Saturday, November 22, 2008

Is "Islamofascism" a naughty word?

Is "Islamofascism" a naughty word?

Fascism: "1. a philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible repression of opposition. 2. a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control."
--Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.

The only stretch of this definition is adding "or religion" to "exalts nation and often race." That seems perfectly reasonable to me. "If it quacks like a duck..."

The term Islamofascism implies that it's a type of Islam, which it is, as exercised by the Taliban, by Al Qaeda, and by Wahhabism in general, as well as by the Shiite autocracy in postrevolutionary Iran--as opposed to, for example, the moderate Islam practised by a majority of Indonesians in the largest Muslim country on Earth.

It's not an indictment of Islam. Anything but, actually, since the term itself implies that "fascism" only characterized a particular type of Islam, not all Islam.

And of course there are fascistic strains/movements in pretty much all countries/movements/races/religions. The Soviet Union exemplified fascistic communism. There's a Dominion movement here in America that seeks to replace America's government with a Christian theocracy. Hindu fascism in India has grown greatly in recent decades, resulting in the persecution and murder of Christian Indians in some parts of India. Iran's mullahs have distorted traditional Shiite thought radically to create a fascist Shiite state there--something most earlier Shiites would have been amazed by.

Fascism even shows itself in small ways. Here in California we just passed an initiative banning homosexual marriage. You could claim that was fascistic. But opponents to this initiative habitually stole and destroyed lawn signs advocating the initiative. And that was what could only be called "liberal fascism."

In Somalia it evinces itself in a variety of ways--notably in the case of a 13 old girl recently tortured to death for the crime of having been raped, in a region now in control of Islamofascists. The Guardian reported this story, I believe.

Self-styled liberals abhor the term "Islamofascism" as being ethnocentric and demeaning to Muslims. And to be sure ethnocentrist people who dislike Muslims use it that way.

But that doesn't mean the term isn't accurate--just that, like pretty much all the terms in every language, it can be misused.

But just because you can use a hammer to bludgeon someone instead of driving nails doesn't mean that "hammer" isn't a valid term--or tool. Blame the misuser, where the fault lies.

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