I heard a term on the radio the other day which hadn't really registered with me before, but now it's sticking and I cannot rid myself of it. I don't know what to make of it. It has a visceral effect on me.
Those who defend it applaud its use because they argue the time has come to call things very clearly, to call a spade a spade, as the saying goes. But I'm wary of labels, because once they enter into common usage, people tend to apply them far too easily and loosely, and this often leads to injustices and discrimination of the worst kind.
The topic being discussed on the radio was terrorism linked to certain armed Islamist groups.
The term being used was "Islamofascism": modern Jihadist ideology linked to fascism.
Is this reasonable?
Columnist and author Christopher Hitchens* offers an interesting examination in a recent article in Slate.com. He argues the two movements are both totalitarian in nature and share many characteristics.
"Islamofascism" is a controversial term: a person using it risks sounding like someone who sees most Muslims as people who support terrorism. And yet, Hitchens does not hold back and draws intriguing historical parallels between fascist movements and the present ideology of anti-Western jihad.
While he is careful to point out that fascist tendencies have been seen in other religions in the past, including Roman Catholicism and even Judaism, he focuses his attention now on those who support and belong to groups like Al-Qaeda. He runs through a list of similarities that makes the blood boil in any defender of free choice in a society of shared and accepted humanitarian values.
If he's right, Hitchens does offer a ray of hope: he argues that many totalitarian movements have within them the seeds of their own destruction, a sort of "death wish," as he puts it; a willingness to see the movements destroyed rather than compromised in any of their ideals.
It's bleak and disconcerting. How accurate is this assessment?
It's up to each one of us to observe, consider and decide for ourselves.
* Christopher Hitchens is a writer for Vanity Fair and is the author of "God is Not Great: How Religion Spoils Everything"
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