The Arabic root of the word jihad, a concept central to Islam, is jahada, which means “to strive for.” There are two types of jihad. The first ("greater jihad") is the soul’s struggle with evil -- the daily inner quest to be a better person. The second type ("lesser jihad") is the struggle against religious or political oppression -- an armed conflict fought in defense of Islam -- where the adversary is an actual physical presence that must be destroyed. The apparent prioritization of “greater” and “lesser” has been reversed in an era of Terror.
Since 9/11, many organizations and individuals, both religious and secular, have actively promoted the idea that authentic jihad, in its truest sense, is by no means an actual physical war, let alone a war rooted in aggression or a desire for conquest. According to such a view, jihad's true spirit is peaceful, rather than militaristic. But Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, explains what jihad in fact has meant, historically, to Muslims:
“The way the jihadists understand the term is in keeping with its usage through fourteen centuries of Islamic history.... The goal is boldly offensive, and its ultimate intent is nothing less than to achieve Muslim dominion over the entire world.... Jihad did have two variant meanings through the centuries, one more radical, one less so. The first holds that Muslims who interpret their faith differently are infidels and therefore legitimate targets of jihad.... The second meaning, associated with mystics, rejects the legal definition of jihad as armed conflict and tells Muslims to withdraw from the worldly concerns to achieve spiritual depth. Jihad in the sense of territorial expansion has always been a central aspect of Muslim life.... Today, jihad is the world’s foremost source of terrorism, inspiring a worldwide campaign of violence by self-proclaimed jihadist groups."
According to the scholar Bat Ye'or, for non-Muslims through history jihad’s meanings have been clear: “war, dispossession, slavery and death.” She says:
“The fate of Jews in Arabia foreshadowed that of all the peoples subsequently conquered by the Arabs. The primary guiding principle was to summon the non-Muslims to convert or accept Muslim supremacy, and, if faced with refusal, to attack them until they submitted to Muslim domination.... The jihad developed into a war of conquest whose chief aim was the conversion of infidels.... The jihad is a global conception that divides the peoples of the world into two irreconcilable camps.... [It] is the normal and permanent state of war between the Muslims and the [infidels], a war that can only end with the final domination over unbelievers and the absolute supremacy of Islam throughout the world.”
The use of “Islamo-fascism” to describe the doctrines and objectives of radical Islam has been attacked by media outlets, organizations and individuals who believe that such language is actually an example of “Islamophobia.” In October 2007, for instance, The Nation magazine quoted Barnard College religion professor Elizabeth Castelli, who called "Islamo-fascism" a "made-up term" designed to "close off debate, impose a particular position and set of arguments, and invite the harassment of individuals who hold alternative positions."
That same month, a Daily Kos post stated: "Of course, while there may be Islamic radicals that promote theocracy, 'Islamic Fascism' is a misnomer. In fact, the only case I know of in the world right now where that [sic] a religious group can truly be claimed to be promoting fascism is the American religious right's forming bedfellows with the corporate fascists if the corprotists [sic] will let them have their own far-right 'Christian' theocracy."
This section of DiscoverTheNetworks takes the position that "Islamo-fascism" is both a valid term and a legitimate topic for intellectual discussion. In the post-9/11 era, the West has been forced to confront the undeniably widespread existence of a radical Islamic movement that seeks to expand its dominion over all the nations, and ultimately to establish on a worldwide scale a caliphate governed by strict adherence to Islamic law. The means by which this brand of Islam aims to achieve its expansionist goals is jihad, or holy war, a longstanding Muslim tradition rooted in violence and the subjugation or murder of nonbelievers.
The term “Islamo-fascism” made its first entry into the English language in September 1990, when the Scottish historian Malise Ruthven, writing in Britain’s Independent newspaper, described how traditional Arab dictatorships used religious appeals in order to maintain their iron grip on political power.
More recently, Christopher Hitchens has pointed out numerous parallels between Islamo-fascism and the brand of fascism that was introduced to the world by the likes of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis:
"Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. … Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined "humiliations" and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia … Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual 'deviance'—and to its counterparts, the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures."
A basic tenet of German fascism was the notion of a master race and its superiority to all others. The Islamo-fascist variant of this is what Hitchens calls the concept of “the ‘pure’ and the ‘exclusive’ over the unclean and the kufar or profane.”
The historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson buttresses Hitchens’ observations:
"'Islamic fascism' [is] the perfect nomenclature for the agenda of radical Islam, for a variety of historical and scholarly reasons.... First, the general idea of 'fascism'—the creation of a centralized authoritarian state to enforce blanket obedience to a reactionary, all-encompassing ideology—fits well the aims of contemporary Islamism that openly demands implementation of sharia law and the return to a Pan-Islamic and theocratic caliphate. In addition, Islamists, as is true of all fascists, privilege their own particular creed of true believers by harkening back to a lost, pristine past, in which the devout were once uncorrupted by modernism.... Because fascism is born out of insecurity and the sense of failure, hatred for Jews is de rigueur. To read al Qaeda’s texts is to reenter the world of Mein Kampf.... Envy and false grievance, as in the past with Italian, German, or Japanese whining, are always imprinted deeply within the fascist mind.... Second, fascism thrives best in a once proud, recently humbled, but now ascendant, people. They are ripe to be deluded into thinking contemporary setbacks were caused by others and are soon to be erased through ever more zealotry."