Those who Lived Under ‘Islamo-fascism’

Dear friends in WIB [Women in Black],

In response to the mail alerting us about this event against ‘Islamo
fascism’ led by conservative forces, I think there is a need for
clarification from us, who lived under ‘Islamo fascism’:

First of all, let me say that the term ‘Islamo fascism’ was initially
coined by Algerian people struggling for democracy, against armed
fundamentalist forces decimating people in our country, then later operating
in Europe, where a number of us had taken refuge.

For us, it has never been equated to Islam, but it points at fundamentalists
only: i.e. at political forces working under the cover of religion in order
to gain political power and to impose a theocracy (The Law – singular – of
God, unchangeable, a-historical, interpreted by self appointed old men)
over democracy (i.e. the laws – plural – voted by the people and changeable
by the will of the people).

For fundamentalists indeed are ideologically close to fascism/nazism. Of
course one cannot equate Muslim fundamentalism to fascism because those
phenomena happened in different times and history. However, there are
similarities that should ring a bell to our ears: just like fascists,
Muslim fundamentalists believe not in a superior race but in a superior
creed, like nazis they believe that non believers or ‘kofr’ are
‘untermensch’ ( some of them even used this very term !) that should be
physically eliminated (and please please please remember that it is
Muslims who do not adhere with their version of Islam that are first
targeted by Muslim fundamentalists and are their first victims); like
fascists they believe in a mythical past ( whether Ancient Rome or the
Golden Age of Islam) that justifies their superiority ; like fascists they
are pro-capitalists; like fascists they put women in their place ( church,
kitchen and cradle); etc…

This is why we called them ‘Islamo fascists’.

The fact that this term has now been recuperated by the Right and even the
Far Right, in order to express plain racism against supposedly ‘Muslim’
people is terrible and should of course be combatted.
However we have seen over and over again in Europe well meaning people
siding – de facto – with fundamentalists, in the name of defence of
‘Muslims’ or of ‘Islam’, and walking hand in hand with them in

I therefore urge you to carefully plan how you are going to oppose the
‘awareness week on islamo fascism,’ in ways that will support the democratic
forces and women within Muslim countries, and not reinforce the
fundamentalist fascist forces.

Please remember that fundamentalist forces are those who slaughter women
everywhere in Muslim countries and communities, those who promote war not
peace. You cannot support them in the name of anti racism and human rights
without signing our own death penalty at the same time.

If you demonstrate, as I hope you will, please support democratic anti fundamentalist forces in our countries, do not let
fundamentalist forces manipulate you in the name of human rights. Make a clear-cut difference between 1. migrants from Muslim countries,
2.Muslim believers (who are the only ones who should be called ‘Muslims’), 3. Islam, and 4. fundamentalists: these are different categories that
cannot be intermingled without playing into the fundamentalists’ game, and against women.

I take this opportunity to let all of you know how hurt and angry I was when
a statement was discussed at the end of the WIB meeting in Valencia, that,
in its first paragraph, supported Hamas as the legitimate winner of the
‘democratic’ elections of 2006.

It is one thing to say that western governments used a supposedly
antifundamentalist stance to play their own game in the Middle Eats. It is
one thing to say that Palestinian people have a right to self determination.
But, as a women’s organization, it is another thing to support Hamas. As
women against war, it is another thing to equate a democratic process with
democracy and ignore the consequences for women…

Let me explain my point : ‘democracy’ has two meanings; 1. it describes a
process of political representation through the vote of all citizens, and 2.
it also represents an ideal of justice, equity and equality . So far
parliamentary democracy (i.e. the vote of all the people) is better, more
just, more representative of the people, than monarchy (the rule of one
leader), or oligarchy (the rule of a selected group), etc…But we should
not confuse the means – elections – with the aim – a just society. Yes,
elections are generally the imperfect but best way to come closer to a more
just society – however sometimes the people make a very wrong choice that
denies justice to a part of the people: one should remember that Hitler was
legally elected . Despite the fact that the rule of electoral process had
been respected, his reign in Germany cannot be counted as a phase of
democracy i.e. more just society – definitely not for Jews, Gypsies, gays,
disabled people, communists and political opponents in general.
One of us in Valencia was a Palestinian lesbian citizen of Israel: you
cannot pretend to igniore the fact that, had she lived under Hamas’ rule,
she would not have been with us, nor would have she been alive. To me, very
clearly, signing a statement in favor of Hamas was signing her death penalty
in the name of the rights of the Palestinian people, which we all stand for.
How could WIB do that? How could WIB agree to a hierarchy of rights in
which people’s rights, minority rights, religious rights, cultural rights,
etc… supercede women’s rights? in which women’s rights are subsumed to all
these other rights?

We women have to invent ways to defend basic human rights and democracy,
to combat racism and discrimination, without trading the rights and often
the lives of our sisters in doing so.

It is a complex task, no doubt. But I do hope that WIB will face the

The opposition to this event in the USA that confuses a whole population of
migrant descent with Muslim fundamentalists would be a good opportunity to
design ways to face the challenge. Thanks in advance to all of those who
will at least make the attempt!

All the best to all of you

Marieme Hélie-Lucas

Marieme Helie Lucas is an Algerian sociologist, founder and former International Coordinator of the ‘Women Living Under Muslim Laws’ international solidarity network.

This letter was published on the international Women In Black email information list on 5 september 2007 and is republished here by permission.

Posted October 24 2007

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