The exact identity of the person who coined the expression "Islamofascism" isn't crystal-clear. But the late Christopher Hitchens should be given credit for defining the term.
The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. ("Death to the intellect! Long live death!" as Gen. Francisco Franco's sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined "humiliations" and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression-especially to the repression of any sexual "deviance"-and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures.
Hitchens hit the nail on the head with respect to the cultural and political parallels in the concept Islamofascism. But the thing is that even though Hitchens perspicaciously pinpointed lines of convergence between Islam and fascism, the fact remains that fascism, in the strictest sense, is a narrow and even myopic political idea which emerged in the 20th century and has since expired.
Even though it is convenient to call brutal Islamic regimes like Iran Islamofascist, the brutality of these regimes emanates not from fascism -- but from Islam. Among other things, fascism shuns religion and belief in God, while in Islam, everyone and everything submits to Allah and the Koran, along the traditional lines of religious devotion.
Islam is one of the world's three great religions, but from its inception, it has always also been an imperialistic political organization and has embodied a powerful desire to rule the world and rule over other peoples. No other great religion exhibits this desire.
The Islamic state expanded very rapidly after the death of Muhammad through remarkable successes both at converting unbelievers to Islam and by military conquests of the Islamic community's opponents. Expansion of the Islamic state was an understandable development, since Muhammad himself had successfully established the new faith through conversion and conquest of those who stood against him. Immediately after the Prophet's death in 632, Abu Bakr, as the first Caliph, continued the effort to abolish paganism among the Arab tribes, and also to incorporate Arabia into a region controlled by the political power of Medina. United by their faith in God and a commitment to political consolidation, the Muslim merchant elite of Arabia succeeded in consolidating their power throughout the Arabian peninsula and began to launch some exploratory offensives north toward Syria.
Between 600 and 1800 the Islamic Empire spread to the four corners of the world including Persia, India, Spain and as far as the Far East. Forced conversions were not necessarily part of the program. Non-believing subjects of the ruling regime paid a non-Muslim tax. But in any case, non-Muslims in the Muslim Empire were considered dhimmi, or second class citizens.
This is the raison d'être of the Muslim Brotherhood, too. But in their hands, the execution of Koranic precepts is the path to follow, not fascism per se. The Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 and very quickly became a large, well-organized social and political organization flying the flag of Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood is on the surface a Muslim social welfare organization, and its political underpinning is strictly Islamic also. It emanates from Islam and the Koran, not from Hitlerite fascism as this ideology is understood. The Muslim Brotherhood did indeed find common ground with the Nazis, however.
When Hitler came to power in the 1930's, he and Nazi intelligence made contact with Muslim Brotherhood founder and leader al Banna to see if they could work together. Banna was also a devout admirer of Hitler. Banna's letters to Hitler were so supportive that he and other members of the Brotherhood, were recruited by Nazi Military Intelligence to provide information on the British and work covertly to undermine British control in Egypt. Banna himself said that he had "considerable admiration for the Nazi Brownshirts" and organized his own forces along fascist lines. Banna's Brotherhood also collaborated with the overtly fascist "Young Egypt" movement, founded in October 1933.
The Grand Mufti Haj Amin El Husseini did not just think like an Islamofascist; he actively collaborated with the Nazis in Berlin during the war. Among other things, he helped recruit Muslims for the Waffen-SS.
But these are cases of Islam in the service of Nazi fascist terror. Islamofascism as the phenomenon manifests itself in our world emanates directly from Islam. The lust for world conquest and the revival of the caliphate, the terrorist violence out of a desire for jihad as commanded in the Koran, the hatred for Jews and Israel, the rejection of democracy and social equality (Taliban ideology prohibits women from working or educating themselves), the Islamic customary demand that women wear the death-shroud burqa, xenophobia (the shunning of foreigners and strangers) -- all of these are deeply imbedded in the Muslim world. These things and others are outgrowths of Islam, not fascism. But on account of their barbarity and inhumanity generally, the term Islamofascism is often used so as not to offend the mainstream.
Is the so-called Arab Spring Islamofascist? When it started last year, the West applauded these rebellions as harbingers of democracy and freedom in the Arab world.
Far from democracy, the despotic regimes and military dictatorships that the various rebellions in Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and Libya have overturned are being replaced by fanatical Islamic regimes. In Syria, the problem is different. Assad isn't stepping down to install a popular government -- he is killing the popular movement with gusto. And this leaves out the Islamofascist nature of Iran, which is the epitome of Islamofascism (again, that grows directly out of Islam, not fascism).
It's regrettable for humanity, but the Islamofascist ideologies and their barbaric political and social manifestations emanate in the final analysis from Islam per se -- not fascism. But the word "Islamofascism" still carries meaning.