Ian Buruma writes a curious piece in the Guardian. Starting with Bernard Kouchner’s advocacy of humanitarian intervention, he raises doubts by erecting a straw man; that opponents of Ba’athism and Islamism are making a mistake because they are drawing parallels with the appeasement of
But the term "Islamofascism" was not coined for nothing. It invites us to see a big part of the Islamic world as a natural extension of nazism. Saddam, hardly an Islamist, and President Ahmadinejad of
Actually, no. The term ‘Islamofascism’ was coined to describe a particular political movement, Islamism, which evinces many of the characteristics of Fascism. Saddam’s Ba’athism was not described as this. It was seen as a form of secular totalitarianism. Writers like Paul Berman have located Islamism and Ba'athism within a broader totalitarian tradition that opposes universal human rights and at times descends into irrationalist death cults. This is a far more sophisticated analysis than just saying, ‘Oh look – the new Hitler’.
Then there is the imprecision. Who are these people who ‘often’ describe Ahmadinejad and Saddam as the ‘natural successors to Hitler’? I rarely come across them. However, my main objection is that he is playing the trick of extension. Even if people use Hitler as an analogy (in my view mistakenly), they do not mean it to be a precise analogy of the military threat posed by Nazi Germany, but a short-hand term for evil.
More alarming is this statement,
If we were less haunted by memories of appeasing the Nazi regime people might not be so concerned about human rights.
If that were the case then at least some good emerged from
But the prospect of an Islamised Europe is remote. We are not living a replay of 1938.
He is perfectly correct, though no one claims we are. But should we not be concerned with the Islamist coup in
Buruma is writing this as a critic of Neoconservative foreign policy and in opposition to what he refers to as ‘the blind cheering on of a sometimes foolish power embarked on unnecessary wars that cost more lives than they were intended to save’. However, it is perfectly possible to do this without misrepresenting the critics of Islamism. In fact he commits the same offence that he accuses others of committing. He uses a sweeping generalisation to condemn others of using a sweeping generalisation. Instead we should be thankful for those who are prepared to stand for universal human rights. The debate we need to have should be about the practical steps to be taken to uphold them.