Friday, March 23, 2007

Who's Your Enemy

I recently received a call from a delightful evangelical Christian hoping to enlist me in a war against “our common enemy”— Islam. While I might ordinarily be inclined to respond to such calls by pretending to be my own answering machine, and thus avoid having to take the call at all, I opted instead to engage in a conversation about something that is very important to me: confronting the real enemy.

Islam is not my enemy. Nor is it yours. Yes, there are elements within Islam that are the enemies of freedom, and they, assuming you are in favor of freedom, are your enemy. But these elements exist in every religion, and labeling the enemy Islamofascist leads to the false conclusion that all of Islam as your enemy.

While I find the conclusion false, it was exactly the conclusion the caller expected me to make. Islam, because it denies the jingoistic chosenness of the Jews and the spiritual triumphalism of the Christians, must be against God who in fact chose the Jews and sent the world his only begotten son. When I suggested that the Koran and Islam offer a viable alternative to both Jewish and Christian interpretations of God’s will, I was met with the notion that the Koran, because it denies these claims, is by definition a false revelation coming from the Devil. I find such reasoning circular and meaningless.

Yet there is an enemy. The enemy is not Islamo-anything. The enemy is fascism in all its forms: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Secular.

Fascism technically began in Italy under Benito Mussolini and ruled that country from 1922 to 1943. Broadly understood fascism is an extreme authoritarian political ideology in which, according to Mussolini, “the state… governs and molds individual wills with laws and values of spiritual life… For the fascist, everything is within the state and… neither individuals or groups are outside the state… For fascism the state is an absolute, before which individuals or groups are only relative.” Or, to put it more succinctly in his original Italian: “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato/ Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

Statism is my enemy, fascism is my enemy, regardless which religion fascists choose to hide behind. Any group that seeks to subsume the individual beneath the state, and uses lies, violence, propaganda, and censorship to do so is my enemy. Any movement that seeks to shut down the individual’s right to choose her own way in life is my enemy. And Islam has no monopoly on this.

I am for the freedom of the individual to choose for him or herself how best to be in the world. While there are limits to individual freedom (one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins), and hence we must learn to negotiate with one another to maximize the freedom of all, I am opposed to any system that seeks to reduce the individual to a pawn in a game controlled by politicians or clerics. America is not safe from fascists, but the threat may be as much from those who claim to be fascism’s enemies then those these anti-fascists claim to fight.

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