Thursday, October 25, 2007

Islamo-Fascism (!) | islamophobia, misinformation and my two cents

1.
Islamo-Fascism (!) Awareness Week (IFWK) according to its neo-conservative organizers, is a national effort to create awareness about Islamo-Fascist Jihad, which in reality contains how much truth is open to debate. It is currently being observed in university and college campuses across US during October 22-26. Like other schools across the country, UCLA is also hosting the IslamoFascism program this week with mixed view points and codemnation from student govt.

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is the brainchild of David Horowitz. Horowitz, president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (previously the Center for the Study of Popular Culture) editor-in-chief of FrontPageMag.com, and founder of Students for Academic Freedom, is, of course, a former leading New Leftist who has found fame and fortune on the extreme right and has done particularly well since 9/11 when he got in on the “Islamo-Fascist” ground floor. (more via LobeLog)

To begin with, the term IslamoFascim is a wrongly coined term tying up Islam with Fascism. What's wrong with "Islamo-fascism"? For starters, it's a terrible historical analogy, even from very neutral point academic point of view. According to Joseph Sobran, Islamofascism is nothing but an empty propaganda term. Linking "fascism" with Islam as Horowitz does posits that the faith of over 1.5 billion people around the world is intrinsically totalitarian.

The term is, in fact, incorrect and counter-productive. Fascism, by commonly accepted definition, incorporates extreme statism, nationalism, and corporatism. Fascism is a state-based phenomenon. Those who talk of "Islamo-Fascism" are encouraging a climate that fosters state-to-state warfare, although police and intelligence work will counter terrorism more effectively. But then, that's probably the point. Iraq II, anyone? (credit)

The Progressive Jewish Alliance has repudiated saying, "Horowitz ... uses symbols and rhetoric which exploit Jewish communal memory and grief. He uses the fear brought about by the Holocaust as well as by terrorist attacks against our fellow Jews. He juxtaposes images of Nazi propaganda with current Islamic extremists. By associating these images with broad groups haphazardly labeled “Islamo-Fascist,” Horowitz seeks to replace intellectual discussion with panic."

[>] Ali Eteraz made comment in his article "Laughing at Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" in The Huffington Post, a good recommend to read.

2.
Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week this time has been focusing on the theme, 'oppression of women in islam'.

Capitalizing on misinformation along with islamophobia, a lot of misconception has been streamed into the publicity of the event. For example when talking about oppression of women in islam, David Horowitz and his team is giving example among others: honor killing and female genital mutilation.

What is significant here is that such horrifying, barbaric practices like honor killing and female genital mutilation has nothing do with the religion of Islam. Practices such as those are very back-dated tribal customs only found in certain part of the world (parts of middle east and pakistan specifically; also found in other community such as Sikhs adherents in India). It is strongly condemned. Even there are Fatwa or religious verdict against honor killing by muslim scholars.

Secondly female genital mutilation also is a very barbaric tribal practice found in few African countries (practiced even by Christians) and it predates even christianity, let alone islam. Categorizing this horrifying practice with religion is another example of deliberate islamophobia, misinformation and crude stereotypes.

3.
Moving away from all the buzz about term Islamo-Fascism and misinformation associated with it i want to give my two cents on the neglected part of this debate. Whenever there is a criticism of Islam, it is often forgotten that no matter what is there in the actual core or teaching of the religion, it is the practitioner of that religion who represent the religion (at least for that time and space). Muslims in general seems go on unrealized that it is the actions of Muslims as a whole, which portrays the image of the religion.

There is no doubt that rights of women are seriously abused and violated in many countries dominated by Muslims, which has very little to do with religion but more to do with culture. For example the attitude against women in many arab society has very deep rooted cultural and social influence. And in many cases such violation of women right are very much against the broad minded teaching of the Prophet of Islam who exerted revolutionary effort to give women right and dignity in his time.

It is undeniable that muslim behavior across the globe has BIG TIME problems and it needs serious self-criticism. There are problems with back dated interpretation of the religion, specially when it comes to Sharia. Reforms are not taken seriously. Still there are doubtable and sources (questioned by religious scholars themselves) used (such as fabricated hadith) to formulate religious codes not suitable for modernity. There has been very little intellectual effort to make the religious code and laws dynamic and more accommodating for the time.

Events like Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, as i see it, is nothing but a reaction which is bound to happen when a beautiful religion is hijacked and made ugly by its own people and fanatics. In our time, the most damage to the image of islam is done not by any other but fanatics of the religion who use the religion as a banner to justify their own selfish agenda. As a counter reaction, spread of islamophobia and misinformation can and will happen (because that again serve other people who have their own agenda like war, sale of weapons, global dominance, ne0-colonialism) in the coming time because of the behavior of the practioners of the religion. Muslims when keep abusing the message of Islam by their ego dominating hatred against each other (shia versus sunni, wahabi versus other etc.) and violent ideology - then it is going to be interpreted like that.

There are serious areas in Islam (such as Sharia Law) which definitely needs to be addressed by islamic scholars with intellectual modern minds. The Sharia and Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) needs to go through dynamic, modern reform with a rational interpretation fitted for our time. There has been a lot advocating from muslim intellects about the need for reinterpreting the Islamic laws in order to help to develop more inclusive, generally equitable laws for the time. And that is very much encouraged and a part of the teaching of the Prophet as well. Ijtihad is Islam’s own tradition of independent thinking which needs to be revived.


# Further read on aspects of Islamo-Fascism
. On Propaganda and Islamophobia
. Looking beyond the Islamofascism rhetoric
. “Fascist-Islamophobia”: A Case Study in Totalitarian Demonization
. Weak defence of Islamo-Fascism
. The origin of Fascism
. The Hypocrisy of “Newly Minted Feminists”…And David Horowitz’ Dangerous Agenda
. Islamofascism: On language - The New York Times
. Neo-Fascism Awareness Week
. Presiden Bush and Islamo-Fascism

# Resources
. IslamoPhobia Watch
. Ijtihad
. Defend Critical Thinking
. News result from IslamoFascism Awareness Week

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