"Islamofascism": A Real Term for a Real Problem

Flag of Majlis
by Lev Lafayette and Matt Bush

Excuses for the abuse of universal rights are never acceptable, even if the abuses are carried out by religious or ethnic groups which they themselves can be subject to discrimination. It is ridiculous to describe a person as bigoted, or even more inaccurately and unscientifically as "racist", when the gross abuses of human rights committed under the name of Islam are noted, or when theocratic organisations of the same ilk are described as "Islamofascist". The use of the term may be abused by religious bigots of other denominations. It may be abused by warmongers who desire access to a country's resources that are under the control of an Islamic dictatorship, or by bigots who assign all Muslims under the banner [1]. But this does not address the main points of similarity where it does exist, such as those once illustrated by Christopher Hitchens [2]; a glorification of death and murder, a hostility to modernity and nostalgia for a medieval past, anti-Jewish paranoia, commitment to sexual and gender repression, and opposition to artistic expression. In short, a rejection of individual rights and civil liberties. It is no accident that such organisations and regimes are collectivist and organised through an elite vanguard.

None of this to suggest that Islam is somehow special in this regard; among the other Abrahamic faiths is is noticeable that the biggest supporters of Israeli expansionism exists to establish a Greater Israel, Eretz Yisrael Hashlemah, ".. from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates" [3], are fundamentalist Christian Zionists, a movement with a primary presence in the United States. Engaging in Dispensationalist predictions, they claim that the return of Jews to Israel is a precondition for the second coming, and end-times [4]. The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism of 2006, consisting of several regional Christian churches (and especially deriving from Christian Arabs), makes the very blunt point: "The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history..." [5]

By the same token, the Islamic fascist argue for the same, except from their religious perspective. Large and influential international fundamentalist Islamicist organisations [6], such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, argue for a global caliphate where only Muslims can vote or hold office, for military conscription for the same, the complete implementation of Sharia law, and segregation of the sexes. Bin Laden may have held Noam Chomsky in favourable regard [7], but the feeling was not reciprocated. Chomsky may have rightly expressed his anger at how the United States completely ignored international law in the assassination of Bin Laden, how no attempt was made for capture, and how evidence of Bin Laden's own alleged crimes in 9/11 never made it to the light of a properly constituted court. Chomsky correctly points out: "We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's.." [8] But it should be recognised that these are arguments of a principled secular liberal democracy, where the rule of law is applied equally to all. This is not the ideology of Islamicist terrorism espoused by Bin Laden.

As with any political organisation that does not incorporate the principles of secularism and liberal democracy the prospect of fascist collectivism remains close. Islamic organisations, even mainstream ones, can tend towards this. One only has to read the Hezbollah manifesto and the Hamas Covenant [9] to see how such organisations fail at these basic tenets; even more moderate organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood includes much of the same orientation, and even from their earliest days [10]. Whilst there are extremely good arguments that their use of externally-orientated violence is a response to the violence inflicted upon them, especially from Israel and the United States [11], there should be little doubt with the acquisition of power that violence will also be performed internally to regions that they rule; when female rape victims are whipped for immorality, or when gay men stoned, or apostates beheaded - it is recognition that this is a political movement that considers the implementation of their interpretation of religious law higher than universal human rights.

The moral relativism and political expediency behind any nation's "right to autonomy" is foolish at best. No so-called right to national self-determination is an excuse for an autocratic, totalitarian regime to engage in widespread and systematic abuse of human rights. "Nations" as such don't have rights at all - only people have rights, for they are moral agents. The only sense in which national self-determination makes any sense whatsoever is when the people who inhabit a particular country are able to determine for themselves, through free and fair democratic elections, what government and economy they should have, how their public sphere should be organised. But not their private lives, and with all citizens treated with equality. Do we remember the Iraqi Ba'athist genocidal Al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds, a deliberate attempt of ethnic extermination? [12] Is this the sort of "national self-determination" that its advocates believe in?

Of course, imperialist nations like the United States preach self-determination when it suits them, and liberal-democratic rights when it suits them, depending on the circumstances. Their interventionist decisions, both when they are right and, more often, when they are wrong, are driven more by the influence of corporations seeking monopoly resource rights and special contracts, and the living reality of the military-industrial complex. Lawrence Korb's oft-quoted remark "If Kuwait grew carrots we wouldn't give a damn", the billions of blood money acquired by Halliburton [13]. These are however, indications of the need to strengthen the principles of internationalism rather than reject them. Moral hazards are solvable problems, and refusing to attempt to solve them makes the situation worse.

Political preferences also leads one to conclude that despite its colonialism, its apartheid (hafrada) policies, its occupation, and messianic nationalism, Israel still offers a system that is closer than others in the region to the standards desired. It shows retrograde steps which mark the countdown of its society [14], whereas at the same time, the Arab Spring moves shakily towards understanding how to apply individual rights and democracy in societies that have deeply ingrained irrational religious conservatism.

The danger of cultural relativism, and the argument that religious practises must be tolerated suffers the damaging prospect that it leads into political relativism. It's also a genuinely imperialistic and racist pseudo-philosophy because it raises the value of culture over that of individuals, as a higher "enlightened" and ostensibly "tolerant" ideal. In short, it damns people to their "paradigms", which, by the way, are just as true as ours. It is not paternalistic to argue that some ideas are plainly wrong and others are superior. Theocracy falls into the "wrong" camp; secular and liberal democracy is superior to it.

[1] e.g., David Horowitz http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rizkhan/2008/08/200882191616950380.html
[2] Christpher Hitchens, Defending Islamofascism, Monday, Oct. 22, 2007,
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2007/10/d...
[3] Genesis 15:18-21
[4] This tradition can be witnessed from the Niagara Bible Conference proclamation of 1878 through to Cyrus Scofield, to the more contemporary examples of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson,
[5] Riah Abu El-Assal, Swerios Malki Mourad, Michel Sabbah, Munib Younan, The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, http://www.voltairenet.org/article144310.html
[6] S. Taji-Farouki, A Fundamental Quest: Hizb-ut-Tahrir & the Search for the Islamic Caliphate, Grey Seal Books, 1996.
[7] Fouad Ajami,"Osama Bin Laden: The Specter", review of Michael Scheuer, Osama Bin Laden, 2011, Oxford University Press
[8] Noam Chomsky, My Reaction to Osama bin Laden's Death, Guernica, May 6, 2011
[9] "The Hizballah Program: An Open Letter" 16 February 1985, The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)", August 18, 1988.
[10] El-Awaisi, Abd Al-Fattah M. "Jihadia Education and the Society of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers: 1928-49". Journal of Beliefs and Values, Vol. 21, No. 2 (2000): 213-225.
[11] Michael Scheuer, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, Brassey's, 2004
[12] The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds. A Middle East Watch Report: Human Rights Watch 1993.
[13] In the lead up to the Iraq war, Halliburton was awarded a $7 billion contract for which 'unusually' only Halliburton was allowed to bid. Jane Corbin, "BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions", June 10, 2008
[14] Avrham Burg, A failed Israeli society is collapsing: The end of Zionism?, International Herald Tribune, Saturday, September 6, 2003.

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The flag is from the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya and reads "Striving in the way of God. God is Greatest".

Also now in The Freethinker, the world's oldest freethought publication (1881).

Lev Lafayette, Matt Bush., "Islamofascism: a real term for a real problem", The Freethinker (Beckenham, Kent), 133 (5), May 2013, p10-11

Nathan Lean, a Washington DC native and Middle East specialist who has recently written a book entitled The Islamophobia Industry, last month launched a stinging attack on prominent contemporary atheists, including Professor Richard Dawkins.

“Muslims,” Lean wrote of Dawkins on the Salon.com website, are “a group that have come to occupy a special place in his line of fire ― and in the minds of a growing club of no-God naysayers who have fast rebranded atheism into a popular, cerebral and more bellicose version of its former self.”

Lean, himself a non-believer, argued that few atheists in the Western world historically paid much attention to Islam, concentrating instead on debunking Christianity and, to a lesser extent, Judaism. But after the 11 September [2001] attacks, the New Atheists “found their calling”. Criticism of all religion on an equal footing was one thing. But the New Atheists, he argued, have begun flirting with Islamophobes, using irrational hatred, as opposed to rational critique, to attack an already deeply misunderstood and much maligned faith.

“Conversations about the practical impossibility of God’s existence and the science-based irrationality of an after-life slid seamlessly into xenophobia over Muslim immigration or the practice of veiling,” wrote Lean.

“The New Atheists became the new Islamophobes, their invectives against Muslims resembling the rowdy, uneducated ramblings of back-woods racists rather than appraisals based on intellect, rationality and reason.”

Writing on Al Jazeera’s website a few days later, Murtaza Hussain, a Toronto-based Middle East analyst, penned an even more scathing critique. Hussain was particularly critical of Sam Harris, a neuroscientist by trade whose atheist books The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation have made him one of the leading anti-religious polemicists of his age.

Harris hit back, saying there was nothing remotely racist about his criticisms of Muslims: “I criticise white, Western converts in precisely the same terms,” he said. “In fact, I am even more critical of them, because they weren’t brainwashed into the faith from birth.”

He added: “There is no such thing as ‘Islamophobia’.” This is a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia.

Iran moves to legalize marriage for girls under 10 years old

When Saudi Arabia announced three months ago that girls as young as 10-years old would now be allowed to marry, Iran decided to drop the age limit even further.

Iranian Christian news service Mohabat News reports a member of the Iranian Parliament (Majiles) Mohammad Ali Isfenani, "we must regard 9 as being the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married. To do otherwise would be to contradict and challenge Islamic Sharia law."

He argues,"Before the revolution girls under 16 were not allowed to marry. Parents determined to get around the law would often tamper with their daughter's birth certificate. Under the previous constitution, people were legally regarded as adults when they were 18. After the revolution the age at which children were regarded as going through puberty was lowered to 9 for girls and 15 for boys.

Mohabat News reports statistics that show over the past few weeks, over 75 female children under 10 were forced to marry much older men. And in nearly 4000 cases, both the bride and groom were under 14.

The Examiner says according to a news release from the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee, the current civil law, drafted before the revolution in the late 1970's regarding the legal age of marriage for girls under the age of ten, is considered "un-Islamic and illegal."

Majiles (Iranian Parliament) is now expected to vote on the proposal to bring civil law more in line with Sharia Law.

The Women's News Network reports that there are more than 10-million girls under the age of 18 married each year around the world, usually without their consent and to much older men.
Baroness Jenny Tonge, chair of a British parliamentary inquiry looking at the issue of child brides, tells the Women's News Network, "We decided to look into child marriage because some two, three years ago we did an investigation into maternal mortality." "We realised that one of the major causes of maternal death is early marriage, and (that) the girls are married so young that their bodies are simply not ready for child birth." She tells the story of one young girl, "she was an eight-year-old who was married to a 45 to 50-year-old in Yemen, arranged by his family – died three days later after the first intercourse from bleeding. When you hear the stories, it just makes you feel quite sick."

A report from the British inquiry is expected early this fall.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/329317