The trenchant fumbling for a way to refer to fundamentalist Islam has led to some fairly awkward constructions such as "Islamist"... a painful concatenation that adds no meaning to the concept (kind of like "homicide bomber", fiendishly redundant in its unnecessary particularity).... I'm not sure what prevents the mass punditocracy from calling it fundamentalist Islam.... Is it because we have such a strong fundamentalist Christian presence in America? Is it because we're used to intolerance, bigotry, sophistry and the implicit underpinnings of violence when the original text is in Aramaic rather than Arabic[?]I've seen it said before, and said it myself, but rarely so elegantly.
It goes on to say:
Too many have, in the nearly eleven months since September 11th, reduced Islam to a man in a desert posturing in a sickening struggle, immaculate white wrap upon his head, desert-stripped gun borne on his shoulder, preaching hatred and murder. Some chortle, "Religion of peace, right," and use examples of fundamentalism as the core of one of the world's great religions, as if fundamentalists of other stripes, who may only kill abortion doctors or abuse their children, aren't just as sick, just as violent, just as despicable as those we rightly call terrorists.Well, there is one key difference- those religions haven't declared their enmity to the United States and its principles or, when they have (as some hard core Christian fundamentalist groups have) haven't attacked it so spectacularly. After all, all this anti-Islam rhetoric started after 9/11, just as those of us who were horrified both by the act and the potential ramifications were warning at the time. Our concerns were salved by those who, like the president, claimed that the war is against theocrats and not Islam, but have become more and more justified as the net is cast wider and wider in the search for potential threats and perceived enemies.
I'd make one distinction, though: the point is not fundamentalism, but theocracy. One can be a fundamentalist if one wishes; the problem lies in attempting to turn your religious beliefs into the policy, law, and constitutional makeup of the state. Such things are hardly limited to Islam, but the right isn't going to make the comparison between its Moral Majority allies and its "Islamist" enemies. That would be political suicide.
(By the way, for those who haven't checked it out yet or were turned off by the increasingly Maxim-esque covers, Esquire actually had a really good series of stories about combat in Afghanistan. One of them was from the perspective of an American Muslim serviceman, and definitely helps one gain a little perspective on the differences between a Muslim and a theocrat.)