The neocons’ lexicon

Salim Muwakkil analyses the origins and meaning of the term “Islamofascism”:

“Many pundits trace the neologism to historian Malise Ruthven, who used it in a September 1990 article in the London Independent. But Ruthven used it to describe authoritarian Muslim states like Morocco, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Stephen Schwartz, the neocon author of Two Faces of Islam, insists that he is the first Westerner to use the term in the contemporary context.

“But the term gained its greatest currency in the lexicon of pro-war progressives Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman and Ron Rosenbaum, to name three. They argued that the totalitarian aspirations of theocratic groups like al-Qaeda threatened the libertarian freedoms that are the legacy of the Enlightenment.

“These polemicists were less concerned (at least, originally) with the geo-strategic issues that preoccupied the administration’s neocon warmongers, so their arguments had some resonance on the secular left. After all, how could progressives oppose the theocratic agenda of the religious right within the United States and not reject similar developments elsewhere?

“In Hitchens’ last column for The Nation, he wrote ‘the theocratic and absolutist side in this war hopes to win it by exporting it here, which in turn means that we have no expectation of staying out of the war, and no right to be neutral in it’.

“By framing the war on terror as a struggle between the liberal soldiers of the Enlightenment and the dark forces of theocracy, these progressives gave cover to warmongers with rationales much less lofty. In fact, one of the major ironies is that their support has aligned them with right wing religious groups with their own theocratic agendas.”

In These Times, 21 September 2006