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October 23rd, 2007 · 6 Comments

Surprise, surprise, David Horowtiz is pissing off the left again—this time with a Islamofascism Awareness Week, which will be observed by way of a series of talks, film screenings, and other events at college campuses. The backlash from groups like Campus Progress has mostly centered on objections to the term “Islamofascism,” which they argue tends to be used in ways that blur distinctions between terrorists or theocrats and Muslims in general.

I don’t much care for the term myself. Partly, that’s because it both conflates various distinct trends within Islam itself—lumping together Al Qaeda and Iran’s theocracy would be a pretty gross analytic mistake—and obscures the fairly crucial differences between these and historical fascism. One could, with about as much justification, refer to Mao Tse Tung as a “Sinofascist,” but it’s doubtful that this would be especially illuminating. Christopher Hitchens’ strained defense of the term in Slate actually ends up highlighting just how inapt it is. The attempt to read a racialist component into Islamist ideology is conspicuously weak, and when his attention turns to what is probably fascism’s defining characteristic—commitment to a reified, totalizing nation state as a unifying force—you get the sense that even Hitchens doesn’t really buy his own argument:

As to the nation-state, al-Qaida’s demand is that countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia be dissolved into one great revived caliphate, but doesn’t this have points of resemblance with the mad scheme of a “Greater Germany” or with Mussolini’s fantasy of a revived Roman empire?

Well… no, not really. Not, at any rate, in any of the ways relevant to distinguishing fascism from totalitarianism or imperialism more broadly. To be honest, though, my dislike is at least as much an aesthetic response: “Islamofascist” sounds like a 50’s B-movie heavy, or something a gang of eight year olds would come up with for their game of pretend war.

It seems to me, though, that the question that’s not getting asked here is: What exactly is the point of all this “consciousness raising” supposed to be? To establish that terrorists are bad? One major function seems to be to spotlight conservatives’ newfound concern with the oppression of women, but it’s not clear that the students are being called to actually do anything about the situation beyond affirming that Muslim societies sure do seem awfully backward.

No, as with most Horowitz stunts, it seems that the backlash, rather than the event itself, is the real point. Recall, for example, Horowitz’s attempt a few years back to get college papers to run an ad presenting ten arguments against reparations for slavery. It’s a brilliant little piece of work, proceeding gradually from relatively reasonable arguments, then moving through some more dubious ones to some deliberately inflammatory and offensive ones, such as the suggestion that the push for reparations reflects ingratitude by African Americans to the nation that “gave them their freedom.” Now, of course, reparations are an utter non-issue, and the purpose of running the ad was not to persuade anyone, as though there were a snowball’s chance in hell of reparations actually being paid, but to use the ensuing controversy to paint campus leftists as censors.

A quick glance at the “Islamofascism Awareness” site leaves little doubt that the goal is the same here. The news items running down the right-hand side of the page are all about the “campus showdowns” the events are expected to cause, or how the left is “up in arms” about them. Horowitz could have given the event a less inflammatory name, of course, but that might have denied him the opportunity to hold up critics as evidence that lefties and academics are soft on terrorism. Horowtiz’s MO is crystal clear by this point, so I’m a bit perplexed as to why the left, like Charlie Brown running to kick that football yet again, keeps playing into his hand.

Tags: Academia



6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mike P // Oct 23, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    “Horowtiz’s MO is crystal clear by this point, so I’m a bit perplexed as to why the left, like Charlie Brown running to kick that football yet again, keeps playing into his hand.”

    Well, I think it’s a case of you can do something or you can do nothing and doing something makes you feel better than doing nothing.

    What’s more frustrating than the predictable backlash is the predictable coverage that this kind of stunt is given. I view your argument as similar to the ones aired whenever Ann Coulter slithers back into the public view after making offense comments. Whatever her motivations (I think most of us who care to consider them believe she’s acting out a persona), she’s treated as “serious” (her books are bought by millions; she’s got a column that runs in a slew of newspapers) and her views are taken (by some) seriously. So you can be passive and let ignorant statements sit there with the hope that people will discount them as such, or you can say “hey, that’s ignorant/wrong/offensive” and try to fight back.

    I’m not saying censor Coulter or Horowitz…but I don’t think sitting quietly is really going to prevent them from engaging in this sort of thing, either.

  • 2 Jim Henley // Oct 23, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    An important goal of Greater Islamofascism Week is to deligitimize Muslim Americans as political actors – to turn them into a suspect class. It’s a preemptive war against any attempt on their part to bring the same interest-group activism to foreign policy that Irish-Americans and Jewish Americans and Cuban-Americans and Americans of Eastern-European descent (during the Cold War) have done. Lots of people criticize IAW for “blurring distinctions” and etc. That’s what it’s supposed to do.

  • 3 Glen Whitman // Oct 24, 2007 at 1:51 am

    I just don’t see the problem. Sure, ‘Fascism’ with a capital F was a very specific doctrine in the 1930s, but ‘fascism’ now is commonly used to refer to any ideology that justifies killing, enslavement, and oppression by the state. Don’t the Taliban and Al Qaeda qualify? Yeah, sure, they have their differences — but so did 1930s Germany and Italy.

    Is Islamofascism different from the fascism of the 1930s? Yes, hence the ‘Islamo-.’ Aren’t there varieties of Islam that are not fascist? Yes, hence the ‘-fascist.’ I think the word ‘Islamofascism’ nicely describes a group of people who are using Islam to justify brutality.

    And you know me, so you know I’m not a crazy neocon GWOT-justifier. You can use the word ‘Islamofascism’ without signing on to the invasion of random countries in the Middle East.

  • 4 Gil // Oct 24, 2007 at 2:32 am


    I think the reason that you are perplexed by the actions of (some of) the left is that your theories about them are wrong.

    I’m not defending Horowitz completely, but I think it’s possible that he understands some aspects of a segment of the left that you would prefer to ignore, or perhaps (more kindly) give a bit too much benefit of the doubt.

    Maybe they don’t merely object to the term for your reasons, and maybe they do reflexively defend indefensible strains of thought because they care too much about common enemies and too little about hideous ideology.

  • 5 Julian Elson // Oct 24, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    So in short, Horowitz is a troll, but he’d have difficulty taking out ads consisting of goatse.cx in college papers, so he has to offend people with marginally more subtlety.

  • 6 Muslims Against Sharia // Oct 26, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Muslims Against Sharia congratulate David Horowitz FREEDOM CENTER and Mike Adams, Tammy Bruce, Phyllis Chesler, Ann Coulter, Nonie Darwish, Greg Davis, Stephen Gale, David Horowitz, Joe Kaufman, Michael Ledeen, Michael Medved, Alan Nathan, Cyrus Nowrasteh, Daphne Patai, Daniel Pipes, Dennis Prager, Luana Saghieh, Rick Santorum, Jonathan Schanzer, Christina Sommers, Robert Spencer, Brian Sussman, Ed Turzanski, Ibn Warraq and other speakers on the success of the Islamofascism Awareness Week.

    Islamofascism (or Islamism) is the main threat facing modern civilization and ignorance about this threat is astounding. We hope that this event becomes regular and reaches every campus.

    A great many Westerners do not see the clear distinction between Islam and Islamism (Islamofascism). They need to understand that the difference between Islam and Islamism (Islamofascism) is the same as the difference between Christianity and Christian Identity Movement (White Supremacy Movement).

    Original post

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