25 October 2007

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

I have mixed feelings about this. Anyone who's been reading my site for any length of time knows that I consider jihadism (and the broader problem of Islamic imperialism) to be a major threat to Western civilization. Any effort to educate people about the issue is a worthy endeavor. In this case, however, the effort undermines itself in a number of ways.

To begin with, while there are some similarities between the Islamic threat and fascism (Christopher Hitchens does a good job of explaining these here), there are also important differences. The most obvious is that fascism implies a centralized totalitarian regime; fascist movements which have not yet established such a regime usually have its creation as their main immediate goal. Jihadism, by contrast, is a common ideology motivating similar goals and behavior in many different militant groups all over the world, most of which are not linked by any common structure of authority and show little sign of making serious efforts to create one, despite all the rhetoric about restoring the Caliphate. Iran certainly resembles a fascist state in this sense, but its relationship with jihadist groups outside its borders more resembles that of the old Soviet Union with the global Communist movement -- an ideological state linked with a network of ideologically-similar external groups whose roles are something between puppets and allies. Such linked external groups were not a major feature of fascist states such as Nazi Germany. In any case, only a minority of jihadist groups worldwide have such connections with Iran.

More importantly, the term "Islamo-fascism" implies that the jihadist threat is a sort of derivative or imitation of Western fascism as we know it from the twentieth century, which is simply not the case, though there have been some superficial influences. Like some leftists' delusion that jihadism is primarily a form of "blowback" from various Western interference in the Islamic world, it obscures the real nature of the problem. Jihadism is a distinct phenomenon in its own right, far older than fascism or Western imperialism; it is innate in the nature of Islam itself and has been present from the religion's earliest beginnings. As I've said before, if the West had never meddled in the Middle East, if Israel had never been established, and if we imported no oil from there at all, we would probably still be facing basically the same jihadist problem. The same would be true if Western fascism had never existed.

It's understandable that Westerners who know little about Islam try to explain the jihadist phenomenon as a response to some influence from the West, whether as retaliation for Western interference or imitation of a Western ideology. It's also simply wrong. Jihadism can only be understood on its own terms, as an integral part of Islam itself.

Then there's this. What on Earth does educating people about the Islamic threat have to do with global-warming denialism? Aside from the fact that a worthy cause is actually weakened by linking it with the rapidly-collapsing denialist delusion, there is a more fundamental problem which I recall observing, on the left, when I lived in Berkeley in the 1980s. Every demonstration on behalf of any one cause associated with the left consistently evolved into a demonstration for every cause associated with the left. They could never just stick to one subject. A march organized on behalf of, say, gay rights would always attract hangers-on agitating on behalf of the Palestinians, El Salvador, whales, drugs, Marxism, nuclear disarmament, labor unions, and what have you. Supporters of the putative matter at hand who did not also endorse all the other causes would have felt uncomfortable or unwelcome. The right is increasingly plagued by the same phenomenon; any blog posting on the Islamic threat which provokes a long comments thread will soon become overrun with vituperation against liberals, atheists, Hillary Clinton, and so on.

The temptation to claim opposition to Islam as the sole province of the right must be resisted. Islam is even more hostile to the values of Western liberalism than to those of Western conserva-tism, and the efforts of Western leftists to minimize the Islamic threat or to defend or excuse Islamist groups and regimes lead to constant absurdities and contradictions (here's a recent example). Many of the smarter people on the left have already awakened to this and recognize the threat for what it is, and with time more and more will do so. It's a trend that should be encouraged.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Opposition to Islam should come from all who appreciate the values of the West, not just the right. There’s even a danger that, if the main opposition is seen as coming primarily from the extreme right, some will claim that Islam can’t be all that bad.

25 October, 2007 08:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since Jihad seems to spring from Islam and not the other way around, why should Islam generally be seen in the same light? Christianity, for instance, is not broadly seen as a danger. But there are some who take its various teachings literally and act against others accordingly. Society considers these extremists dangerous, but not their basic religion. What to make of that?

Great post!

25 October, 2007 11:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks, to both commenters.

As you know, I do consider Christianity a danger to a greater extent than most people do. However, there are important differences between Islam and Christianity.

For one, the Bible is a more-or-less random accumulation of different kinds of writings over millennia. It is so confused and contradictory that one can take almost any imaginable position and claim a Biblical justification for it. Partly because of this, most Western Christians today have such a watered-down set of beliefs that they don't really pose a threat except for a tendency to vote irrationally (this is not the case with the US Christian Right, of course, which is why I say "most").

The Koran and other Muslim sacred texts are all a record of the sayings and deeds of one individual. There is far less ambiguity, contradiction, or room for interpretation. One can argue that the Crusades did not reflect real Christianity. One cannot plausibly argue that jihad is not an inherent part of Islam, or that there is such a thing as "Islam in general" which does not include jihad.

Christianity was a minority religion in the pagan Roman Empire for its first three centuries; Islam was dominant in its environment right from the beginning. It never developed any way of relating to non-Muslims except by subordinating them. The very clarity of its religious texts, and the fact that they do not allow for the concept of any aspect of life existing separately from religion (such as the Christian Caesar-vs.-God concept) makes it almost impossible for Islam to adapt to being merely one group in a pluralistic society, as many modern forms of Christianity have.

We can see the results. Most of the violent conflicts on Earth right now are in places where Islam interfaces with the non-Islamic world -- Israel, Chechnya, southern Sudan, southern Thailand, etc. These conflicts are the result either of direct Muslim aggression against non-Muslims or of non-Muslim retaliation for Muslim aggression (the Iraq and Afghan conflicts being examples of the latter). Almost all parts of the world that lack a Muslim presence are peaceful. In some areas, such as Western Europe, small Muslim minorities commit a disproportionate share or even the majority of the violent crime.

Most religions have used violence at various times. Islam is the only major religion which has violence and conquest as a core part of its ideology.

25 October, 2007 12:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearing that up. I know next to nothing about Islam, and had been under the impression that Jihad embraced the violence and conquest, and not necessarily all of Islam. An aside though, it looks like Jihad could be bent to serve nearly any personal purpose, although it's not supposed to be. Scary.

25 October, 2007 13:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

An aside though, it looks like Jihad could be bent to serve nearly any personal purpose

Wherever strong passions exist in a culture, there will be some cynical politicians who exploit those passions for purposes of their own. Frankly, I wish this were more common in Islam than it is. I don't like cynics, but they are easier to negotiate with than fanatics are.

Thanks for the link, by the way.

25 October, 2007 14:38  

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