"Islamifascists" is no good, he says, and he's probably right:
In the last 50 years the label "fascism" and "fascists" has been profligately over-used and hollowed-out to mean little more than "something the left hates at the moment". If it's bad, and you're on the left, you call it "fascist"; if it's fascist, it feels good to be against it. The list of things described by people on the left as "fascist" over the last half-century would fill several pages, and certainly include Margaret Thatcher, the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, capitalism, men (aka male chauvinists) and the Daily Mail.There is a delightful irony here, that Ash doesn't notice, in that it isn't the Left that's using the epithet "Islamofascists", it's the Right. This is because much of the Left (tho not people of Ash's stature or intellectual integrity) is too busy pretending there isn't really a problem of much magnitude, while Rightists who do use the term are also, as a side benefit, trying to re-claim the term in its 1930 meaning, before the Left did with it what Ash says they did.
So why not use "Islamist"?
Most Islamic terrorists are, in some sense, Islamists, but most Islamists are not terrorists. They are reactionaries. They propose a profoundly conservative religious vision of society which, in its attitudes to free speech, apostasy, homosexuality and women, is generally anathema to secular liberal convictions (including, emphatically, my own). But for the most part they do so through peaceful political means, not through violence. At the most moderate end of the broad spectrum of political Islamism, as represented by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development party in the secular state of Turkey, they are closer to the Christian religious right in the US (for many of whom homosexuality is a sin and abortion is murder) than they are to al-Qaida. For us secular liberals, this religious reaction is also a very bad thing, to be combated with all the peaceful means at our disposal, but it is a different thing - and we make a mistake if we blur the distinction.
Well, no, not really. He's right, of course, that most Islamists in the broader meaning are not violent, but then, many supporters of fascism didn't personally intend violence, either. There's a continuum here, and it seems to me he's too sanguine. What's true about Erdoagan's Islamist party in Turkey (and, you might add, the Islamist party in Israel) may well not be true elsewhere; I'd say that once you've distinguished between Islamist parties in democracies (Turkey, Israel, and no-where else) and Islamists everywhere else, his reasoning seems less convincing.Eventually he suggests using the term Jihadists. In spite of the reservations I've just mentioned, I tend to agree with him.
PS. If after reading the article you then spend a couple minutes reading the comments, you'll get a fine sense of what some of the readership of the Guardian thinks about all this. Enjoy.