Islamofascism’s ill political wind

“The unfolding presidential elections are laying bare what the real dangers are in the new American condition…. Religious intolerance marks one candidate debate after another – a sweeping denigration of Islam. And it is going to backfire.

“The code word ‘Islamofascism’ has become a staple of rhetoric. It braces the talk not only of pundits, but of all the major Republican candidates – from the tough guy at one end, Rudy Giuliani, who lambastes Democrats for not using the word or its equivalent, to the ‘nice’ candidate at the other end, Mike Huckabee, who defines Islamofascism as ‘the greatest threat this country [has] ever faced’.

“The pairing of ‘Islam’ and ‘fascism’ has no parallel in characterizations of extremisms tied to other religions, although the defining movements of fascism were linked to Catholicism – indirectly under Benito Mussolini in Italy, explicitly under Francisco Franco in Spain.

“… there is a broad conviction, especially among many conservative American Christians, that the inner logic of Islam and fascism go together. Political candidates appeal to those Christians by defining the ambition of Islamofascists in language that makes prior threats from, say, Hitler or Stalin seem benign. The point is that there is a deep religious prejudice at work, and when politicians adopt its code, they make it worse.”

James Carroll in the Boston Globe, 21 January 2008