THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
October 25, 2005 (Updated August 31, 2006)
The Wisdom Fund

'Islamo-fascism' is an Oxymoron

by Enver Masud

The President and virtually every major U.S. news media persist in using oxymorons: Islamic extremism, Islamic terrorism, and now, in the President's October 6 address to the National Endowment For Democracy, "Islamo-fascism."

The President repeated this rhetoric in his address today, October 25, at the Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' Luncheon.

For anyone with sufficient knowledge of Islam, Islamic extremism, Islamic terrorism, Islamo-fascism, etc. are oxymorons. Muslims, as the Quran teaches (2:143), are "a community of the middle way." While some Muslims may properly be addressed as terrorists, etc., to define them as "Islamic" is an oxymoron.

Perhaps this is a little difficult for non-Muslims to understand because, unlike other faiths, the faith and the believer have different names: Islam and Muslim respectively.

Leaving aside for the moment the contentious issue of defining terrorism, Muslim terrorist would be more accurate, but then one should be consistent when referring to Christian, Jewish, or Hindu terrorists.

However, what news media generally do is to refer to non-Muslim terrorists as belonging to a "cult", thereby, taking care not to smear non-Islamic faiths - Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism.

As for Islamo-fascism, Islam has no central authority - it does not meet the definition of fascism. Even when the community of Muslims (the ummah) had a central authority (the caliphate), it was neither totalitarian nor fascist.

The term "Islamic fundamentalism" presents another problem. Christian fundamentalistism was defined in The Fundamentals - a 12-volume collection of essays written in the period 1910-15. There is no generally accepted definition of Islamic fundamentalism. In one sense all Muslims are fundamentalists because they believe that the Quran is the Word of God.

When news media use the term "Islamic fundamentalism" they are not stating a fact, but a conclusion about Islam. They should then be prepared to provide the reasoning behind such usage by a scholarly analysis of the Quran that indeed this is what Islam teaches.

It would be more accurate to use the term Muslim fundamentalist, rather than Islamic fundamentalist. Hopefully, then the writer has checked out the fact that the person is a Muslim - "fundamentalist" is a conclusion they may draw independent of the Quran and/or Islam.

Looking at the issue from another perspective consider the terms "terrorism", "fundamentalist" etc. when applied to persons of other faiths or religions.

Thus one would say Jewish terrorist - not Judaic terrorist. Judaic or Christianic terrorism would be the equivalent of saying Islamic terrorism. Jewish or Christian terrorist would be the equivalent of saying Muslim terrorist.

Yet another way to look at the issue of "Islamic terrorism" is to ask: "What is the difference between Islamic terrorism, Christianic terrorism, and Judaic terrorism?"

Is the terrorism itself, somehow, different in each case, or is it merely the fact that it is being carried out by a Muslim, Christian, or Jew?

If one cannot define the difference, then isn't the term "Islamic terrorism" synonymous with Christian (or Christianic?) terrorism and Judaic terrorism? Could a Muslim perpetrate Christianic terrorism or Judaic terrorism? Clearly, this leads to absurd statements.

More importantly perhaps, the use of the term Islamic terrorism has a more pernicious effect. It paints an entire faith as suspect, lets governments off the hook too easily by not forcing them to more precisely define the "enemy," and it endorses the propaganda of the hate-mongers.

It also distorts the true nature of the problem, and solutions such as the Patriot Act, do not receive the scrutiny they deserve, thereby, giving governments the freedom to conduct war or take punitive action for purposes that have little to do with the real threat.

"This country faces a new type of fascism," says MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann. "American democracy is in grave danger," warns former Vice-president Al Gore. We're "living in a fascist state," writes Lewis H. Lapham, editor of the American monthly Harper's Magazine.



For a legal definition of "international terrorism" see U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B, Section 2331

[. . . by surreptitiously justifying a policy of single-minded obduracy that links Islamism to a strategically important, oil-rich part of the world, the anti-Islam campaign virtually eliminates the possibility of equal dialogue between Islam and the Arabs, and the West or Israel. To demonize and dehumanize a whole culture on the ground that it is (in Lewis's sneering phrase) enraged at modernity is to turn Muslims into the objects of a therapeutic, punitive attention.--Edward Said, "A Devil Theory of Islam," The Nation, August 12, 1996]

[By making the disciplined effort to name our enemies correctly, we will learn more about them, and come one step nearer, perhaps, to solving the seemingly intractable and increasingly perilous problems of our divided world.--Karen Armstrong, "The label of Catholic terror was never used about the IRA ," Guardian, July 11, 2005]

Enver Masud, "Fatwa Against Terrorism: Questions," The Wisdom Fund, July 28, 2005

David E. Sanger, "President prepares U.S. for conflict with 'radical Islam' from Spain to Indonesia," New York Times, October 17, 2005

Enver Masud, "Letter on Oxymorons to Ombudsman, The Washington Post," The Wisdom Fund, October 23, 2005

["Extremism is no more the monopoly of Islam than it is the monopoly of other religions, including Christianity,"--Andrew Alderson, "Prince Charles to plead Islam's cause to Bush," The Telegraph," October 29, 2005]

["Distinctions have sometimes been blurred by inflationary language and headlines such as Islamic terrorism, and in many cases the use of terms Islam, Muslim, fundamentalism seems to confuse rather than educate the reader," the report concludes.--Daisy Ayliffe, "EU praised for terror response," eupolitix.com, November 10, 2005]

[Others were white and so, following Phillips's description of the darker skinned rioters as 'Arab Muslims', should presumably be referred to as 'Caucasian Christians'.--Jason Burke, "France and the Muslim myth," Observer, November 13, 2005]

["In print stereotypes are not so obvious, except in cartoon caricatures, but they still occur and anti-Muslim bias is more insidious. The terms Islamic or Muslim are linked to extremism, militant, jihads, as if they belonged together inextricably and naturally (Muslim extremist, Islamic terror, Islamic war, Muslim time bomb).

"In many cases, the press talks and writes about Muslims in ways that would not be acceptable if the reference were to Jewish, black or fundamentalist Christians."--" Media has anti-Muslim bias, claims report," Guardian, November 14, 2005]

[It's really amazing how much easier it has become to understand the myriad political situations between Morocco and Indonesia, or Nigeria and Chechnya since September 11, 2001. Gone are the tiresome days of having to study each country and its historical and social circumstances, its language and thought, before you can write authoritatively about it. You just whip out your Handy Islam Template and presto: everything falls into place.--Maher Mughrabi, "Confused about Islam? Get your HIT: How not to let facts get in the way of a good religious stereotype," The Age (Australia), November 16, 2005]

[United States, in condemning IRA terrorism in Northern Ireland or Basque terrorism in Spain, does not describe it as "Catholic terrorism," a phrase that Catholics around the world would likely find offensive.--Zbigniew Brzezinski, "Do These Two Have Anything in Common?," Washington Post, December 4, 2005]

["I think the smart thing to do if you're the president of the United States is to sort of de-Islamicize the problem," said Kirstine Sinclair, a University of Southern Denmark researcher--Karl Vick, "Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical," Washington Post, January 14, 2006]

[European governments should shun the phrase "Islamic terrorism" in favour of "terrorists who abusively invoke Islam", say guidelines from EU officials.--David Rennie, "'Islamic terrorism' is too emotive a phrase, says EU," Telegraph, April 4, 2006]

Jonathan Cook, "How I found myself standing with the Islamic fascists," counterpunch.org, August 11, 2006

[Colombia University Professor Robert Paxton's superb 2004 book, 'The Anatomy of Fascism' . . . defines fascism's essence, which he aptly terms its 'emotional lava' as: 1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one's group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign 'contamination.'

Fascism demands a succession of wars, foreign conquests, and national threats to keep the nation in a state of fear, anxiety and patriotic hypertension. Those who disagree are branded ideological traitors.--Eric S. Margolis, "The Big Lie About 'Islamic Fascism'," ericmargolis.com, August 28, 2006]

Charley Reese, "Bigotry and Ignorance of Islam," antiwar.com, August 29, 2006

VIDEO: Kieth Olbermann, "There Is Fascism, Indeed," MSNBC, August 30, 2006

Jim Lobe, "Fascists? Look who's talking," Inter Press Service, September 2, 2006

VIDEO: Kieth Olbermann, "A Special Comment About Lying," MSNBC, October 5, 2006

[Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria.

The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland's prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "never justified," while 24 percent believe these attacks are "often or sometimes justified."

Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world's most-populous Muslim countries Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are "never justified"; in Pakistan, that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent.--Kenneth Ballen, "The myth of Muslim support for terror," Christian Science Monitor, February 23, 2007]

Glenn Greenwald, "Terrorism: the most meaningless and manipulated word," salon.com, February 19, 2010

[Recent exposes revealing that Ethan Bronner, the New York Times Israel-Palestine bureau chief, has a son in the Israeli military have caused a storm of controversy--Alison Weir, "US Media and Israeli Military All in the Family," Sabbah Report, February 27, 2010]

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