Shortly after British authorities announced that they had foiled a plot to bomb transcontinental flights, President Bush called it a “stark reminder” that the United States is “at war with Islamic fascists.”
The president’s comments triggered a series of responses. The Saudi government rejected even the possibility of Islamic fascism. A spokesman for King Abdullah said that “what Islam is being charged with today, such as fascism, is primarily the result of Western cultural heritage.”
Closer to home, American liberals, of course, called it politically incorrect to say this. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, suggested that expressions like “Islamic fascists” might inadvertently “start a religious war against Islam and Muslims.” It complained that the expression “attaches the religion of Islam to tyranny and fascism, rather than isolating the threat to a specific group of individuals...”
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that CAIR was kidding. The expression “Islamic fascism” is used in order to distinguish between ordinary Muslims and the perpetrators of terrorism. It serves also to make a point that our enemy isn’t Islam itself, but a particular kind of Islam that perpetrates terrorism and tyranny. These are the distinctions that groups like CAIR ought to be supporting.
That still leaves the question: Is it right to call the bin Ladens of the world “Islamic fascists”? The answer is “yes.” The president was right on.
As Stephen Morris of Johns Hopkins recently wrote, fascism’s goal is to “achieve national greatness” through totalitarian control of both political and social life; it seeks to create an empire; and it “aspires to re-create a mythical past.”
Sound familiar? It should. What was true of Germany and Italy in the 1930s and ’40s is also true of groups like Iran, al-Qaeda, and millions of Islamic radicals today.
Countries like Iran and Afghanistan under the Taliban are and were undeniably totalitarian. All aspects of life, not just politics, are subject to strict ideological control.
Nor can radical Islam’s imperial ambitions be denied. Iran, al-Qaeda, and even Hamas talk about an Islamic empire stretching from India to the Iberian peninsula. What Morris says about aspiring to “re-create a mythical past” is evident in bin Laden’s continuing references to the “tragedy of Andalusia” and Hamas’s demands for the return of Seville. The Iranians take it a step further and see themselves as ushering in a messianic age.
The fascist influence on today’s Islamic terrorists is made crystal clear in the book In the Shade of the Koran written by an Egyptian radical named Sayyid Qutb and widely read today by jihadists all over the world. Qutb was profoundly influenced by the same anti-Semitic liberal intellectuals in Europe who shaped Hitler’s demonic vision. Though Qutb was executed, his teachings profoundly influenced Osama bin Laden.
Today’s Islamic fascists share with their Nazi counterparts violence and intimidation as their tactics. And now, as in World War II, free people of all faiths must oppose them. But wisdom begins with a willingness to learn from history and call things by their proper name, which is precisely what the president did.
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