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The Irony of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week"

by Shaun McGonigal

Recently various speakers aligned with the political Right have been talking a lot about Islamo-fascism. They argue that this is a sub-group within Islamic nations which desire laws and policies based on an extreme form of Islamic theology and which threaten the West militarily and culturally. It is, as Rick Santorum called it, a "theological conflict." However, Santorum's ideological basis for opposing it contains a strong irony because his own religious and political views are as potentially dangerous.

During Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, Santorum and others presented this as a growing religious and political trend within a sub-set of fundamentalist Muslim leaders. He characterizes this strain of Islam as being a particular threat to the West, which we need to combat. He warns that the lack of response from Americans, derived in part from a lack of willingness to be critical of Islam from the Left, will result in disaster from the Islamo-fascist leaders in various parts of the Middle East.

I wish that Santorum were able to broaden his historical and religious view to notice the irony that exists here. Rick Santorum is a member of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), which is "dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy." The EPPC's website's "about" page continues to say that the "EPPC and its scholars work to influence policymakers and to transform the culture through the world of ideas." Transform American culture? Into what, prey tell?

It seems that what Santorum would want is to establish a form of Christian theology as public policy. Santorum's view is that Christianity is a peaceful religion that has had a positive influence on our tolerant society, and if made as the basis for our culture and politics would improve our domestic and foreign circumstances. But as anyone who has actually read the Bible should know, Christian influence could only be positive if one were very particular about which verses on chose. For example, Santorum, being influenced by Judeo-Christian ideology, is heartedly anti-homosexual, comparing it to bigamy, adultery, and incest. And, by the way, the Christian scripture has the death penalty for such "sins" as these. A theology of peace and tolerance Christianity has, eh?

Thus, Rick Santorum and his colleagues from the Right (David Horowitz and Ann Coulter, to name two others) who are on this path to warn us of Fascism from Muslims are being hypocritical. To criticize Islamic theology as a basis for policies while at the same time advocating a strengthening of policy decisions based on a Judeo-Christian perspective, a perspective with its own intolerance and history of authoritarian practices is highly ironic. In light of Islamic nations implementing Islamic laws and policies, which are dangerous to the West, they will counter with ideologies derived from policies derived from Judeo-Christian ideologies, which are dangerous to the Islamo-Fascists, thus the "theological conflict" Santorum refers to. From a larger historical perspective, this is the proverbial kettle meeting the shiny and reflective black pot.

Now, when Santorum was challenged on this point (by yours truly) when he spoke at the University of Pennsylvania, he was correct in pointing out that the threat from Islam is certainly more militant at the moment. He fails to realize that despite the fact that Islam is currently more militant, the scripture-based ideologies of both the Islamo-Fascists and the would-be Judeo-Christian fascists are essentially indistinguishable. Thus, the differing levels of militancy between the two are not inherent to the religions, but rather socio-politically circumstantial.

The social and cultural environment that many Islamic nations find themselves is distinct from the West via political, technological, and economic inequalities. Surely, the current trends in Islam are more oppressive than most Christian-dominated nations, but if social and political circumstances were to change for the worst here in the United States, the fundamentalism that boils under the surface in the United States would surely raise to a rolling boil that would strive for the control and oppression that Santorum denounces from Islam. I imagine leaders such as Rick Santorum carrying the battle flag, in such a situation.

The difference between Islamo-Fascism and the goals of the EPPC and others aligned with Dominionist theology would be, from the Religious Right's point of view, that Christianity is correct while Islam is not. From my point of view, however, this distinction is absurd; religious fundamentalism is a problem no matter what it calls itself.

It is Santorum's view that Islam is inherently militant because it began as a system of theology in control, and with a leader who led and conquered early on. Christianity, he argues, was led by a man who was powerless and ultimately defeated (this seems at odds with Santorum's theology in general, which is that Jesus is actually God), and was under Roman persecution for two centuries and has a theology of tolerance, hence our free civilization as compared to the oppressive Islamo-fascist states.

But what Santorum seems to forget is that Christianity very quickly became the oppressor and victor in the West. When Christianity reigned in power, their control was as oppressive as any Islamic state is today. The pluralistic, tolerant, and free states of the West only came about through the efforts of those struggling against the Church, which eventually led to reform and also to humanism, freethinking, and ultimately to our secular Constitution. Tolerant culture arose in the Christian West, but not due to its theology.

Islam never had a comparably successful reform. There were centuries when Islamic cultures carried the torch of progress in the world. This torch was extinguished as a return to more fundamentalist ideologies took a strong hold of Islamic civilization through religiously motivated legal, cultural, and political policy changes. "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme," Mark Twain said. In this case, this line from Islam's socio-political past rhymes with the rhetoric of today's Religious Right. It is historical verse which I don't wish to see come to completion.

If Santorum and his colleagues from the EPPC and other institutions on the Right are successful in their goals of implementing Judeo-Christian ideology into American public and foreign policy, wouldn't the "Islamo-Fascists" be correct in seeing this as a truly theological conflict? Would not the Islamic leaders striving for stronger Islamic-based states be equally legitimized in creating a Judeo-Christo-Fascist Awareness Week?

I do not wish to see fascist states of any kind especially ones based upon oppressive theologies from the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Let us combat Islamo-Fascism, but let it not be led by Judeo-Christo-Fascists who are similarly dangerous to a free, tolerant, and peaceful state.

Comments? ShaunPhilly@gmail.com

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