Idea Of The Day

Islamic Fascism and Diplomacy

Are the terrorists of the al-Qaida group “fascists“? In his congressional address last night, President Bush said they were. “We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism, and totalitarianism.”

A few days earlier, Ian Buruma explained the differences and similarities between fascists and these terrorists in more detail:

Islamic extremists are not the same as Nazis. They have not taken over the government of one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful states. … And their ideology appears to be even less coherent than national socialism. But Muslim extremists are like the Nazis in two respects: they don’t represent Muslim civilization or values, any more than the Nazis were the defenders of western civilization; and their demons are as symbolic as those of the Nazis.

This is not the first time in recent years that Islamic extremism has been equated with fascism. For example, a Russian colonel fighting against the Chechen rebels told Frank Brown, a journalist from the Russian News Service: “We are fighting Islamic fascism, that’s what we are doing. In the Great Patriotic War, we fought German Fascism. … Now we are fighting Islamic fascism.” Brown went on to say that many Russians allege that Chechnya’s rebels are part of “the ultra-conservative” Wahhabi Islamic movement, which is important since Osama Bin Laden is also a Wahhabi (as Steven Schwartz points in this week’s Spectator)—as are a great many Saudis. Indeed, the founder of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud, was a Wahhabi. Were President Bush’s remarks about Islamic fascism, in addition to reassuring more moderate Muslims about America’s intentions (for example, traditionally Iranians do not like Wahhabis), a way of informing Russia that America now considers its enemy to be much the same as theirs?