The New Oxford American Dictionary defines "Islamofascism" as "controversial", which firstly implies that it does have one or two meanings. It goes on to say how the term arose, possibly in the 1990s, probably coined by journalists covering the emerging War on Terror in its 1990s mold. The post-2001 mold, or George W Bush initiative had rather predictable results. Reaction to being designated "terrorist" notably included violent reaction. Terror begat terror. The run-up to 9 / 11 needed a long list of "Islamic terror attacks" through the 1990s.
Post 2001 figureheads, and especially the figurehead of Osama bin Laden existed but in no way did this explain why the word "fascism" was welded on to the handle of "Islam", to make a blunt instrument for bludgeoning middle class minds in the West, East or anyplace else. Today, the bludgeoning has gone on so long, so hamfistedly, so chaotically that "Islamofascism" is better able to generate a yawn of boredom than a yelp of terror. As we know, in 2011 on the initiative of Barack Obama, the shadowy figurehead of bin Laden disappeared, and was semi-secretly buried at sea, we are told.
Europe's fascist movements of the twentieth century are themselves also shrouded in mystery. Everyone knows they existed, everybody heard about them - but nobody can describe them and say what they really meant. Historians can be accused of hairsplitting, but will identify one clear difference between European fascism, and Soviet totalitarianism (or "Stalinism"), and European, in fact German Nazism, by underlining the special reasons why Italy "tilted to fascism", under its one-only and one-time Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini.
The historian Renzo de Felice - whose analysis is now called outdated - argued that Italy was the only fascist-dominated European country in the 20th century, it was specific to Italy, it only marginally, at least at first, concerned the economy, it had Catholic religious undertones and overtones, its control of all elements of Italian society, arts, culture and thinking was far less than in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. And above all it was a total failure. Only World War 2 and the alliance with Hitler's Germany extended Fascism's shelf life for a few years longer. Mussolini died naked, hung upside down, shot and stoned to death in a grisly double public execution with his wife Clara Petracci, in April 1945.
COMPARING LIKE WITH LIKE?
Equating Islamism - after first defining "Islamism" and how it differs from Islam - with European fascism, that is Italian fascism of the 20th century, usually argues that both movements are or were based on a cult of murderous violence. This cult exalts death and destruction, despises life, excoriates thought, and goes on to hail the coming apocalypse - in other words it is apocalyptic nihilism. The problem, here, is that all the so-called "Religions of the Book" are apocalyptic. Being apocalyptic is nihilistic, at least when it concerns everyday middle class consumer lifetyles, want-its and want-not phobies - but the white middle class couched potatoes want religion, supposedly. How often are Judaism, Christianity and Islam called fascist doctrines?
Due to Islam being a very old doctrine, with its first internal split or schism dating back at least 1300 years, there is no problem saying it is "hostile to modernity", like Fascism was, supposedly. This easy jibe at Islam (and even Fascism) is however totally unmerited: both were intensely "modernist", with the jibe being restricted to saying "at least when it concerns weapons". The claims continue: both were or are obsessed with real and imagined humiliations, were or are thirsty for revenge against History, hark back to lost empires and lost glory, and were or are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia, anti-Freemason paranoia, or plain old non-religious, non-racist paranoia.
Islamist extremists like al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah and the Waffen SS (not Fascist but Nazi) can be and are easily compared. Mussolini's "irredarsi", the real military handle to early Italian fascism were returnee Italian soldiers from the 1914-18 war who fought in the Alps against Kaiser German forces, and are a lot harder to fit into the Mafia-type hit squad mold, but are quite easy to compare with Hamas and Hezbollah.
But as we and the New Oxford American Dictionary know, the origins of the term Islamofascism are uncertain. Some writers, like Albert Scardino claim it "seems to have appeared first in a Washington Times piece" by scholar Khalid Duran who used it to criticize hyper-traditionalist Islamic philosopher-clerics, in an article published in July 2001. Wikipedia says: "American author and Richard Nixon's speechwriter William Safire wrote that the term fulfills a need for a term to distinguish traditional Islam from terrorists.... the compound (word) defines those terrorists who profess a religious mission while embracing totalitarian methods and helps separate them from devout Muslims who want no part of terrorist means."
DEATH OF POLITICS-DEATH OF FASCISM
All Three Religions of the Book are exclusive of and competitive with each other. So-called "oecumenism" is a public relations exercize, or a simple lie. The word "totalitarian" means exactly the same exclusive thing, ideology-wise, making Islamo-totalitarianism a better fit for the supposed and real crimes of the world's Bearded Ones toting an AK47. Totalitarianism allows us to compare any religious-based putsch or pogrom, mass killing or war, either civil or international down through the ages, with Soviet and Nazi totalitarianism of the 20th century and find there is a good fit. However, mass media and post-2001 western politics simplified the exotic jungle of meanings in play with the easily-memorized shorter word "Islamofascism".
At latest, Italian fascism died in 1945. To the extent that Franco's Spain can be called "fascist' this lasted until 1975. Soviet totalitarianism could be argued to have lasted as long as 1989. The Chinese communist party could or might be called totalitarian, but anti-democratic would be a better fit. Possibly North Korea is the only remaining fascist-totalitarian state, but how do we categorize Wahabite Saudi Arabia and the supposedly shi'a fundamentalist Iran? Or Jewish Orthodox influenced Israel or any State with a large and powerful "ideological community" ?
For the self-defined, fuzzily defined "Western democracies" politics is the only allowable ideology. This is based on the winner getting 50% of votes cast + 1 vote in its most basic and supposedly virile form. Democracy defends and promotes more and more ideology-free, more and more convergent themes, often called "technocratic". In their present Mature Democracy format or straightjacket, the Western democracies have almost perfect convergence of the so-called "mainstream parties". These peddle what they call "middle class politics". Events such as Belgium's two-year "political stalemate" during the 2007-2011 crisis period, with no government at all, and the present day collapse and schism of France's parliamentary Opposition, the UMP, give all the proof needed that two-party, one-party and no-party politics are now the same thing in "mature democratic society". Democracy is only the sugar topping on the cake - under this topping its ideological component is ever closer to zero. It is identical with the one-party or no-party totalitarian State.
Islamic millenarianism like the wonder-working of Judaism and Christianity promises Heaven on Earth. For this to happen, the people have to believe. Those who dont, have to be punished. The real differences in the scope of the damage able to be done are historical and demographic. Christiano-fascism in Europe during the Middle Ages certainly killed millions and forced tens of millions to flee, in a world with a 10 times lower population than today, but for more than a century Christianofascism is a spent force. Judaic millenarianists and fascists, to be sure, are today equipped with atom bombs to defend Israel - or attack the world - but the demographic weight of Israel is almost zero. Islam is different through its huge population weight, around 30% of the world's present population, with at least one nuclear-armed State, Pakistan.
REBIRTH OF RELIGIOUS FASCISM?
The death of Western democratic-stye politics, the charade of "having a choice between two identical parties" is rapidly advancing, its fate is ever clearer. The latest example is France, where the collapse of the country's official parliamentary Opposition party, the UMP, only attracts the comment that "anyway, France already has more than enough political parties". All offering the same market-liberal thing or, when they don't, only offering minority bizarre themes that fail to amuse.
We can be sure the profiteers from "convergent democracy" and its ideological vacuum do not have the courage to move up to the Real Thing: the one-party totalitarian State with no electoral farces every few years. Events like France's UMP suffering a sudden and massive loss of credibility, stripping away the "democratic" tinsel of supposed "different parties with different policies" shows that the one-party totlitarian State is already there, soft-style at present.
The claim or argument that "Islamofascism" exists could be premonitory - not yet, but coming. Only when the late-stage tinsel democracy of the Western Mature Democracies collapses in on itself, as in France, will the scene be set for religious fascism to ooze back in, and fill the void. By a fabulous irony, in the Arab Muslim states, today, it is democracy mingled with Islamism that is overturning and chasing out the old-style totalitarian dictatorships that the West found so convenient to work with, for decades, when it was not the West that set up the dictatorships in the first place.
As we know, whenever poverty and injustice rises, as in the 1930s Great Depression, organized religion is there to profit from the misery. Moving into the political limelight, organized religion is already and always prepared to take Earthly Power. Islamofascism, in that respect, is in no way different from Christianofascism and Judeofascism. The only difference was that Islamofascism came late to the party, in a social and cultural mix, in the Arab world, where religion is losing power and western style democratic party politics is rising. This is not the case at all in the West, making religious totalitarian regimes a real possibility in the coming decades, in the West.
By Andrew McKillop
Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights
Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012
Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.
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