More on the Term "Islamic Fascists"
by Daniel Pipes
Aug 14, 2006
updated Sep 24, 2006
George W. Bush had used "Islamic fascists" and "Islamofascists" often before but, for reasons that elude me, his statement on Aug. 10 turned this wording into a major issue, with dozens of articles, pro and con, debating the term. I myself weighed in today with an article titled "‘At War with Islamic Fascists'." Here are some of the discussions that struck me as particularly worthwhile, with additions as they appear:
- Charles Recknagel, "U.S. President's 'Islamic Fascists' Remark Sparks Controversy." August 11, 2006. A useful survey of reactions.
- Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, "بالتأكيد هم فاشيون" ("They Certainly Are Fascists"). August 13, 2006. The general manager of Al-‘Arabiya news channel, who has already proven his bravery, asks "What's wrong with describing terrorists with any negative term?"
- Timothy R. Furnish, "‘Islamic Fascism': Well, It's Half Right." August 14, 2006. Argues that this term "should be avoided because it's simply another way to let Islam off the hook."
- Janet Daley, "‘Fascistic' is the right word for Islamic fundamentalism." August 14, 2006. Argues that "Islamic fundamentalism is fascistic in the precise, technical sense of the word."
- Nihad Awad executive director of CAIR, on Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, on August 14, 2006, replying to the question, "why are all the terrorists Muslims?" "They are Muslim, but they're not Islamic. Their actions are not inspired by Islam." When asked whether the Taliban in Afghanistan were fascists, Awad replied, "They were fascists." "And they were practicing Sharia Muslim law," said Bill O'Reilly. Awad replied: "No. No. They - they deviated when they mistreated women, when they did not allow people to go to school."
- Stephen Schwartz, "What is ‘Islamofascism'?" August 16, 2006. The "first Westerner to use the neologism in this context" argues in favor of the term Islamic fascists.
- Roger Scruton, "Islamofascism." August 17, 2006. Finds utility in a term that "enables people on the left to denounce our common enemy."
- National Review Online symposium on "Word Choice: Are we at war with ‘Islamic Fascism'?" August 17, 2006. Eight writers muse on the term and generally endorse it but with many reservations, taking a position similar to my own.
- David Ignatius, "Are We Fighting ‘Islamic Fascists'?", August 18, 2006. Argues that "the phrase is misleading, both in its broad reference to Islam and in its evocation of another century and another war."
- Perhaps related to this flap is an August 21, 2006, story, "Bush Desires Deletion of Quran Jihad Verses, says ayatollah Hamedani," from the Iranian Quran News Agency (IQNA) reporting that "Bush has impertinently asked Saudi Arabian authorities to delete – or not to teach – those Quranic verses that refer to jihad, disobeying the infidel, encouragement to do good and discouragement to do evil."
- P.K. Abdul Ghafour, "Shoura Chief Wants Bush Apology." August 21, 2006. A Saudi newspaper notes a Saudi cabinet statement that "Fascism is a product of Western culture" and paraphrases the Shoura Council chief saying that it is "the growing popularity of Islam that had provoked enemies to launch smear campaigns" against it.
- Tamar Tesler, "Fuel for Radicalism?" August 22, 2006. Notes the comment by the head of a Saudi-based organization, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, to the effect that Bush's comments makes its task fighting extremism more "difficult," then shows how extremist WAMY itself is.
- Katha Pollitt, "The Trouble with Bush's ‘Islamofascism'." August 26, 2006. Nation columnist wants to preserve fascism "as a term with specific historical content" and condemns Bush for having enraged "to no purpose the dwindling number of Muslims who don't already hate us."
- Trudy Rubin, "‘Islamo-fascism': A blurring label." August 27, 2006. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist finds that the term "obscures the complex nature of the struggle Americans will face over the next decade. It misleads more than it informs."
- Ibn Warraq, "Islam, Middle East and Fascism" (along with part two). August 30, 2006. Reviews 14 features of facism as enumerated by Umberto Eco and ties Islam (not radical Islam) to each of them.
- Omran Salman, "Misguided Muslim groups: Focus should be on extremists' war against the West." August 31, 2006. Salman quotes the open letter of CAIR's chairman, Parvez Ahmed, to President Bush ("You have on many occasions said Islam is a ‘religion of peace.' Today you equated the religion of peace with the ugliness of fascism") and then asks: "But what would Ahmed suggest calling people who intend to blow themselves up in commercial airplanes, taking thousands of innocent lives with them? Flying angels? Kamikazes?"
- Two Democratic senators weighed in on the term, August 31, 2006. Jack Reed (Rhode Island): "I don't think it's particularly accurate. … I think the analogy is very, very weak. … It's meant, I think, more for political consumption in the United States than to adequately describe what's going on in the world." Chuck Schumer (New York): I basically agree with Jack."
- Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, an Islamist group, September 1, 2006. Disapproving of "Islamic fascism," she suggests instead such words as terrorism, crime, or violence – notably without the word Islamic.
- Patrick J. Buchanan, "Fascists Under the Bed." September 11, 2006. Argues against the term on the grounds that it is a propaganda term "designed to inflame passions rather than inform the public of the nature of the war we are in."
- Russ Feingold, a third Democratic U.S. senator, has aired his views. He said, in prepared remarks for the Arab American Institute's 2006 Leadership Conference, September 12, 2006, that as Americans protect their nation, "we must make it absolutely clear that we are fighting terrorists - not the religion those terrorists claim to represent. We must avoid using misleading and offensive terms that link Islam with those who subvert this great religion or who distort its teachings to justify terrorist activities. I call on the President to stop using the phrase "Islamic Fascists", a label that doesn't make any sense, and certainly doesn't help our effort to fight terrorism. Fascist ideology doesn't have anything to do with the way global terrorist networks think or operate."
- Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations found in the term a way pre-emptively to excuse future terrorism, September 14, 2006: "In the Muslim world you're going to have a difficult time having the mainstream community marginalize extremists when they feel that their faith and their culture is under attack. And phrases like ‘Islamic fascist' make people feel like the entire faith of Islam is under attack."
- Martin Kramer points out, September 20, 2006, that two major figures of Middle East studies, Manfred Halpern and Maxime Rodinson, both of whom had first-hand experience with fascism, compared Islamism with fascism.
- Referring to "Islamic fascists," Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times on September 24, 2006, that "it seems unlikely Mr. Bush will use [the term] again, given the outcry it provoked."
- Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Republican of Michigan) said (according to CAIR) that "The crushing weight of putting Iraq back into the terrorist and the jihadist-fascist camp will have enormous ramifications." CAIR's Michigan director, Dawud Walid, excoriated him for this terminology: "Representative McCotter should use his time on the House floor to foster dialogue and mutual understanding, not to introduce hot-button terms that will further damage our nation's image in the Islamic world." The implication would seem to be that the anti "Islamo-fascist" forces have won. (September 26, 2006)
Related Topics: Radical Islam, US policy
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