On Thursday, President Bush said this week’s foiled plot to blow up airplanes over the Atlantic is part of a “war with Islamic fascists.” Immediately, Muslim activists condemned the president’s use of the phrase, with one group declaring it “counterproductive to associate Islam or Muslims with fascism.” As the newspaper that first put a variant of this term into public circulation in the United States, we’d simply say this: The Muslims who tried to blow up these airplanes are in fact fascists. This might be worrisome to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose raison d’etre is raising the specter of anti-Muslim backlash. But that doesn’t make it untrue.
Fascism is a chauvinistic political philosophy that exalts a group over the individual — usually a race or nation, but in this case the adherents of a religion. Fascism also espouses centralized autocratic rule by that group in suppression of others. It usually advocates severe economic and social regimentation and the total or near-total subordination of the individual to the political leadership. This accurately describes the philosophies of Hitler, Mussolini, the leaders of Imperial Japan and other fascistic regimes through history. It also describes Thursday’s terrorists.
It very accurately describes the philosophy of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and many other stripes of Islamism around the world. All the elements are present. The ideology is chauvinistic, regarding non-Muslims as a lesser breed of expendable or contemptible dhimmis and infidels. It favors autocracy and severe social and economic restrictions, as did the Taliban. It demands the total subordination of the individual to the group — sometimes manifesting in murderously suicidal deaths like the fiery destruction Britain’s would-be bombers sought. This is not mainstream Islam, of course. It is a corruption of the faith.
The use of the term “Islamic fascism” and its variants is growing, for the simple fact that it reflects the underlying reality of the militants in question. We’ve been using a close variant of the term since July 20, 2001, when reporter Larry Witham interviewed the German-born Muslim scholar Khalid Duran — who is sometimes credited with coining the word “Islamofascism” — in the wake of his mini-Rushdie affair over his book, “An Introduction to Islam for Jews.” Mr. Duran told Mr. Witham that Islamism is really “Islamofascism” because it seeks to impose religious orthodoxy on the state and the citizenry. Which is just as true today.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, of course, has had problems with this term and its expositors for some time. Mr. Witham’s article quotes CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper as saying that Mr. Duran “is not the right person to write a book about Muslim-Jewish understanding” and “doesn’t speak for Muslims.”
Islamofascism speaks for itself. It is a real phenomenon. That makes some people uncomfortable, but the truth is no less real for it.