Desperately seeking ‘liberal-fascist’
According to Hamid Mir in Jang (Jan 20, 2011), a “liberal-fascist is he who supports the US drone attacks on Pakistani territory, opposes the Islamic articles of the 1973 Constitution, supports Musharraf in his rule and is now supporting Zardari, and is in the habit of designating his opponents as friends of the Taliban. The extremists and liberals are in the same category because they both don’t accept the Constitution of Pakistan. One lies after drinking wine, the other lies after saying Namaz”.
Yasser Latif Hamdani wrote in Daily Times (Jan 31, 2011): “Hamza Alavi once described secularists and liberals to be the true inheritors of Pakistan’s real ideology. Unfortunately, in the Pakistan we live in today, [TV hosts] Kamran Shahids and Oria Maqbool Jaans have taken to calling these true inheritors of Pakistan’s real ideology ‘liberal fascists’. I suppose they are fascists because they advocate a civilised democratic polity where everyone would have equal rights. The word absurd sounds so hollow when describing the state of affairs in Pakistan”.
When people invent an oxymoron, a shiver of pleasure runs through their spine. They know that a fascist is a fascist only when he has organisational power when not in government and has the power to coerce when in government. The fascist is empowered by the certitude of his beliefs and his conviction that he must get people to accept them under pain of punishment. The highest point in nationalism is fascism and it is totalitarian in nature. Totalitarianism was considered right wing till Hannah Arendt told us that the Soviet state, too, was totalitarian.
The liberal person lacks certitude. He pleads for those who are victims of the certitude of others. He also has self-doubt because it is through doubt that he gains independent thinking and altruism in speaking for the underdog. His function is intercessional, not agitational. When required to act, he fails to agree on a strategy, as was pointed out by Afiya Shehrbano in her article “Strategic surrender” (The News, 26 Jan, 2011). He is moderate, generous and tolerant because he discounts his own ego and — more dangerously — the ego of the community and the state.
A liberal has the fatal tendency of finding his locus in the middle of things. When two extreme factions are drawn out against each other, he stands in the middle and gets thrashed from both sides. In times of high collective emotion he runs the risk of losing his life. That is why he is usually in retreat when confronted with a conflictual situation. He rarely agrees with fellow liberals. There is nothing new about him since John Stuart Mill made liberalism look like a creed.
Extremism springs from the condition of certitude. And no certitude is possible without reductionism. When you feel certitude welling up inside you that is the time to stop yourself from becoming violent. You can become the fascist who imposes his creed on others. People who are fired by conviction look impressive. Liberals fail to impress because they find fault with creeds and are singularly lacking in symbolism of power. A liberal can’t get Khalid Khwaja killed with a phone call. He can’t hate the Qadianis in Pakistan; therefore, he is a lonely figure and quite harmless.
Among Muslims, faith (iman) and certitude (yaqin) are considered synonymous while their etymology points to different definitions. But my Lughaatul Quran (1960) written by Ghulam Ahmad Parwez, says the Holy Book wants us to consider them as synonyms (mutaradif hain).
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2011.