in the same manner that other countries and groups claiming different religions are. The term itself does not exist except in the minds of some wise-asses in Washington DC.

Bush advisers may have thought that using Islamo-fascism to categorize the enemy of the West coming from Islamic countries would score propaganda value. On the contrary, attaching Islam to any label would simply create a backlash in the Muslim world. It may just convince the moderates in the Muslim world that the West is really after Islam and not just against the terrorists. Terrorists belong to various sects (Sunni, Shiite) and are not monolithic; putting them under one “Islamic label” would force them instead to unite forces against the “free world.”

Solution? Why not just call the terrorists terrorists? That’s what they really are. In theory and practice, terrorism refers to the strategy of using terror as a means to undermine people’s trust and confidence in the established order. Terrorist is a better term because that way you take away the religious and cultural undertones. And it could be applied to anybody who bombs trains, plains, buildings and shopping malls regardless of ideology, religion and creed.

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