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Islamo-Nazi-Facists: Getting Orwellian on Islamofascism

Everyone knows the easiest, most annoying way to win an argument on the internet: compare your opponent to Hitler. (Also known as Godwin’s Law, here are two shining examples from pop culture: Troy in my favorite monologue from the third season of Community, “I use comparisons to Hitler to win arguments on the internet at the drop of a hat.” Next, Emily Nussbaum writing about Veep, “The show has more Hitler comparisons than an Internet flame war.”)

Over the last few weeks, we pointed out examples of people--mainstream and not--demonizing America’s extremist enemies with terms like “barbarian”, “savage”, and “primitive”. But those examples explicitly denigrate and demonize our enemies. Another term has the same effect, only more subtly and with a veneer of intellectual rigor:


“Islamofascism” (and its close relative “Islamism”) compares extremist Muslims to Hitler. All in a single word. It’s a one word example of Godwin’s Law.

To start, let’s break the terms down. And they need to be broken down, because as words, “Islamofascism” and “Islamism” make no sense.

We’ll begin with the proponents of the phrase trying to defend these terms. Christopher Hitchens advocated for the term here, writing that both fascism and Islamism love empire, oppose intellectualism, and display anti-modern, anti-gay, anti-women and anti-semitic tendencies. Except that, as Hitchens writes, “There isn't a perfect congruence. Historically, fascism laid great emphasis on glorifying the nation-state and the corporate structure.”

In other words, the most important part of fascism--the importance of the state over all else--is also the biggest difference between it and so-called Islamofascism--which is based on a love of religion over all else. Fascism is, primarily, a form of government, an authoritarian/totalitarian dictatorship. Islamofascism most commonly refers to a group of non-state actors--al Qaeda--which just seems especially silly. Though al Qaeda dreams of a caliphate (a Sunni Caliphate), they don’t actually represent a state...yet.

Of course, in the last few months, Islamic extremists, for the first time, took over and maintained parts of Iraq and Syria, but the term Islamo-facism existed well before Islamic extremists started their first, completely unrecognized and fragile nation-state. And those extremists clearly value religion over the idea of a nation.

As On V fave Geoffrey Nunberg wrote, this particularly didn’t apply to Iraq:

Actually, the term "Islamo-fascism," if taken literally, doesn't make sense. The "fascist" part might fit Saddam Hussein's Iraq, with its militaristic nationalism, its secret police and its silly peaked officers' hats. But there was nothing "Islamo" about the regime; Iraq's Baathists tried to make the state the real object of the people's devotion.”

The next problem with Islamofascism is that it exaggerates the threat posed by Islamic extremists. Hitler and Nazi Germany actually did threaten millions and millions of people. They threatened all of Europe, if not the globe. As Paul Krugman’s sarcastically wrote about this comparison, “Yep, a bunch of lightly armed terrorists and a fourth-rate military power — which aren’t even allies — pose a greater danger than Hitler’s panzers or the Soviet nuclear arsenal ever did.”

Which brings us to the third problem: this term lumps way too many people together under one umbrella term. Katha Pollitt of The Nation explains:

"Islamo-fascism" conflates a wide variety of disparate states, movements and organizations as if, like the fascists, they all want similar things and are working together to achieve them. Neocons have called Saddam Hussein and the Baathists of Syria Islamo-fascists, but these relatively secular nationalist tyrants have nothing in common with shadowy, stateless, fundamentalist Al Qaeda--as even Bush now acknowledges--or with the Taliban, who want to return Afghanistan to the seventh century; and the Taliban aren't much like Iran, which is different from (and somewhat less repressive than) Saudi Arabia--whoops, our big ally in the Middle East! Who are the "Islamo-fascists" in Saudi Arabia--the current regime or its religious-fanatical opponents? It was under the actually existing US-supported government that female students were forced back into their burning school rather than be allowed to escape unveiled.

Which brings us to the fourth problem, “the Saudi Arabia problem”. If one country represents both Islamic theology and dictatorship, it’s Saudi Arabia. Why does Saudi Arabia take the crown from Iran? Because Iran has a working parliamentary system with elections. Saudi Arabia doesn’t have anything close to that, and oppresses women and minorities way more than Iran.

They’re also one of America’s closest allies.   

Some pundits--like Christopher Hitchens above--fear a pan-Islamic front. They believe that all Islamic nations could rise up together to oppose, and possibly destroy, the Western world. Except that Muslims aren’t uniting; they’re dividing. Dexter Filkins, on the New Yorker’s “Political Scene” podcast, (somewhat accurately) predicted an all out Sunni/Shiite civil war. Instead of the world facing a unified front, America’s greater concern would be a multi-state religious war...between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Which just goes to the point of the whole thing. If there is a giant Sunni/Shiite rift in the religion of Islam--even if there isn’t a gigantic pan-national intra-Islamic war--it doesn’t make sense to use one term to bunch all extremist Muslims together. Unless you want to dehumanize and demonize them.

America has enemies. Some of them are Islamic, but we can’t group them under one umbrella term. Especially an umbrella with overt references to America’s number one historical enemy, Hitler--who superseded the British for Northerners and Abraham Lincoln for formerly confederate states--as America’s number one enemy. It prevents any sort of dialogue or bridge building.

Instead of “Islamo-fascism” we should use what we always have: Islamic extremists. This phrase does two things: 1. Identifies a group (or groups) that uses violence to achieve a myriad of political goals. 2. Separates the extremists from the rest of the Muslim world.

Which is much more accurate.


You can get more specific and say Sunni extremists or Shiite extremists. Especially now that the region’s civil war is defined by those terms.

What do you think about using the term “jihadist”? Since there are many concepts of jihad (personal vs. outwardly focused and violent) maybe it is too broad?

I prefer to use the term Islamic Totalitarianism as described in this book and book review.


The term “ismalofascist” annoyed me a great deal back when it was inf ashion (it’s hardly in use any more).

It had always an aura of being primitive, unintellectual, distracting … and hardly ever used in a sensible text. It became a mark of people and texts which added nothing of value to a discussion, but rather only expressed aversions (and it often seemed as if expressing and enjoying these aversions was important to them psychologically).

The correlation with grammar errors was striking as well.

Use what term you like, just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of killing them when they killing.

Oops. The phrase above should read …when they need killing.”

Thought it interesting that Bing West called the IS forces a barbarous Islamist army and also said “The Islamists are barbarians.” I figure he is using those words based upon their behavior (I wonder what happened to those Yazidi women who have gone missing?). Seems accurate to me.

Right now everything we learn about should be treated as under suspicion of being propaganda. I remember well the commentary about the barbarous Iraqis who killes newborns in Kuwait hospital … which turned out to be 100% fake propaganda.
I also remember the many stories about mass graves in Kosovo – in that stadium, for example. Except they weren’t. Videos of civilians fleeing frome thnic cleansing turned out to be videos of civilians fleeing from legitimate combat involding rebels, and those civilians returned to their villages a few days later (not reported). Et cetera.

I suppose everyone who actually believes all those horror stories about IS is gullible, or worse – a true believer fanatic without interest in the real world.
There’s little reason to like the IS, but also dismal reason to trust news reports about them. One should wait till 5-20 years after the conflict if one wants accurate information. Historians, not reporters or officials, deliver the best info.

About barbarous armies; this wasn’t fake propaganda:


Care to interview some Yazidis? Or perhaps some of the prisoners murdered by IS for youtube videos can come back to life and give testimony. Maybe all those Christians who moved away from Mosul rather quickly left because they finally got tired of the dust storms and haboobs…all at once.

Unfortunately the world often conspires to create situations where you don’t have the luxury of waiting 5-20 for accurate information. You got to go with what you got. What we got seems rather convincing to, what was that you said “a true believer…”, oh hell that many words in a row confuses me; what we got seems rather convincing to me.

The Yezidis are right now the most useless source of information about the IS. They’re enemies of the IS and thus 0% credible.
Historians will sort out truth and lies over time, but right now only fools would believe the Yezidis’ reports.

We have seen this already with the Kosovo Albanians, who lied as much as possible to get the West to fight their war of independence for them.

I’m too much aware of history for falling prey to repeating patterns. And I have no innate desire to hate people, have no psychological demand for a concept of the enemy.
I don’t “want to believe”.

I was fooled twice – 1990 (believing Iraq was really intending to attack Saudi-Arabia, which it wasn’t) and 1999 (believing there was really large-scale ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, which wasn’t).
No more. Now I disregard everything with the smell of propaganda. If in doubt, don’t position yourself as an enemy of a foreign group, oppose them being killed.

There are people out there who prey on the gullible, and manipulate news to get the policy they want. People don’t get deceived by accident; they get deceived by deception campaigns.

About executed prisoners (and Americans better don’t claim this constituted barbaric behaviour):

SO, I have to disagree here despite agreeing elsewhere. While there is plenty of anti-IS propaganda, such as sourceless stories about vaginal mutilation, most of what you hear is true. IS has executed thousands of non-Sunnis, in particular Alawis and Shias, across Iraq and Syria. Many such as Carl, however, forget that the majority suffers more from IS than do minorities. Minorities have militaries or paramilitaries protecting them: the Alawis have the Syrian government; the Shias have Hezbollah, Iran, the Iraqi government, and the Special Groups; the Kurds have the Peshmerga and the People’s Protection Units. Even the Yazidis, whom many analysts and journalists thought friendless and hopeless, received American airstrikes. The Sunnis in the territory occupied by IS have no anti-IS supporters. Though Carl’s constant mentions of killing concern me, I agree with him that IS threatens all civilians in Iraq and Syria.


Tell me something, imagine it is 1938 and some Chinamen come in and say those Japanese have been doing terrible things in China and they present you with lots of photos and accounts. Now are you going to tell them “Forget it! I’m going to wait until a peer reviewed article comes out in China Historical Review. Then I’ll make my judgment cause I want to be really sure.” Or say it is 1942 and the Filipinos give you some very alarming reports, and you gotta make a decision about what kind of enemy the Japanese are. You gonna wait?

I could go on but you get the idea. A position such as yours is in my view mostly a clever way to avoid decision. “How can I decide? I don’t have reliable info and won’t for years.”

The Chinese defended themselves, and the Philippines wouldn’t have been atatcked if the USA hadn’t cornered Japan.

You didn’t even pick good anecdotes, but your approach is nothign but anecdotes. There are plenty anecdotes favouring the non-interventionist, skeptics side as well.

In the end, believing horror stories means hating and intervening menas killing/maiming/destroying/spending.
If in doubt, don’t do it. And horror stories from involved people are never credible. Everybody with a good deal of history knowledge should know this.


There is the point. I thought I made it obvious. I guess I failed. Oh well.

War is doubt. Human affairs is doubt. There is never complete information. If you want to remove all doubt before acting, you never will. But then again, if you want to rationalize not making a judgment or decision, loftily proclaiming that you will wait until all the facts are in is a good way.

Horror stories from involved people are never credible? Hmm. Here I believed all those things various survivors over the ages have related. I guess I still do.

You don’t seem to get it.
Uncertainty is no problem, as legitimate defence (self and collective defence) is not inhibited by it. A rejection of taking lethal action despite doubts only inhibits the notoriously cost-unworthy intervention racket.



This article discusses what is wrong with the use of the term “extremism.”

“Morsi is the Muslim Brotherhood’s triumphant president of Egypt. The Brotherhood is dedicated to transforming the country into one governed by primitive, brutal, misogynist, barbaric Sharia law.

What’s surprising is that Morsi has had nothing to say about this, not a word. Neither has he said anything about numerous “freelance” efforts to enforce other elements of Shariah law across Egypt, even though his new government hasn’t said that’s his plan.

Of course, what people like Brinkley do not grasp is that Morsi isn’t an “extremist.” He represents the essence of Islamic religious and political doctrine. He isn’t going to question calls to destroy the pyramids or impose jizya on Copts. His “silence” is an implicit sanction of those ideas and worse. After all, he ran on the platform of “purifying” Egypt. What does Brinkley expect Morsi to say? “Oh, that’s just extremist talk. Pay no attention to it. I’m really just a moderate.””


Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are not extremists but Islamic Totalitarians.

ISIS is the not an extremist group but a group of Islamic Totalitarians whose goal is to seal lis an Islamic Caliphate.

Correction for the following sentence.
ISIS is the not an extremist group but a group of Islamic Totalitarians whose goal is to seal lis an Islamic Caliphate.
ISIS is the not an extremist group but a group of Islamic Totalitarians whose goal is to establish an Islamic Caliphate.


Your point as I understand is an interesting one, that what we consider extreme isn’t really so extreme within portions of the Muslim world. Tim Furnish at MahdiWatch made the same point recently when he wrote about the attitudes toward stoning to death for adultery in various Muslim countries.


Forgive me, but I must know, is it ok to believe the horror story about Mr. Foley what with ransom and cutting his head off and all?

Unimportant. These conflicts aren’t about individuals, but about millions of people.

Imagine someone would go bomb IS in retaliation. The death of innocent civilians would be guaranteed.

IS/ISIS is using fear-inducing propaganda as a tool of operational art; fear drives their enemies into retreat at times, fear suppresses domestic resistance.
This makes even IS/ISIS videos’ representativeness questionable, since a maximization of horror is in their short-term interest.

Nobody in war is motivated to tell you the truth. Nobody gets sanctioned for lying to you.


So Mr. Foley is still intact and I am not to believe he was killed in a most savage manner? His death isn’t true?


If this article is an accurate portrayal of Foley.


The video of his decapitation could be a fraud.

This article describes how ISIS and their supporters use the media to support their cause.



I think it unlikely it is not a genuine savagely executed murder, if only because the mechanics of the thing make it hard to fake. This I say without having viewed the video which I never will view.

I viewed the video, and Carl is correct. SO, searching for the truth in current events as they happen is necessary even if only partial accuracy is possible. Some truth is better than a lie, such as Rick Wilmes’ hinting that Islam by its nature causes terrorism. Social problems cause terrorism.

I’ve seen see sea articles today saying the Foley video may have been staged. Here is one example.


It is not a lie when I say Islamic Totalitarians like ISIS want to establish a Caliphate by Sharia law. It is a part of the Islamic religion and they seek to destroy a principle the U. S. has established since it’s founding, the separation of church and state.

This is not a social problem but a disagreement over philosophic principles. The Islamic Totalitarians want to force everyone into their belief system and kill those who don’t.


The nub of the thing is still that Mr. Foley is dead and he was murdered in a most savage manner.

Your last two paragraphs are true.


I still have my doubts but I’ll admit you are probably right Foley was killed but it wasn’t in that video. As more evidence and information comes forward, we’ll get a clearer picture on what happened.

I’d like to move back to the topic of this post and the use of the term ‘extremist’.

Notice that the author of the following uses the term in his attack against ISIS. He than has to post an update to clarify his position on the issue.


UPDATE: To all who read this and assume this is against all Muslims, I am sorry you are too blind to read, this isn’t against Muslims in general. If you feel otherwise I suggest you look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself one question, am I an extremist? You say Islam is the religion of peace, since when does terrorizing the innocent (beheading women and children, wtf?) mean peace? This is directed at all extremist, if this offends/makes you angry or think I am racist you are are probably an extremist…”

Identifying these individuals for what they are, Islamic Totalitarians, eliminates any confusion and no updates are necessary.

Thanks for engaging me in this discussion BTW.

You’re correct, Carl and Rick. James Foley’s death, like Islam, is part of an Islamic totalitarian conspiracy that no others have noticed. Maybe we should warn the State Department and, while we’re at it, see what’s happening for real in Area 51.


Now that you have that off your chest.

The reality is entities like IS are out there. They show no signs of weakening, rather to the contrary, they are getting stronger. They kill people, lots of people, savagely. And they will kill you, me and the guy down the street if they get the chance.

I think the best way to describe Fascism in general is to look at it as a melding of religious and political impulses. Many people make the mistake of looking at only the political, economic, or socio-political aspect of Fascism. Put another way, Fascist regimes look to use the State or the Party to dictate even the smallest details of ones life (what a person says, thinks, eats, who he sleeps with, how much they should earn at work, what they should “know” etc…). The Fascist will co-opt and use religion and religious symbols not just to control the people, but to bind the individual to the State. The are varying degrees of Fascism; but, Fascism is a purely modern or post modern invention. It goes beyond the Enlightenment duality of Labor versus Management, or the Government and the Governed. Fascism has no problem interjecting religion into the mix, as it uses religion. One might say that in a perfectly fashioned fascist state, religion is just another extension of the State.

Seen from this perspective, Islam as defined since the 1920 Wahhabi “reforms”, fits Fascism to a T. The old secular dictatorships or monarchies are steadily falling to Fascism one by one