An advocate for freedom around the world believes a "paradigm shift" is being witnessed in the Middle East, where the actions of Shia Iraqi citizens are unabashedly expressing that they are Muslims – not violent fascists.
During a recent appearance on "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins," Brandon Wheeler, executive director of the Freedom Research Foundation, gave a first-hand report on the conditions and opportunities in Iraq and Northeast Syria. During that interview, he argued that a clearer understanding of Islam is warranted to understand the true nature of a threat that has continued to gain momentum in the Middle East. He also contended that the term "Islamic fascism" – especially in regions of the world like Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey – must be used to define the specific nature of the threat.
OneNewsNow followed up with Wheeler, who explains that fascism is the problem. "Islamic fascism is the political idea in which Islam is using violence to govern its people," he states.
While Wheeler admits there is a connection between Islam as a religion and Islam as a contributor to governance, he believes the use of violence is a choice. "[Westerners] insinuate that Islam is inherently violent," he says, "and that is a problem because [violence] is a choice."
According to the Foundation spokesman, Muslims can adhere to their faith and not be violent, as the term Islamic fascism helps point out. Violence enters the picture when the idea of using violence to govern people "hijacks" the religion of Islam.
"The use of violence is one of the tenants of fascism," Wheeler explains.
The executive director says he finds it interesting the use of the word "fascism" in the region is very common.
"[The people] intuitively understand what the people in the region – whether it be Iran and their use of Hezbollah – are doing and what the nature of their type of rule is," says Wheeler, adding that each contends to be driven by fascism.
"If we can explain and express the idea [of fascism] in a political manner – [how Iran wants to govern with the use of violence, for example] – then we can understand how to defeat the idea."
Wheeler argues the fascist ideology must be rejected in order to deter the use of violence in Islam. The Marine Corps combat veteran says he has trained alongside Afghans, Iraqis, Kuwaitis, and Saudis, teaching them how to fight, and expresses that what "[he is] saying is true without question."
The rise of ISIS was the "gamechanger" among societies of the Muslim world, Wheeler attests.
"It was the first time Islamic fascism directly affected Muslims at its most extreme," he tells OneNewsNow. "[ISIS] forced Sunni Muslims to draw a line in the sand." And rather than condoning or ignoring it, he says Muslims had to reject the violent nature of ISIS and declare to "stand for other values."
In a second example, Wheeler points out what is unfolding in Baghdad, where "Shia Iraqis [are] standing up against Islamic fascism against Iran."
Wheeler concludes: "We are seeing a paradigm shift on the values of what Sunni and Shia Muslims in the region are beginning to stand up and fight for, risking their lives against Islamic fascism."
He maintains that an Iranian-controlled government in Baghdad does not have the consent of the governed, as evidenced by the number of Iraqi Muslims protesting in the streets. "[They] are standing against fascism in a fight for freedom," he points out.