As angry as we may get at the blasphemies of artists, we absolutely must object to this capitulation on the part of the Germans in the face of Islamofascism (yeah, I used the word: what is fascism as a tactic — as distinct from a political philosophy — if not using the threat of violence to suppress speech you don’t like?). ~Rod Dreher
Now I agree with Rod that giving in to intimidation from outraged Muslims, even over something as obnoxious as Neuenfels’ anti-religious artistic license, is unacceptable. It is another attempt to dictate what non-Muslims can say about anything pertaining to Islam, but unfortunately this time it has been successful, as the offending performance has been cancelled on account of the threats it provoked. So on the substance of the matter, Rod and I agree.
But then there’s that old “Islamofascism” again. Here I can at least see why someone might choose to call the use of intimidation and threats of violence fascist tactics, but there is nothing particularly fascist about these kinds of tactics. These are the tactics of most practitioners of “direct action” in the 20th century West (e.g., syndicalists, the New Left), the tactics of the “propaganda of the deed” of 19th and 20th century anarchists and the tactics of fanatics the world over–it is the threat and use of violence to achieve a political objective, in this case the suppression of someone else’s speech, which is, when directed against civilians (as this assuredly was), the very definition of terrorism.
Fascists used terror, but there is nothing especially fascistic, rather than Jacobin, communist, democratic or anarchist, about terror. Evidently fascism seems to be the word many people really want to use when talking about these people. I don’t know whether this is a result of neverending conditioning that fascism was the Worst Thing Ever to which all bad things must hereafter be compared (in this, fascism plays a secular role similar to that of Arianism in medieval heresiology as a kind of archetypal evil, an Urboese I suppose you might call it in German, to which all later evil doctrines must be compared of necessity as each new enemy is simply a recapitulation of the errors of that doctrine) or if we simply lack the vocabulary to describe succinctly the contempt we feel for this particular foe. But it seems clear that those who want to use fascism to refer to jihadis and Muslim intimidation more generally very much want to convey the magnitude of their hostility by using one of the most , albeit constantly overused, demon-words we have at our disposal. I understand that desire, but fascism became the universally hated thing that it is both through what fascists did and through the effective thoroughgoing demonisation of anything associated with it by the fascists’ enemies. In the same way, jihadis and jihadism, and perhaps Islam itself, could acquire the same reputation and their name will become a curse to those who speak it because of what they have done, but this will never happen if we continually fall back on our references to fascism and implausibly identify the jihadis as the Islamic branch of that ideology or as people inclined to use “fascist tactics.”
The longer we keep talking about and thinking of these people as fascists, we give them something of a free pass by not using the names proper to them and instead rely on old names from another time. Had their enemies treated fascists in this way, applying old terms to them rather than demonising their own name, there would likely have been a great deal of propaganda about the fascists as some new form of absolutism and absurd neologisms would have had to be created to talk about the threat of the Germanoabsolutists.
If there were a need, as in the old heresiology, to use these labels as a way of understanding something new and foreign–interpreting Bogomils as new Messalians or Manichees, for instance–it would be one thing, but jihadis and Islam are hardly a new arrival on the scene and have their own names appropriate to them. They employ terrorist tactics, which is not something relatively new for jihadis, and are quite outrageous enough in their own right without needing to be compared to any other villains from our history.