Islam and Fascism

Are there Echoes of Fascism
in Certain Militant Islamic Groups?


There are at least three sets of arguments coming from different sectors:

  • Serious scholars and intellectuals debating the issue
  • Political Activists using the claim as a propaganda tool
  • Religious bigots using the claim to demonize Islam

Religious bigots using the claim to demonize Islam

This usually involves a portion of conservative Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists in the United States who promote Christian Zionism in a way that stereotypes Muslims.

Paul Boyer, “John Darby Meets Saddam Hussein: Foreign Policy and Bible Prophecy,” Chronicle of Higher Education , supplement, February 14, 2003, pp. B 10-B11.

For background on Bush, Bible prophecy, and apocalyptic rhetoric, see:

Political Activists using the claim as a propaganda tool

President Bush, Christopher Hitchens, the neoconservatives, and the folks at National Review find themselves as strange bedfellows here.

Serious scholars and intellectuals debating the issue

Walter Laqueur was a among the first serious scholars of fascism to make this argument in a book discussing fascism.

Laqueur, Walter. 1996. Fascism: Past, Present, Future. New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press. See pp. 174-178.

This and other matters are discussed by Terms and Concepts: Use with Caution, including sections on Islamophobia & Arabophobia, Terrorism, Fundamentalism, Neofascism, Clerical Fascism, Theocratic Islamic Fundamentalism, and Apocalyptic Demonization. These thoughts were expanded in:

Chip Berlet. (2005). “When Alienation Turns Right: Populist Conspiracism, the Apocalyptic Style, and Neofascist Movements.” In Lauren Langman & Devorah Kalekin Fishman, (eds.), Trauma, Promise, and the Millennium: The Evolution of Alienation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

_______. (2004) Christian Identity: The Apocalyptic Style, Political Religion, Palingenesis and Neo-Fascism. Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, Vol. 5, No. 3, (Winter), special issue on Fascism as a Totalitarian Movement.

_______. (2003). “Terminology: Use with Caution.” Fascism. Vol. 5, Critical Concepts in Political Science, Roger Griffin and Matthew Feldman, eds. New York, NY: Routledge.

Related offsite links

Wikipedia Entries:

Pages on Wikipedia can change in a flash, and there were a flurry of highly biased edits to some of these pages following a speech by President Bush in August of 2006 where he linked Islam and fascism. The following links are to specific versions of entries that have been reviewed for content:

Neofascism and Religion (see section on Islam)

“Islamofascism:” the term



Left debates that offer complicated theoretical discussions of militant Islamic groups and neofascism:

Don’t define fascism!!!

What is Fascism? Some General Ideological Features

by Matthew N. Lyons

I am skeptical of efforts to produce a “definition” of fascism. As a dynamic historical current, fascism has taken many different forms, and has evolved dramatically in some ways. To understand what fascism has encompassed as a movement and a system of rule, we have to look at its historical context and development–as a form of counter-revolutionary politics that first arose in early twentieth-century Europe in response to rapid social upheaval, the devastation of World War I, and the Bolshevik Revolution. The following paragraphs are intented as an initial, open-ended sketch.

Fascism is a form of extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates the nation or the race as an organic community transcending all other loyalties. It emphasizes a myth of national or racial rebirth after a period of decline or destruction. To this end, fascism calls for a “spiritual revolution” against signs of moral decay such as individualism and materialism, and seeks to purge “alien” forces and groups that threaten the organic community. Fascism tends to celebrate masculinity, youth, mystical unity, and the regenerative power of violence. Often, but not always, it promotes racial superiority doctrines, ethnic persecution, imperialist expansion, and genocide. At the same time, fascists may embrace a form of internationalism based on either racial or ideological solidarity across national boundaries. Usually fascism espouses open male supremacy, though sometimes it may also promote female solidarity and new opportunities for women of the privileged nation or race.

Fascism’s approach to politics is both populist–in that it seeks to activate “the people” as a whole against perceived oppressors or enemies–and elitist–in that it treats the people’s will as embodied in a select group, or often one supreme leader, from whom authority proceeds downward. Fascism seeks to organize a cadre-led mass movement in a drive to seize state power. It seeks to forcibly subordinate all spheres of society to its ideological vision of organic community, usually through a totalitarian state. Both as a movement and a regime, fascism uses mass organizations as a system of integration and control, and uses organized violence to suppress opposition, although the scale of violence varies widely.

Fascism is hostile to Marxism, liberalism, and conservatism, yet it borrows concepts and practices from all three. Fascism rejects the principles of class struggle and workers’ internationalism as threats to national or racial unity, yet it often exploits real grievances against capitalists and landowners through ethnic scapegoating or radical-sounding conspiracy theories. Fascism rejects the liberal doctrines of individual autonomy and rights, political pluralism, and representative government, yet it advocates broad popular participation in politics and may use parliamentary channels in its drive to power. Its vision of a “new order” clashes with the conservative attachment to tradition-based institutions and hierarchies, yet fascism often romanticizes the past as inspiration for national rebirth.

Fascism has a complex relationship with established elites and the non-fascist right. It is never a mere puppet of the ruling class, but an autonomous movement with its own social base. In practice, fascism defends capitalism against instability and the left, but also pursues an agenda that sometimes clashes with capitalist interests in significant ways. There has been much cooperation, competition, and interaction between fascism and other sections of the right, producing various hybrid movements and regimes.

Matthew N. Lyons is an independent scholar and freelance writer who studies reactionary and supremacist movements. His articles have appeared in the Progressive and other periodicals. These paragraphs are adapted from Too Close for Comfort: Right Wing Populism, Scapegoating, and Fascist Potentials in US Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1996), which Lyons co-authored with Chip Berlet. © 1995, Matthew N. Lyons.

Comment: Yes, never define smear-words. If you define “fascism” you can’t use “fascist” against anyone you don’t like. Whomever I don’t like is Adolf Hitler. Only similarities count, never differences. When it comes to me and my friends, the opposite rule holds. Any similarity is irrelevant, any difference is relevant. Whatever. Hell is eternal, hell is eternal, hell is eternal…