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The Religious Left Speaks Out Against "Islamic Fascism"... By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 03, 2007

In August, President Bush for seemingly the first time deployed the term “Islamic fascism” to describe the ideological convergence of violent theocratic religion and police state autocracy. In the wake of the British-discovered plot by ethnically Pakistani Islamists to blow up trans-Atlantic flights, Bush said the discovery was a “stark reminder” that “this nation is at war with Islamic fascists,” seeking to destroy freedom-loving societies.

The usual suspects complained about the president’s phrasing. The mullah-controlled Iranian government, for example, demanded that Bush apologize to the Islamic world for his supposed defamation of their faith. “As usual, the American president said something without any evaluation in advance - using terms such as 'Islamic fascism' is definitely not compatible to the rank of a president,ethnically Pakistani Islamists to blow up trans-Atlantic flights, Bush said the discovery was a “stark reminder” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi told a press conference in Teheran. (Iran, of course, which suffers under a 27-year-old dictatorship of Shi'ite clerics who repress any form of political and religious belief not conforming to their own, ranks as one of the chief “Islamic fascist” states.)

Joining in the criticism of Bush and the “Islamic fascist” phrase was the chief political spokesman for Bush’s own United Methodist denomination. In a recent commentary, United Methodist Board of Church and Society chief Jim Winkler expressed great perturbation about the likening of political Islam to right-wing dictatorships of the past.

“Suddenly, ‘Islamic fascism’ is all the rage,” Winkler wrote. “I’ve been puzzled by the emergence of this phrase (apparently first used by President Bush in August). It seems to be used to brand Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and any other countries or groups who don’t like the United States.”

Actually, Winkler would be hard pressed to find someone who has called Syria “Islamic fascist.” Whatever its various crimes and repressions, the Syrian regime is not ideologically theocratic in the same sense that Iran and others are.

“It’s a scary phrase, hearkening back as it does to the fascist World War II nations of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy,” Winkler helpfully explained. He also observed that Francisco Franco’s Spain and Juan Peron’s Argentina were “sometimes branded fascist” during their heyday. “All in all, some pretty nasty regimes and people are associated with fascism,” Winkler admitted with distaste. Ideologues of the Left, of course, have for decades reserved “fascist” as a term of their own, for exclusively labeling regimes and movements of the far-Right. Unwilling to condemn dictatorships of the far-Left, they jealously claim the “fascist” label as the very worst kind of political epithet.

So naturally, Winkler was deeply disturbed that “fascism” should be ascribed to Islamist theocrats who dream of destroying the United States. “I have a feeling the recent re-emergence of the term “fascism” in relation to the Muslim world may have more to do with polling results and focus groups,” Winkler surmised. “I suspect the phrase has been test-marketed and found to generate a strong response, a jolt, something that sways people to support the ‘war on terror.’”

Lest there be any misunderstanding, Winkler admitted that “Islamic extremism or fundamentalism is a serious problem,” just like “Christian, Jewish, and Hindu extremism and fundamentalism.” In truth, Winkler probably fears Christian “extremism” far more than he is alarmed by Islamist terrorism. After all, Christian “extremists” organize for marriage referenda, support crisis pregnancy clinics, and even sometimes vote Republican.

Winkler ominously warned, with great restraint and nuance, that the Muslims of today are the ostensibly persecuted “Communists” of America in 1965 or the Jews of genocidal Nazi Germany in 1938. “We ought to be very careful, especially as people of faith, about throwing around phrases like ‘Islamic fascism’ or asserting that Muslims are out to get us,” he fretted. Seemingly, he is oblivious to the obvious point that “Islamic fascist” is a phrase coined specifically to describe a particular virulent form of political Islam, not to brand all of Islam. But to single out any form of Islam as inherently more dangerous than, say, the Southern Baptist Convention, is of course deeply offensive to the United Methodist lobbyist.

“There are those whose aims are furthered if they succeed in whipping large numbers of Westerners into a frenzy against Islam,” Winkler opined. Far more productively, Christians need to be examining the “uglier side of our history and community,” he predictably concluded. After all, Winkler must wonder, why should we waste time worrying about Iranian nukes or al-Qaeda terror? This is time far better spent organizing another round of apologies for the sins of nominally Christian 18th century slave traders, or the misdeeds of 11th century crusaders galloping towards the Holy Land.

You may search in vain for any serious expressions of concern about radical Islam on Winkler’s United Methodist social action website, or anywhere else within the Religious Left. The suicidal fanaticism, terror, repression, brutality, hatred and intolerance of radical Islam simply do not concern them. Jihadist Islam enslaves women, jails and kills sexual libertines, and banishes all forms of free expression. Why does the Religious Left refuse to condemn it as uniquely insidious? 

Radical Islam despises the West, the United States, and Israel in particular. It also opposes and persecutes all orthodox forms of Christianity. Perhaps it is simply emotionally difficult for the Religious Left to passionately criticize those, even violent jihadists, who share its own irrational fears and emotional preoccupations.

In another recent column, Winkler easily labeled the Chilean dictatorship of the late Augusto Pinochet as “fascist”  But this term is, evidently, too severe for the likes of Hezbollah, Iran under the ayatollahs, the Taliban, or even al-Qaeda, who apparently deserve more gentle adjectives.

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Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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