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The Fascist Disease

"Islamic fascism" is an accurate--and important--term.

12:00 AM, Sep 14, 2006 • By JOSEPH LOCONTE
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An American observer, writing in 1939, saw in fascism "a deliberate return to barbarism." The new barbarians share much with their European counterparts: a remorseless savagery, an obsession with blood and death, and a utopian vision of purity and power. If we consider the horrific plot to blow up 10 airliners bound for the United States; the ethnic cleansing of villagers in Sudan; the bombs hidden in Iraqi soccer fields and mosques; the beheadings of schoolgirls in Indonesia; the Lebanese boys, arms outstretched like Hitler Youth as they pledge martyrdom for Hezbollah--do we not see the stigmata of fascism?

It is not only the Bush administration that makes the charge. Stephen Schwartz coined the term Islamofascism and Christopher Hitchens noted the appearance of "fascism with an Islamic face" within days of the 9/11 attacks. Bernard Lewis, has traced the influence of the Nazi party on the Islamist movements in the Middle East. French philosopher Bernard-Henry Levy has employed the phrase to reject the suggestion that "Arab humiliation" somehow justifies Islamist rage: "Arab or Muslim fascism deserves, in my view, to be condemned just like any other fascism." And Farid Ghadry, president of the Reform party of Syria, has taken to task those who "defend these Islamic fascists" and "fail to confront the true attackers of Islam."

Muslims surely dishonor their religion by excusing the extremists--as Islamic groups here and in the United Kingdom have done--with complaints about U.S. and British foreign policy. Like the Christian fascism of an earlier era, the Islamic variety cannot be defeated by compromise and accommodation. It must be met, and condemned, head on. "The cause which is at stake in this war is our own cause," wrote Karl Barth as Great Britain lay under siege, "and we Christians first and foremost must make our own the anxieties, the hardships and the hopes this war demands of all men."

Joseph Loconte is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His latest book is The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm.