31 August 2006

Giving some definition to Islamofascism to help out Senator Reed

Islamofascism... mention it in politics and one is labeled as 'racist' or 'misguided' or 'inaccurate'. Yes, inaccurate!

That is what Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) thinks as he stated in this transfer of information from Kathryn Jennifer Lopez at National Review giving us the Senator's good words from a 30 AUG 2006 telephone interview via Congressional Quarterly (also Charles Schumer):

QUESTION: Senator, I was wondering if you could respond to the earlier note of the use of the phrase Islamo-fascism, if you think that is an accurate term for what's going on.

REED: Well, I'll just say I don't think it's particularly accurate. You know, I think if one carefully has looked at the history of fascism, which was a political movement in western Europe that actually, in the two principal cases, came to power through democratic elections — at least in Germany it did — I think the analogy is very, very weak.

And what they're looking for is a kind of a connection, a symbolic connection, between the struggle against Nazism and fascism in Italy. And I think, again, it misperceives the nature of the threats we face today.

This is not a nationalistic organization that is trying to seize control of a particular government. It is a religious movement. It is motivated by apocalyptic visions. It is something that is distributed. Most of these terrorist cells seem to be evolving through imitation, rather than being organized.

And again, I think it goes to the point of that their first response is, you know, come up with a catchy slogan, and then they forget to do the hard work of digging into the facts and coming up with a strategy and resources that will counter the actual threats we face.

And so, you know, I think it's imprecise. It's meant, I think, more for political consumption in the United States than to adequately describe what's going on in the world.

SCHUMER: I basically agree with Jack on that. There are extreme religious fanatics — Islamic religious fanatics who want to hurt us, and we have to fight them. But you got to have a real policy to do it.
Now, lets take a look at this.

Definitionally what is fascism? Well, everyone loves dictionaries and scaring up a few of those online is pretty easy, so lets look at the fascist end of this first.

From Fast-Times and their political dictionary on fascism:
fascism - a nationalistic, authoritarian, anti-communist movement founded by Benito Mussolini in Italy in 1919. Fascism was a response to the economic hardship and social disorder that ensued after the end of World War I. The main elements of fascism were pride in the nation, anti-Marxism, the complete rejection of parliamentary democracy, the cultivation of military virtues, strong government, and loyalty to a strong leader. Fascists wore a uniform of a black shirt and and used a greeting derived from ancient Rome of the outstretched arm. Mussolini's Black Shirts (as they were known) seized power in 1922. A movement modeled on fascism, Germany's National Socialism (Nazism) also began its rise in the 1920s. In 1936 in Spain, General Francisco Franco's fascists seized power and precipitated a three-year civil war, with Franco victorious. Italian fascism collapsed with the death of Mussolini and the end of World War II. Although since then there have been South American military regimes that have adopted some of the terminology and concepts of fascism, fascism in its classic form is considered to have died with Mussolini. Sometimes the term is used now as a term of abuse, triggered by any real or imagined outbreak of authoritarian thought or behavior.
A good start and thorough thumbnail. But that may be misleading, so lets check a couple of other sources, like the Political Glossary at the Thomson Nelson site:
An extreme form of nationalism that played on fears of communism and rejected individual freedom, liberal individualism, democracy, and limitations on the state.
Less filling, tastes great! Maybe a bit too boiled down, however. Perhaps the Free Dictionary can help here:
1. often Fascism
a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.

2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.
A bit better between the two. Now for a final site called Black Crayon and even though they have a relatively garish site, but it looks like a workable definition:
An authoritarian form of statism that advocates

1. private property
2. State-centralized economy
3. militarism
4. nationalism

(Notice that between the first 2 criteria, fascism promotes political capitalism without any pretense of a free market.)

Socialists and left-liberals often refer to any form of fervent conservatism as fascism, but they are incorrect in doing so.

Many people use the term to refer to any form of authoritarianism. This usage is less incorrect, but strictly speaking, fascism requires all 4 of the above criteria.
A few workable criteria, and a good gloss on the basics.

Thus we can start to derive the nuggets of this thing called fascism.

First of is that it is Nationalistic or adheres to a Nation or National concept. The two typific cases, however, had a broad view of that both with the Italian attempts to re-establish the Roman Empire, at least in words although they did head to the outposts and put threats and military as far south as Ethiopia, and in the German conception of 'lebensraum' in which Germany would expand through Europe to give the German People living space and put the lesser breeds of man to work as slaves or servants. Although Fascist-based regimes in Spain and Latin America took on martial trappings, they did not get to the establishment of a high class military nor into the overly expansionist mode, although some few did have nasty fights with neighbors that looked expansionistic.

Nationalism is seen, then, as 'expansionist' Nationalism to impose the Nation upon other Nations. Excuses to Empire are given, but it is a Nation-based Imperialistic concept.

Second, State Centralized economy. As fascism rejects the Communist 'workers owning the means of production' and 'dictatorship of the proletarian' conception, this means that State ownership is by the rulers of the Nation. That rulership is typified as anti-democratic or not adhering to democratic ideals nor to Communist ideals. This conception, then, is authoritarian in its outlook and dictatorial in its practice as seen by all fascistic governments from the typific Italy and Germany to the Spanish and Latin American variants.

State Centralization for the economy extends *from* its perceptual basis of being anti-democratic so that rights are granted *from* government.

Third is Militarism of the State and imposed military authority upon the population. This ranges from the typific of Italy and Germany strong centralized military downwards through the Spanish and Latin American fascistic States using the military in a similar means as a control mechanism over the State. The anti-democratic ruler or rulers of the State impose dictatorial rule and oppression via the military. Controls over such things as freedom and liberty and their uses is achieved via military methods of repression and terror.

Militarism for State control, repression, terrorism and expansion.

Fourth and finally, fascism is anti-liberal, as in the old school, 19th Century rights of man, liberal. By controlling the sources of information, personal liberties and enforcing structure from the rulers downwards, fascism negates all Western liberalism and ends it so that the State may have sole control over all aspects of individual life.

This definitional sphere nowhere mentions religion as that is controlled by the State and, as all else, dictated to by the rulers upon the people of the State. Fascism as a conception, therefore, is not antithetical to religion as Communism is. Fascism may, indeed, embrace a form of religion that preaches *for* the State and be in continuity *with* the State.

These were more than 'political movements' from the outset as each fascist political organization armed itself illegally and used such arms to enforce their will upon people. From the start fascist organizations have not been shy about imposing their will upon people at gunpoint. When democratic government decays to the point of allowing such things, the State monopoly on lawful use of violence is broken. In a society of representational democracy laws are put in place that govern what is and is not lawful use of arms, and organizations that, indeed, use arms to threaten society are unlawful.

Thus I find Senator Reed's understanding of fascism to be problematical at best and disingenuous at worst. The two typific cases point to systems where democracy had already been undermined to the point of non-legitimacy of the government itself, in no small measure to armed political parties roaming the streets. Civil War in Italy and the open fighting in the streets between fascists and communists in Weimar Germany points to failure of the Nation State to keep itself legitimate by law enforcement. Due process was replaced by the rule of the strong and power hungry over the populace. Elections are just one methodology to be used in gaining power and outright subversion and open conflict with the State is another. Fascism does not determine pre-set modes and methods to come to power, although the means are usually violent.

On top of that the conception of radical Islam or Islamic terrorists, is that of enforcing an Imperial view upon the world which distinguishes between peoples not based on ethnicity but upon religion. Trot out phrases of your choice on the Koran and footsteps and such, but the conception being pushed is that of an Imperial set-up based on religious coherency and Theocracy. Here again the good Senator misses the point that Nationalist conceptions need not be restricted to ethnicity, language, skin color or other such things and may use another definitional term, in this case religion, to define itself.

Now comes the Islamic part which will be less than entertaining. For the melding of Islam and fascism is an interesting admixture that *can* go together but not necessarily cohere as a structure. The most cited thing that Iran and al Qaeda and other extremists in Islam are aiming for is the Caliphate: the rule from a central figure over all Islamic lands wherever they may be. So a couple of definitions ensue.

From wikipedia (which is a fluid structure and liable to change at a moment's notice) on Caliph:
Caliph is the term or title for the Islamic leader of the Ummah, or community of Islam. It is a romanized version of the Arabic word Khalīfah which means "successor" or "representative". Some of the early leaders of the Muslim community following the prophet Muhammad's (570–632) death called themselves "Khalifat Allah", meaning representative of God, but the alternative title of "Khalifat rasul Allah", meaning the successor to the prophet of God, eventually became the standard title. Some academics prefer to transliterate the term as Khalīf.

Caliphs were often also referred to as Amīr al-Mu'minīn "Commander of the Faithful" , or, more colloquially, leader of the Muslims. This title has been shortened and romanized to "emir". It is also found as a personal name in some countries (Amir or Aamir).


The authority of the caliph

Who should succeed Muhammad was not the only issue that faced the early Muslims; they also had to clarify the extent of the leader's powers. Muhammad, during his lifetime, was not only the Muslim leader, but the Muslim prophet and the Muslim judge. All law and spiritual practice proceeded from Muhammad. Was his successor to have the same status?

None of the early caliphs claimed to receive divine revelations, as did Muhammad; since Muhammad is the last divine messenger, none of them claimed to be a nabī, "a prophet" or a "rasul" or divine messenger. Muhammad's revelations were soon codified and written down as the Qur'an, which was accepted as a supreme authority, limiting what a caliph could legitimately command.

However, there is some evidence that the early caliphs did believe that they had authority to rule in matters not specified in the Qur'an. They believed themselves to be the spiritual and temporal leaders of Islam, and insisted that implicit obedience to the caliph in all things was the hallmark of the good Muslim. The modern scholars Patricia Crone and Martin Hinds, in their book God's Caliph, outline the evidence for an early, expansive view of the caliph's importance and authority. They argue that this view of the caliphate was eventually nullified (in Sunni Islam, at least) by the rising power of the ulema, or Islamic scholars, clerics, and religious specialists. The ulema insisted on their right to determine what was legal and orthodox. The proper Muslim leader, in the ulema's opinion, was the leader who enforced the rulings of the ulema, rather than making rulings of his own. Conflict between caliph and ulema was a recurring theme in early Islamic history, and ended in the victory of the ulema. The caliph was henceforth limited to temporal rule. He would be considered a righteous caliph if he were guided by the ulema. Crone and Hinds argue that Shi'a Muslims, with their expansive view of the powers of the imamate, have preserved some of the beliefs of early Islam. Crone and Hinds' thesis is not accepted by all scholars.

Most Sunni Muslims now believe that the caliph has always been a merely temporal ruler, and that the ulema has always been responsible for adjudicating orthodoxy and Islamic law (shari'a). The first four caliphs are called the Rashidun, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, because they are believe to have followed the Qur'an and the way or sunnah of Muhammad in all things. This formulation itself presumes the Sunni ulema's view of history.
A fair round-up of the view of the Caliph, descent from the Prophet and the purpose of the Caliphate... as far as it goes. Another good definition comes from Bartleby, of all places:

(kl´ft´´, -ft), the rulership of Islam; caliph (kl´f´´) , the spiritual head and temporal ruler of the Islamic state. In principle, Islam is theocratic: when Muhammad the Prophet died, a caliph [Arab.,=successor] was chosen to rule in his place. The caliph had temporal and spiritual authority but was not permitted prophetic power; this was reserved for Muhammad. The caliph could not, therefore, exercise authority in matters of religious doctrine.
The two have a high definitional similarity as do ALL definitions of Caliphate. The Caliphate then has defining characteristics which are as follows.

First, there is an Islamic State that is, in conception, theocratic in rulership viewpoint and it includes all that practice Islam. The Caliph is the ruler of the community of Islam in the temporal realm, but does *not* have prophetic powers nor is given sole authority over religion. Now this Sunni vision, which is the form al Qaeda is looking to, is at odds with the vision being seen in Iran where Theocrats have the power to over-rule the temporal leader and, indeed, all temporal goings-on in the State. Neither sect sees the Caliph as the head of Islam, but final view of what is allowable for the Islamic State can be over-ruled in the Iranian version, but not the al Qaeda version. So similar and yet so different and Christianity went through many permutations of this on a faster and wider scale in Europe, with large wars fought time and again based on variations on belief systems and which was *correct*. And, over time, the bloodiest religious wars are not *between* religions, but between sects within a religion.

The Caliph, then, is temporal leader of the Islamic State, but should adhere to the scholars on what laws actually *are* and how they should be administered, with variations on scholars over-ruling or not as the sects vary.

Second the conception of the Caliphate is anti-liberal in the extreme: while other religions may or may not be tolerated, depending upon the variance of the scholars, rights are handed down from the State to individuals and not being Islamic gets you short-changed. The power structure flows down from the top, be it the religious scholars behind the scene or the Caliph over them, and that is enforced as law throughout the community of Islam. Of course that is the old formulation of Caliphate, the type being given, particularly by Iran but, also by al Qaeda, sees little use for the dhimmi or non-muslims. Their view on what the dhimmi gets is minimal and, by the actions we have seen in Iran and by al Qaeda, most likely to be fatal. Lives of dhimmi as PRACTICED (do not bother me with the Koran here, their actions speak more volumes than that holy book) are expendable and expended as needed.

The Caliphate has a class basis with the top two positions held by the Caliph and scholarly elite, the ummah which are the regular Islamic worshipers and the dhimmi.

Thirdly, and most interesting, is that little mention is made of economic control in this structure, although adherence to Islamic law is fundamental. Making profit by lending is not allowed to the ummah, but, in practice, this varies quite a bit, and 'mark up of resales' and other techniques are used to circumvent the direct charging of interest. Using debt, charging re-sale markup and otherwise dancing around the usury injunctions is a hard one for Islam to cope with in the non-Caliphate based world and this is made worse by economies dependent upon natural resources. The money from those resources flow to a limited few and wealth is a top down affair with very little trickle-down to the general economy. Industrialization is very haphazard and, as a whole, the entire Middle East lags behind the rest of the Islamic peoples in the Far East. But *their* conception is not that of Caliphate while those in the Middle East *are* just that. For a meaningful Islamic State to be run under the conception of a Caliphate the question of who controls industrial production is a key one and, to this day, none of the adherents want to clearly and unequivocally address it. Iran, however, still has much in the way of State owned enterprises and central economic planning, even though it does have a private sector, too. This mixed economy is turning in mixed results and points to a clear doctrinal flaw in pushing the Caliphate.

Economically the backers of the Caliphate are 'unclear on the concept' : a dictatorial or authoritarian ruled economy, mixed public/private, or mostly private.

Fourth is the use of jihadism as the foundational support for the new Caliphate. All the Islamic terrorist groups backing the return to Caliphate support the distributed military means of terrorism to do so. Terrorist organizations may or may not have State based sponsorship, directive and/or control. Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army of al Sadr in Iraq are funded, supported and trained via Iran and given some directivity by Iran, also. Iran is using both as Foreign Legions 'once removed' so as to give them the ability to show how good and noble they are in supporting them, but that no blame for bad activities should fall upon Iran because of those activities. al Qaeda and various other groups are private sponsored organizations, with a bit of State funding kicked in here and there either through ransoms, extortions or outright coercion. That said, these organizations are *not* beholden to a State and do their own thing, and often cooperate on operations when such meet the interim goals of both. When established *before* taking power, this is considered to be an illegitimate form of military and should be anathema to all Nation States. When such organizations have gotten to power, they do not give up the use of military force against those they took power *from* and, in point of fact, incorporate that into their ruling structure concept.

Militarism to intimidate and control populations is seen as valid and terrorism controlled by the State is the means by which al Qaeda and Iran both wish to enforce their rule, thus it is primary to the Caliphate.

The points of coincidence between the Caliphate and fascistic outlook:

1) Both use the State as basis for functioning. In secular fascism this is based such things as ethnicity, language, race, and elite class. In Islam this is the use of religion as defining the position of individuals within the State itself, with a ruling set of Elites at the top.

2) Both conceptions put an individual up as the ruling authority.

3) Both conceptions are anti-liberal and restrict the rights of individuals.

4) Both depend upon the use of force and military backing to gain power through the use of intimidation, terror and murder. In Germany the forces there were in de facto control of many neighborhoods before elections and the 'force on the streets' made the issue of who to put in as the head of government a moot point: either put in the force or face rebellion. Italy went through a Civil War on this. And the modern terrorist organizations start out with the military and adorn that with politics. Military force is primary to both conceptions.

5) Both depend upon authoritarian rule done via a sole leader, either with or without backing from an organization that has set strictures on what that rule is, the conception is authoritarian in whole.

The points of difference between the concept of Caliphate as radical Islamists want it and fascism are there, but difficult to find:

1) Fascists have sole economic control with very little unstructured private economy. Public and private both fall under the plans of the State. This falls in line with other parts of the Caliphate, but no clear doctrine has been given. One suspects that as all temporal things are controlled by the Caliph, that the economy also comes under that direct control.

2) Ultimate power invested in the sole leader. Fascism degenerates to that quickly, but only for temporal, not religious matters. In the Caliph as the temporal ruler but unable to do much with the religious side, in the past has deteriorated to decadence based on things temporal on the basis of 'anything not restricted is allowed' and 'anything that can be argued two ways comes out in favor of the Caliph'.

Now, on Senator Reed's other points, this looks to undermine *those*:

That the movement to Caliphate is *not* Nationalistic and not restricted to a Nation State ignores the end goal of creating an umbrella State containing all that practice Islam. Beyond merely National, this is the dream of Empire via Nation which has high identity with the typific fascist regimes of Europe. They are *not* using the means and methods that Italian and Germans, amongst many others, have used, but that does not stop the dreams of the Caliphate as a State and then Global Empire.

Senator Reed does have a fair point about the distributed quality of Islamic Terrorism to establish the Caliphate. Fascists, however, would cooperate amongst themselves, even when they had differing goals. The ultimate goal of conquest could be fought after immediate rivals were eliminated. Indeed fascist factions were supported in foreign lands by both Germany and Italy, and after the war a distribution of fascism happened. That they do *not* cooperate demonstrates the secular goals of their movements, a more universalist and encompassing form of fascism would likely use a distributed format to its own ends. The Senator's point is self-undermining, and not a reasonable position to take on a definitional space as *no* expansionist, nationalist movement aiming for global domination as arisen in a distributed fashion. If one *did* it would look very much like the modern Islamic based terrorist organizations, although with a bit higher death toll and better doctrinal adherence

Perhaps the good Senator can dig into some facts? And Mr. Schumer, too.

They seem to think that a bit of religion or a bit of politics makes all the differences and do not bother to examine operational goals and methods to achieve them.

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