Friday, August 11, 2006

Let's get real here...

Commenting on Bush Jr's statement that “this nation is at war with Islamic fascists...," Parvez Ahmed, board chairman of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote Thursday in an open letter to President Bush:

"Unfortunately, your statement this morning that America 'is at war with Islamic fascists' contributes to a rising level of hostility to Islam and the American-Muslim community...You have on many occasions said Islam is a 'religion of peace’...Today you equated the religion of peace with the ugliness of fascism.”

An OPEN LETTER to Mr. Ahmed

Mr. Ahmed, my friend, Peace be upon you.

With respect, Bush did not equate Islam with fascism; he merely publicly associated the two, which is consistent with the present facts. Mr. bin Laden, for example, has made it plain through his actions that he is both Islamic and fascist (as have any number of very active and associated and non-associated terrorists) and he has made it plain he considers his religion to be tightly woven with his political philosophy, essential to it, in fact. I suppose you could request of Mr. bin laden that he also cease to so closely associate his politics with his faith, but I don't see that happening.

But in any case....

I know there's a certain uncertainty when it comes to defining fascism, but just for clarity, I'll pull some stuff from Wikipedia:

"A recent definition is that by Robert O. Paxton:

"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."


"Fascism is associated by many scholars with one or more of the following characteristics: a very high degree of nationalism, economic corporatism, a powerful, dictatorial leader who portrays the nation, state or collective as superior to the individuals or groups composing it. Stanley Payne's Fascism: Comparison and Definition (1980) uses a lengthy itemized list of characteristics to identify fascism, including the creation of an authoritarian state; a regulated, state-integrated economic sector; fascist symbolism; anti-liberalism; anti-communism. A similar strategy was employed by semiotician Umberto Eco in his popular essay Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt. More recently, an emphasis has been placed upon the aspect of populist fascist rhetoric that argues for a "re-birth" of a conflated nation and ethnic people."

True, it is absolutely possible to be Islamic and not fascist, as it is possible to be fascist but not Islamic, and you, I and Mr. Bush all know that--and so do, for example, most North Americans. But the fact remains, we are at war with Islamic fascists. I'd be thrilled were that not the case, but, alas, it is so. Unless, of course, you don't think the bulk of the above definitions of fascist apply to the majority of Islamic folks with whom we are at war, but you haven't explained how that might be. Or, of course, if you don't think the folks we are at war with are Islamic, but that would be an even more difficult case to make.

I know full well that you are afraid that people will equate the two, and it is a plain fact that many people have already done so, so you have good reason to be afraid. But the situation will not be helped by evasion on your part when the connection is brought into the open; that just makes you look dishonest. Worse, it makes you look both dishonest and sneaky when you ask others to ignore or suppress the connection. I'm not accusing you of being either; it just sadly looks that way.

The big problem with that is: your evasiveness, which might well be more accurately described and understood as confusion based on embarrasment or fear (or what?? You tell me...), does unfairly increase distrust of your faith given that you are a spokesman by choice. I am sorry you might be embarrased or afraid, or both, but whatever it is that is behind your actions: it doesn't help.

With sincere best wishes,


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