A contentious debut critique of Islamism.
In his debut book, Foltney makes the argument that Islam isn’t a religion at all, and that it’s better understood as a form of fascism. He discusses the history of fascism, which includes concise but illuminating accounts of Nazi ideology, North Korean Stalinism, Soviet Communism, and Japanese militarism, identifying the key features common to all iterations. One of the principal strengths of this study is the care with which he distinguishes fascism from totalitarianism: the former includes the latter, he says, but also emphasizes pervasive propaganda, a dogmatic monopoly on political orthodoxy, and a toxic combination of faux populism and jingoistic nationalism. He goes on to note that fascism is driven by appeals to alienation and disenfranchisement at the level of race and nationality, rather than economic class, primarily. Foltney assesses some of the failures and triumphs of American strategy in combating Islamist terrorism and says that mainstream media disseminates falsehoods out of deference to “political correctness.” The author details what he sees as the illiberalism of Islamist doctrine and is especially strong when discussing Islamism’s oppression of women and intolerance for dissent. Although Islamism is the central subject of his critique, he provocatively avers that Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages counts as politically fascistic, too. However, Foltney is less rigorous when discussing the whole of the Muslim faith and the Koran, which he too facilely reduces to political barbarism without offering a deep, searching analysis of primary texts. Also, his interpretation of religion seems more postulated than argued; it’s not entirely clear why tolerant, apolitical Christianity is deemed the model for religion, for example. The author sometimes undermines his otherwise careful analysis with strident, ad hominem rhetoric about “willingly ignorant” people on the left of the American political spectrum. Fascism is a term that’s used too promiscuously in contemporary political debate, typically as an imprecise synonym for authoritarianism; Foltney is to be commended for parsing its meaning. However, his failure to distinguish the Muslim religion from its violently political appropriation, or even seriously entertain the possibility of a distinction between the two, is disappointing.
A useful primer on political fascism, but less impressive as an introduction to Muslim thought.