The New Fascism

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

As a complete neophyte, I found Ayaan Hirsi Ali's column in the Times to be more credible than some of her opinions. Matt flags a sampling here:


But surely she must see, I counter, that the majority of British Muslims are moderates? Sitting in her publisher's office in an elegant grey-flannel trouser suit and pearl earrings, she fixes me with her lucid brown eyes. "If the majority are moderates, why did the Muslim community never take to the streets to abhor the 7/7 bombers? Why is it that the only time we see Muslims protesting en masse is when Islam is allegedly insulted, like with the Danish cartoons, or the Pope's comments?" 

"I'll tell you why: because Islam is the new fascism. Just like Nazism started with Hitler's vision, the Islamic vision is a caliphate - a society ruled by Sharia law - in which women who have sex before marriage are stoned to death, homosexuals are beaten, and apostates like me are killed. Sharia law is as inimical to liberal democracy as Nazism. Young Muslims need to be persuaded that the vision of the Prophet Mohammed is a bad one, and you aren't going to get that in Islamic faith schools."

As a writer, I think Ali has a real gift for enlisting her provocative personal narrative to make a point. But I often find that very strength to be obscuring. Had I come up like her, I might well believe that "Islam is the new fascism." But is that really born out by the evidence? Can what Ali experienced in Kenya seriously be extrapolated to Malaysia? To Turkey? To Bangladesh?

In harmony with some of our recent debates I'm reminded of this piece from Pankaj Mishra's essay a few months back:

During the Vietnam War, Hannah Arendt noted that members of the Democratic Administration had frequent recourse to phrases like "monolithic communism," and "second Munich," and deduced from this an inability "to confront reality on its own terms because they had always some parallels in mind that 'helped' them to understand those terms."

And so I wonder even about what I read today on Egypt. 

For a primer on the Muslim Brotherhood--and a lot of other things--I actually strongly recommended Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/02/the-new-fascism/70738/