Against “Islamofascism”

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I briefly considered responding to Christopher Hitchens’ defense of “Islamofascism” (the term not the doctrine) via a roundabout discussion of Orwell fetishism, but suffice it to say that I identify with the pragmatist tradition and the thing to ask about a term like this is what does “Islamofascism” do.

And it’s pretty clear what it does, namely provide a spurious patina of unity and sameness to diverse phenomena involving Muslims Behaving Badly so that al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Assad, Saddam, Iraqi insurgents, Somali Islamists, plus sundry oppressive folk practices common in portions of the Islamic world like female genital mutilation in parts of Africa, “honor killings” in parts of South Asia, etc. The question to ask ourselves is what, if anything, is accomplished by devising and deploying a term that unites all those phenomena. If you want to use emotional outrage at 9/11 to leverage political support for an invasion of Iraq, then the answer is obviously “yes.” Similarly, if you want to leverage outrage at 9/11 into political support for a bombing campaign in Iran then the answer is “yes.”

But I don’t want to do either of those things, and, indeed, I think the people who do like to do those things are having an immensely detrimental impact on our ability to understand events in the contemporary world and pull the United States out of the foreign policy tailspin we’ve been in recently. Which is a long way of saying, I’m not buying.