Monday, August 14, 2006

Islamofascist, Pt II

Clarity and confusion. So much for framing my perspective.

I should have known better than to ask an academic.

Actually, it was very enlightening and led to a discussion of fascism ranging from its birth in the cauldron of late 19th century industrialism to South Africa's aparthied system.

The key information that I discovered is that fascism requires a strong sense of identity. The first impulse would be to associate this with nationalism such as Mussolini's state. But it can also mean an identity that goes beyond borders such as Hitler's Germany which associated identity with Germanness whether those Germans resided in Bonn or Czechoslovakia.

The issue can become confusing because also in many cases the identity is defined by what it is not. It is a barbarian's at the gate philosophy. The state must protect its inherent identity by rejecting all those that do not belong. At its most radical, this form of the fascist state led to the madness of the Holocaust.

So what about Hizbollah, the Sunni insurgency, Iran and all the other bad guys we have chosen to lump into the term "Islamofascist"? Without a doubt it's a brilliant political ploy. President Bush has successfully related our current struggle to the last known "noble" cause, WWII. He has also given a face to an amorphous enemy. Every time you hear that term, you will instantly think of the insane evil of Nazi Germany.

But is it accurate? In a general sense, you could certainly argue that adherents of radical Islam have an identity. All wish to follow some flavor of the most oppressive elements of the religion. All see the West, Israel and the U.S., as a version of the barbarians at the gate.

Yet, once you begin to look at the individual groups it begins to fall apart. There are Sunnis, Shia and Wahabist. Some have the goal of destroying Israel. Some have the goal of destroying the U.S. Some have the goal of becoming a regional super power. Their causes are as varied as the grains of sand in the desert.

When I asked my friend for a brief definition of fascism, he laughed and joked that entire books are written on the subject. So, I am certainly not going to tackle the subject in a single blog post. But I do no feel comfortable with the term and it's not one I will use. However, I fully understand why the Bush administration does.

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