The term “Islamofascism” will no longer be banned at the Graun

July 27, 2008 at 10:41 pm (blogosphere, Champagne Charlie, Guardian, Islam, media, publications)

It all started with quite a sensible article  in the Graun, by Gary Younge.

I sent a comment in to Comment Is Free (CIF), the Graun’s highly successful website. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a copy, as it never occurred to me that it would be deleted. But it was, by the “Community Moderator”, whoever s/he may be.

My offending CIF comment started by stating that Gary Younge’s piece was “thoughtful” but marred by the “standard liberal/left casual dismissal of the term ‘Islamofascism'”; Younge had described it as, “that desperately belligerent phrase that some hurl about in the hope that it may one day land on a coherent meaning.”

I replied to this, on CIF, attempting to give the phrase a “coherent meaning” by citing the evidence presented by Ed Husain in his excellent book The Islamist, and making reference to Hizb ut-Tahrir,  Jamat-e-Islami (in Britain and Bangladesh) and the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, the Muslim Association of Britain and the British Muslim Initiative; I stated that all these (including the “respectable” MAB and the BMI) were clerical fascist organisations, comparable to the “respectable” BNP. I closed by noting that the main victims of such clerical fascism are not white Guardian-readers, but women, gays and democrats within the Muslim “community”.

This comment was deleted.

I could find no obvious way of complaining, so sent an email to an innocent CIF functionary, Ms J****, whose email address was on their site:

Dear Ms J****,

I’m sure that you are not the appropriate person to write to about this, but having scoured the Guardian’s website I cannot find a “complaints” address. A comment of mine (non-abusive, non-racist, etc) has been deleted from the comments under Gary Younge’s most recent column without explanation. I wish to pursue this matter. Who at the Guardian do I contact in order to complain?

Your co-operation in this matter would be much appreciated. Many thanks in anticipation,

Charlie Farley

***************************************************************************************************

Dear User,

The paragraph “Bigotry towards ethnic minorities, subjugation of women, hatred of gays, denial of the right of Israel to even exist, murderous hostility to organised labour – all these are the classic characteristics of both European fascism and current Islamofascism” was deemed to be in violation of the community standards – we do not deem the use of the word ‘islamofascism’ acceptable or useful in intelligent debate, especially when made in sweeping generalisations about all members of a religion.

Regards

Moderator

*****************************************************************************************************

Dear Moderator,

So you are saying that by definition  use of the term “islamofascism” renders a posting unacceptable? Please note as well that my original posting was not  about “all members of a religion” as a cursory reading of it would have made clear. It was about Islamism (a political ideology), not Islam (a religion).

Whilst I thank you for taking the trouble to reply, I have to say that I find your response completely unaccepatable and wish to take this matter further. Please advise as to your complaints policy.

Yours

Charlie Farlie

*********************************************************************************************************

Dear Charlie,

Thanks for your message. I am writing as senior moderator to confirm that on Comment Is Free moderators do remove comments that use the word ‘Islamofascism’, as an inflammatory and innaccurate term. You are welcome to repost your comment, amending Islamofascism to Islamism, to reflect your meaning accurately, and the revised version will be allowed to stand. If you wish to query this decision further, I can refer your complaint on.

Best wishes,

S****

Moderator

**********************************************************************************************************

Thank you S****:

I find this policy decision extraordinary, and clearly a form of political censorship based upon a subjective judgement. Would the same ban apply to the well-established Marxist term “clerical fascism”?

The policy is especially outrageous in the context of the Gary Younge article I was replying to: Mr Younge’s piece contained what amounted to a challenge to those who (in his words) “hurl about” the term islamofascism “in the hope that it might one day land on a coherent meaning”, to provide a “coherent meaning”: I was attempting to do just that. If comments defending the use of the term are in fact subject to a blanket ban, perhaps columnists like Gary Younge should be instructed not to issue such challenges?

And yes: I would like you to refer my complaint on.

Yours

Charlie Farley

****************************************************************************************************************

Dear Charlie,

Thanks for your message. Your point about the context is useful. I will discuss this with CIF and let you know the outcome.

Best wishes

S****

***************************************************************************************************************

Dear S****,

Has there been any progress as regards my complaint?

I note that Seamas Milne has a piece in today’s paper in which he defends Islamism, denounces Muslims (like Ed Husain) who reject Islamism, and describes the term Islamofascist as “ignorantly branded”. I presume that the blanket ban on use of, or defence of, the term Islamofascism means that I cannot reply? Or that if I do, it will once again be deleted?

Yours

Charlie Farley

************************************************************************************************************

Dear Charlie,

I discussed this with the team yesterday, who came to the decision that moderation should take better account of context in future. So if the term is used aggressively, offensively or gratuitously it may still come down. But where it is discussed cogently in the context of a rational and relevant argument, it should remain. Please let me know if you encounter any further problems with this.

Best wishes,

S****

***************************************************************************************************************

Dear S****,

Thank you for that, which seems to me to be a reasonable decision. I have to say, however, that in the light of the first response I received from a moderator (“We do not deem the use of the word ‘Islamofascism’ acceptable or useful in intelligent debate, especially when made in sweeping generalisations about all members of a religion”), I am still worried that the presumption is against use of the term and that there are some moderators who seem to be predisposed to delete the term regardles of context – and who are quite willing to to deliberately misrepresent the motives of people who use the term. I shall be putting this to the test in the course of future contributions to CIF.

Finally, I would like to reproduce this exchange of correspondence on a blog I contribute to (Shiraz Socialist) with typos corrected and email addresses deleted. I trust that will be OK by you?

Many thanks,

Charlie

****************************************************************************************************************

Dear Charlie,

Thanks for your response. Clearly, I did not enter into this exchange in the expectation that it would be published. However, if you do decide to publish it, I would appreciate the removal of sensitive details, including email addresses and names.

Best wishes,

S****

22 Comments

  1. Mbari said,

    Jim,

    You clearly have too much free time on your hands.

    Regards,

    Mbari

  2. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Why so, Mbari? It doesn’t actually take that long to write an email and besides, he had a point to make. Sounds reasonable to me.

  3. Andrew Coates said,

    Indeed Voly, a very reasonable point. It boils down to the fact that the Guardian feels it’s fine to use the term Islamofascism as a stick with which to beat critics of Islamicism, but that it’s not acceptable to employ it when you are one of the said critics.

    I have personally have only got (partially) deleted once on the Guardian’s site. It was shen I finished my cloud of rhetoric attacking arch-Islamofascist apologist, Seumus Milne (who had a piece against ‘militant secualarism’), by saying “May the blood of our martyrs be upon you!”.

  4. socialrepublican said,

    Seems like the CIF bunch are just being gutless again. No really thought or particular malice, just dogding the issue.

    As for Islamofascism as a term, I think it is unnessesary and has little heuristic use. In a similar way that old style Totalitarianism was used to paint Bolshevik Communism and Fascism as near identical beasts, Islamofascism, in my humble opinion, hinders more that it explains.

    The term I use is Islamism, that is the use of Islamic ritual, teachings and traditions as a modernist political ideology. There are moderate even benign versions such as that in the AKP and then there are a considerable band of sects and ideologues such as the MB, Jamaat, HiT. All base their telos on certain elements in the Islamic tradition to ‘solve’ their perceived problems and travails. The MB in particular is obsessed by decadence and the dissolution of the Ummah by forces of modernity.

    There are clear similarities between this phenomena and Fascism as there are between Islamism and Leninist Communism (Qutb was a high priest of vanguardism) or Jacobin Liberalism, but they are their own beasts.

  5. Gregg said,

    Hmm. My OED has no entry for “Islamism” but defines “Islamist” as just a synonym for “Muslim”.

    “Islamofascism” seems like a more useful and clear neologism than “Islamism” to me.

  6. runia said,

    http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50121788?single=1&query_type=word&queryword=islamism&first=1&max_to_show=10

    “DRAFT ADDITIONS SEPTEMBER 2007

    Islamism, n.

    Islamic fundamentalism, esp. regarded as a religious or political ideology.

    1988 Federal News Service (Nexis) 21 Oct., The concern that many have had in the past with Islamic fundamentalism, or whatever one wants to call it, Islamism, as a force that would sweep the area, destabilize regimes, in a sense reorder the political map of the region, I think that assumption has to be reexamined. 1994 Daily Tel. 9 Dec. 25/6 Algeria is being torn in two by Islamic ‘fundamentalism’ (better known as ‘Islamism’). 2001 Times 11 Dec. II. 4/1 Jack Straw has been lecturing his flock on the appeasement years, summoning up a ghostly Adolf Hitler to make us see that Islamism..must be exorcised and extirpated as Fascism once was.”

  7. socialrepublican said,

    My point being that Islamofascism has just about as much heuristic use as Islamoleninism (Indeed, I can think of a strong case, wrong mind, for Islamojacobinism). They are both pretty clumsy constructs that don’t really capture what they are meant to describe.

  8. KB Player said,

    Gary Younge’s piece was “thoughtful” but marred by the “standard liberal/left casual dismissal of the term ‘Islamofascism’”; Younge had described it as, “that desperately belligerent phrase that some hurl about in the hope that it may one day land on a coherent meaning.”

    Younge objects to the phrase, rather than the thing itself, which could be described as “that desperately belligerent ideology in which some hurl about bombs in the hope that they may one day explode to produce a coherent power base”.

  9. resistor said,

    I agree that the term ‘Islamofascism’ should not be banned as its serves a useful purpose. Just like ‘politically correct’ it identifies the user as a right-wing idiot who should never be taken seriously but ridiculed and mocked.

  10. luke said,

    Sorry this is going to be a long one as this schizm on the Left is driving me nuts. People like Seamus Milne, George Galloway and the odious Yvonne Ridley have turned support for the far right into a Left wing cause to be proud of and any opposition to their view is heretical and their critics are denounced as racists and neocons. This has got to stop. We need to reclaim the Left from these nutters.

    Resistor said

    “I agree that the term ‘Islamofascism’ should not be banned as its serves a useful purpose. Just like ‘politically correct’ it identifies the user as a right-wing idiot who should never be taken seriously but ridiculed and mocked”

    So let me get this straight.

    Using the term “Islamofascism” makes a person right wing by default is that right? Or is it the act of opposing the vanguard of the anti imperialist resistance (the Islamists) that makes one right wing?

    It seems to me that too many people on the so called Left are so obsessed with their hate for George Bush and a fear of being branded racist that they cannot bring themselves to oppose the most powerful movement of the far right to rear it’s ugly head since the fall of the Third Reich.

    Just because most Islamists are not white does not mean they cannot be fascistic, reactionary, imperialistic theocrats with murderous intent.

    Bombs are going of daily in the name of Islamism (not anti imperialism) What more proof do you need.

    The Dogmas of the Left (West bad East good, white people racist, brown people victims) which served us so well in the 70’s and 80’s no longer apply.

    We have won the war of ideas in the West, so much so that Tory MP’s talk of gay rights and racial equality. We should be proud of ourselves and try to spread the cultural victories we have won domestically to those in Africa, Asia and the Middle East who suffer under patriarchy and right wing theocracy.

    But no, what do most on the Left do?

    They vilify the liberal democracies who’s politicians for the most part support universal human rights and they champion the Islamic theocrats who wish to impose a right wing ideology on their people and others.

    It’s like a stuck record, we just can’t get over the idea that Western politicians with white skin are evil and brown skinned people are victims.

    Even when the Western politicians are representatives of liberal democracies which feed, clothe, house, protect and ensure human rights for people regardless of their colour and the Islamist represent people who commit mass murder in the name of a non existent tyrant in the sky.

    No it’s the West which is evil and the Islamists who deserve respect and understanding. Their murderous excess is only happening because of the Wests innate evil nature and oppression of course.

    Pathetic.

    PS: Resistor what exactly are you resisting? The tyranny of center Left/Right liberal democracies? or is it the evil capitalists and neo imperialists who you so heroically resist?

  11. Merlot Middle-grounder said,

    Luke’s spot on.

    As for the term ‘Islamofascist’, the unfortunate fact is, the bolt-on is redundant, the term’s tuautological….sort of like Nazifascist. Islam IS a form of fascism.

  12. Harry said,

    The term ‘islamofascist’ is a pretty dishonest piece of propaganda. It is intended to associate today’s ‘war on terror’ with the struggles of the second world war, and to paint anyone who might take a scpetical attitude to it, as fellow travelling fascists. It is name calling and if the Guardian is taking a hard line with those who use it, then I say good, it’s about time. I’d also extend the prohibition to ‘islamophobic’ as well. Both it and ‘islamofascist’ as used as substitutes for critical thought. On that point, perhaps the Guardian should permit it, as its use would be a handy way of identifying those posters whose views can be safely discounted.

  13. resistor said,

    Luke asks, ‘Using the term “Islamofascism” makes a person right wing by default is that right?’

    er yes, and very, very stupid – as you and your mate Merlot most clearly are.

  14. oliver said,

    Are Malise Ruthven and Christopher Hitchens, who have both used the term ‘Islamofacism’ ‘stupid’? I don’t think that they are – and were they to argue with the likes of ‘Resistor’ they would surely demonstrate the projection embedded in his/her statement.

    Perhaps a greater specificity is needed to get past the Guardian’s sensitivity meter – one which is highly partial, of course. This piece, by Hitchens, is useful. http://www.slate.com/id/2176389/

    I’d avoid using the phrase ‘Islamofacist’ mainly because it offers too good an opportunity for diversion. Also, Islamism is sick, twisted and totalitarian enough without having to compound it with the word ‘fascist’ – the all-purpose meaningless student insult.

  15. Luke said,

    Resistor I suggest you read the Hitchens article that Oliver posted. It has many historical examples of the Left using the word fascist to describe a religious movement from the ‘clerical fascists’ (Catholics) of Eastern Europe “To the Messianic settlers who moved onto the occupied West Bank after 1967″

    But I suppose you do not object to equating the most brutal of the Israeli settlers to fascists.

    As we all know, the simplistic politics that your section of the Left subscribe to dogmatically singles out the crimes of the dreaded Israeli for condemnation but seeks to ‘understand’ the murderous and imperialistic movement of Islamism as an understandable reaction to the evil West.

    Instead of resorting to petty insults and ad-hominem attacks why don’t you use your no doubt massive intelligence to make your point.

    I’m sure your massive brain and compassionate politics can be put to use to discredit my posts and even wipe the floor with the evil Neocon Hitchens’s rather eloquent defence of the term “Islamofascist”

    If on the other hand all you can do is condemn, denounce and insult we will all have to assume you do not have truth or logic on your side and are just playing a game of partisan politics. Us against them.

    True anti imperialists against nasty racists and fellow travelers of George Bush!!

    Which would be a truly unthinking, illogical and dogmatic stance to take. One might even say it would be a “stupid” position to take….

    Think about it!!!!!!!!!!

  16. luke said,

    Please Resistor. Can you tell me truthfully, answer using logic not emotion and reflex.

    Is it more racist to criticise an ideology of the far right than to refuse to criticise an ideology of the far right and excuse the crimes of the followers of that ideology merely because of the colour of their skin????

  17. countingcats said,

    Fascist has two uses – there is the “I don’t agree with what you say therefore you must be a fascist” usage, and there is the technical and correct usage, used to describe a specific type of social organisation.

    The second usage is valid, correct and acceptable when describing any society run on the basis of Sharia. Anyone who wished to impose Islamic law is, without question or quibble, an Islamofascist.

    I find it astonishing that the left, any on the left, don’t find Islamic principles repugnant. I can go along with disagreeing with those principles but allowing their proponents to advocate them, that is core to the philosophy of free speech, but to defend them? That is incomprehensible.

  18. socialrepublican said,

    ‘Anyone who wished to impose Islamic law is, without question or quibble, an Islamofascist.’ – But why? How does the telos of these ‘Islamofascists’ converge with any meaningful definition of fascism beyond ‘more bad guys’?

    Why not use Islamoradicalrightest or the aforementioned Islamojacobin which as just as accurate (that is not very) and highlight other contingent ideologies with Islamism?

    Islamism is a brutal and horrific ideology that brings about theocratic despotism armed with modern tools. No one on the left should be fooled by it as progressive. Yet reaching back into a back catalogue of student politic insults to create a cathartic and none too revealing construct is to mistake the particular nature of the beast and indeed lose sight of the extent of its universal elements as well. It is a error.

    ‘Islam IS a form of fascism’ – nonsense

  19. Brian from Toronto said,

    I used to use the term “Islamist” but stopped when I realized many people assume it simply means “Islamic.”

    And indeed, the dictionary says they’re right.

    Now I usually use “Jihadist.”

  20. Edwin said,

    Fascinating stuff (found my way here via the Heresiarch at Heresy Corner). Congrats on getting a sensible response from Cif. It may be that the new Seaton regime will be a more reasonable one.

    Brian in Toronto, will follow your usage re johadist.

  21. Edwin said,

    Or jihadist, even!

  22. Thalia said,

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