2006 September 17 Sunday
False Analogies Between Islam And Western Ideologies

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of registered voters from September 8-11, 2006 found most people do not buy George W. Bush's attempt to draw an analogy between terrorism and fascism.

President Bush has compared the war against terrorism to the fight against the Nazis and fascism. Do you believe that this is an appropriate comparison that reflects the danger of the current situation, or an inappropriate comparison that is only being made to justify the Bush policy in the war against terrorism?

Only 35% chose "Appropriate comparison/reflects the current danger". 59% chose "Inappropriate comparison/made to justify the Bush policy". 6% were unsure. So most people aren't gullible rubes on this one. That's gratifying. But 35% are still fooled.

In a recent speech Bush incorrectly painted terrorists and Iraqi insurgents as successors to Western totalitarian ideologies.

The enemies of liberty come from different parts of the world, and they take inspiration from different sources. Some are radicalized followers of the Sunni tradition, who swear allegiance to terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. Others are radicalized followers of the Shia tradition, who join groups like Hezbollah and take guidance from state sponsors like Syria and Iran. Still others are "homegrown" terrorists -- fanatics who live quietly in free societies they dream to destroy. Despite their differences, these groups from -- form the outlines of a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology. And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam.

The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.) On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty. (Applause.)

I hope he does not believe what he's saying. I'd prefer that he's just lying to justify the Iraq Debacle in order to save his political hide. But I fear he really does believe his rhetoric.

The big mistake made by Bush and by "Islamo-fascism" label creator Christopher Hitchens is to try to fit Middle Eastern Arab Muslim political beliefs and behavior into a Western ideological framework. Yet another totalitarian ideology? I see this foolishness as due in part to a left-liberal and neoconservative liberal desire to see liberalism as the universal aspiration of all humanity. There is afoot a belief in a form of Liberal Manifest Destiny where it is the destiny of the world for every society to become liberal in character. This is an appealing vision for hardcore liberals because it allows those most liberal to picture themselves as a vanguard. In the univeralist version of liberalism higher status comes from imagining oneself as further along on the same trail that almost everyone else is travelling on. The more people that can be imagined as on the same trail (no matter how far behind most of them are) then the more people one can be ahead of in development. Therefore "advanced" liberals can look down on the less developed from a vantage point of higher status.

But the people who label Muslims (or subsets of Muslims) as fascists do so by ignoring evidence that undermines their own belief in the universalism of liberal values. The result is that the liberals and neocons attempt to place other civilizations into Western categories that obviously do not fit. I argued back in November 2002, Middle Eastern political factions are not motivated by ideology and their behavior is based on ties of blood and faith.

Racially and tribally based regimes predate the creation of modern fascism. Absent a European intellectual influence the Middle East would still have regimes that were centered around powerful families and clan loyalty with identification extending further out into ethnic group and religious identity. Consanguinity is the biggest underappreciated factor in Western analyses of Middle Eastern politics. Most Western political theorists seem blind to the importance of pre-ideological kinship-based political bonds in large part because those bonds are not derived from embrace of abstract Western ideological models of how societies and political systems should be organized. Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations argument is therefore demonstrated by the Western inability to understand societies that do not fit into any recognizeable modern Western ideological political category.

Lawrence Auster quibbles with my labelling of consanguinity as the most important underappreciated factor for understanding the Middle East and he argues that Islam is underappreciated by intellectuals willfully trying to ignore the Muslim elephant in the room (my terminology, not his). Well, at the time I wrote the quote above I naively expected the shock of 9/11 to cause intellectuals to become more honest about Islam. I was wrong. The intellectuals refuse to see the obvious because to admit to the obvious would require admitting that some key tenets of secular liberal faith are wrong.

I see the cousin marriage practice and Islam as mutually supporting. Islam essentially codified the beliefs and values of an Arab tribe of the 7th century. The cousin marriage practiced in Muslim lands today finds a supporting moral code in Islam. The practice is even maintained in urban environments in Western countries with large Muslim populations - see my post Over Half Of Pakistanis In Britain Married To First Cousins.

As for the belief of Bush that we can transform Muslim societies: Over a year ago Larry Auster dug up a quote from a British writer writing in the mid 1930s about the British occupation of Iraq. The Bush Administration is mouthing the same foolishness that was written about the British occupation of Iraq over 80 years ago. Iraq was supposedly firmly on the road to political and social modernity in 1935.

Iraq is moving steadily forward towards the modern conception of the State, with a single judicial and administrative system, unaffected by considerations of religion or nationality. The Millet system [i.e., dhimmitude—not reflected by this ridiculous euphemism!] still survives, but its scope is definitely limited. Even the Assyrian tragedy of 1933 does not shake our faith in the essential progress that has been made. The Government is endeavoring to carry out faithfully the undertakings it has given, even when these run directly counter to the long-cherished provisions of the Sharia Law. But it is not easy; it cannot be easy in the very nature of the case, for the common people quickly to adjust their minds to the new legal situation, and to eradicate from their outlook the results covering many centuries of a system which implies the superiority of Islam over the non-Moslem minority groups. The legal guarantees of liberty and equality represent the goal towards which the country is moving, rather than the expression of the present thoughts and wishes of the population. [Emphasis added.] The movement, however, is in the right direction, and it may yet prove possible for Islam to disentangle religious faith from political status and privilege. [S.A. Morrison, ‘Religious Liberty in Iraq’, Moslem World, 1935, p. 128]

Hope springs eternal.

Why did Sayyid Qutb and other Muslim intellectuals find so much about Western mating practices to get upset about? A reader of Steve Sailer writing to him from Istanbul says the idea of romantic love threatens Muslim men with the need to compete for women with higher status European males and they see this competition as deeply threatening. So ignore all their rhetoric which seeks to dress up their anger in a supernaturally derived code of ethics and look at them as males competing for status and women.

It is no coincidence that the so-called "romantic" norm has evolved among the European Caucasian demography because of the specific workings of the incest taboo. For the Eastern male, the female is not someone endowed with the legal status of having "sexual desire," or being the subject of desire. That is because in his social reality, females are assigned, by familial authority and fiat, their partners, period. Only in a social environment where the daughter is to be married to non-family (a stranger) can the question of she having a say on with whom she's coupled gain prominence. And that quite naturally, through the dynamic of parenthood. If you, as a parent, are simply wedding your daughter to your brother's son, there's no "emotions" to discuss: he's family. If, however, it is Mr. X, then you'll ponder, "Heck, is he worthy of our daughter?" And "Does our beloved girl consent?"

And it is only in such an environment that romance, and with it the intra-gender rivalry, can come to the fore.

In the East, the male doesn't know anything like having to "earn" a girl: sooner or later he's assigned one. In the West, he has to *get* the girl - attract her attention, be able to flirt with her, seduce her, etc.

This drives the Eastern male crazy.

The whole high-falutin' rhetoric of "morals" is just a blanket over this arrogance. Women who both dress so immodestly (since they, too, have to compete for the attention of desirable males) who then show the insolence of having a say in whom they are paired with. Unthinkable and unacceptable for the Eastern male...

Click through and read the whole thing.

Is there a solution to this problem? The obvious one is to separate ourselves from the Muslims so that they do not compete in the same status hierarchy as we do. Also, physical separation avoids the proximity that Muslim terrorists need to attack us.

This idea of attempting to physically separate Westerners and Muslims would put them into separate status and dominance hierarchies. We need to do this. The problem of resentment between races and religions and the resulting competition over dominance hierarchies reminds me of the writings of Amy Chua. In her book World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability she argues that market dominant minorities (e.g. Jews in Europe, Chinese in Southeast Asia) end up the targets of hatred of less successful lower status majority populations (though she ignores differences in average IQ as an obvious explanation for the differences in levels of success). Chua made one salient comment about the world as a whole and America's place in it: Chua says America is, in a sense, the world's market dominant minority. The difference is that Americans are more a nationality than an ethnicity. But the reactions of others effectively lump all Americans together as a sort of tribe.

Chua is not an anti-globalist but argues that the USA is, on a global scale, itself a 'market-dominant minority' and is now facing the backlash that her thesis indicates.

Sorry Amy, you have to place some limits on globalism or the resentments between ethnicities and tribes will increase. There are limits in human nature to how much globalism humans can handle. Some are especially likely to fill up with resentment and anger. We should formulate foreign and trade policies which account for the status needs of humans.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 September 17 05:08 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

John S Bolton said at September 17, 2006 10:15 PM:

It's good to have more fleshing-out of how consanguinity and arranged marriages in that context, are expected to subvert nation-building. Does it follow, though, that the size of the Saudi royal family would imply that only despotism could function there, if that family is also smarter than the majority, and more political by genetic influence?
Fascism was not spiritual; it hardly even pretended to be. They liked to mix occultism and borrowings from science, while showing hostility to theologized mysticism.
Islam is spiritual; its politics is timeless theocracy 'spread by the sword'.
They are not tending towards belief in equality, liberty for anything but establishment of religion, nor any liberal ideal or pseudo-ideal.
Moslem nations, by adulating the terrorists, are not reviving the nationalist regimes such as Baathists who copied the Nazis and other fascisms. They are returning to their own faith and its political nature; its degraded exalting of mere aggression in the service of the spread of a worthless indoctrination.
In terms of status competition, moslems in western countries appear to be all at sea, with contradictory systems of prestige leaving them feeling probably more confused than conscious of a low position.
They can, in any case, draw any number of reassurances from their faith that they are really the superior ones, even as they wallow in the defilement of a French welfare project.

John S Bolton said at September 17, 2006 10:38 PM:

Regarding the GWAVE; what if it turns into Domestic War Against Extremism?
There is a contradiction in this Rockefeller, I mean Bush, approach:
Shall we become extremists against the immoderate?
Or must there be only moderate reaction against those extremists?
If only moderate response is legitimate, doesn't that quite flatly
contradict the great war rhetoric, the analogies to WWII history, etc.?

Krusty Krab said at September 18, 2006 12:33 PM:

It is much easier to name call than to face facts, or to challenge other's precepts in a rational and well-founded manner. This is well characterized by the series of ad hominem attacks you use in your article as the basis for your conclusions.


  1. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
  2. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.

Since the so-called Islamofascists are in fact advocating (2) for a system of government of the form (1), and are further basing said government upon a particular secular-political reading of Islam, it's both logical and rational to any sane person that the correct term is indeed "Islamofascim".

Sorry for you that you are so closed minded/political correct you can't see this for yourself.

Randall Parker said at September 18, 2006 4:25 PM:

Krusty Krab,

Do show me where Osama Bin Laden advocates stringent economic controls.

Belligerent nationalism? Bin Laden is quite trans-nationalist as far as I can see.

Racist? He wants all races to unite under Islam.

Try again.

Dave said at September 18, 2006 7:50 PM:

I think Islamism does have a lot to do with racism.
One of the 7/7 suicide bombers was a black convert who wanted to kill white people.

One prominent Indonesian terrorist claimed it was a war on white people, sorry I don't have a link.

In Sudan the Arabs attack the blacks, both Muslims but there is a hierarchy Muslims consider some more Muslim than others.

Bob Badour said at September 20, 2006 7:34 AM:

Islam and fascism have important parallels. Both embrace and advocate chauvinism. Both seek to subjugate and to enslave lesser people. Both seek to place rigid controls on financial and commercial transactions. etc.

They have some important differences too.

It seems to me, Randall, that your primary objection to the term islamofascism relates to the type of threat each poses. Whereas Germany, Japan and (to only a slightly lesser degree) Italy created highly organized effective armies and as societies were capable of mass production and mass cooperation, it seems the only things Islam can produce on mass scale are ignorance and poverty.

Randall Parker said at September 20, 2006 6:33 PM:


My objections to the term islamofascism:

1) It is incorrect. That's a really big reason for me to object to anything.

2) It confuses an ancient religion with a fairly new ideology.

3) It misleads people and causes them to model Islam and terrorism incorrectly and therefore to draw wrong conclusions. It distracts people away from looking at Islam full stop. The term Islamofascism leads people to think (quite incorrectly) that some modern ideology made Islam dangerous rather than its base texts and the low IQ tribal Arabs..

4) It shows just how historically shallow the neocons are. Believe it or not, most history happened before the 20th century and lots of things happening today are the result of previous centuries and not the 20th century.

What is useful about Islamo-fascism:

A) Its users advertise themselves as historically ignorant and trendy. It is damn handy to be able to spot the ignorant and shallow without first reading far into long articles that some of them write.

B) It shows the importance of understanding broader history and not just the 1930s and 1940s.

C) It is a reminder that some people are great essayists (e.g. Christopher Hitchens) but clueless.

Randall Parker said at September 20, 2006 6:38 PM:

Oh wait, I made a mistake:

Item number 4 above is really an advantage of the term "Islamofascism". Identifying who is historically ignorant and shallow is a feature of anything that can reveal it. So make number 4 be item D instead.

My bad.

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