The Left's Reticence On Islam
The fundamental incoherence of Marxist-inspired leftism.
Reprinted from Hoover.org.
The bloody attack on gay night-club in Orlando by a Muslim, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, should be a wake-up call for progressives still unwilling to confront the illiberal core of radical Islam. The choice of target was not random, or just an expression of neurotic homophobia. Hatred of homosexuality is part of traditional Islamic sharia law, as is the punishment of death for transgressors. Today homosexuals are still being executed in Muslim majority nations like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. But just as Islamic misogyny has been ignored or rationalized by the left, so too has this violent intolerance for diversity.
This romance of progressives with Islam reflects the fundamental incoherence of Marxist-inspired leftism. From the beginning, Marxism cast itself as a product of science and reason. By their laws of historical progress, tribalism and religion were backward superstitions doomed to obsolescence, and industrial capitalism a necessary stage in the relentless march to the communist utopia. Marx himself made clear his disdain for those cultures still clinging to the old ways and beliefs. Commenting on America’s 1846 war with Mexico, Marx said the U.S. had snatched California “from the lazy Mexicans, who did not know what to do with it.” Those backwards peoples who did not play their assigned role in the communist libretto were worthy only of scorn.
In the twentieth century, however, the Western proletariat ignored Marx’s laws of history and did not ignite the communist revolution. They preferred to take advantage of the expanding wealth created by free-market capitalism, and to join the hated bourgeoisie. Communists then looked to the Third World, where the postwar anticolonial movements promised the worldwide revolution the workers of the West had betrayed. “Natives of the underdeveloped countries unite!” cried Jean-Paul Sartre, replacing the old “workers of the world” with the oppressed victims of European colonization.
Thus was born Third Worldism, the modern reboot of the old noble savage myth. Once considered primitives that needed to be civilized, now non-Westerners were idealized. Their exotic customs and mores, and their simpler, more authentic lives, were held up as reproaches to the “air-conditioned nightmare” of the repressed bourgeois West and its soul-killing, mass-produced consumerism. The tyranny and cultural dysfunctions of these newly liberated peoples, and the persistence of their old tribal intolerance and violence, were ignored or rationalized as understandable reactions to continued Western oppression.
At the same time, multiculturalism became institutionalized in Western politics and culture, an ideology founded on the same assumption of Third Worldism: “Every Westerner is presumed guilty until proven innocent,” as the French social critic Pascal Bruckner put it. We Westerners, he continued, “have been raised to detest ourselves, certain that, within our world, there is an essential evil that must be relentlessly atoned for … colonialism and imperialism.” This fashionable self-loathing, of course, came cheap, as Westerners continued to enjoy the leisure, affluence, and human rights created by Western ideas that the people they idealized lacked or hated.
In this misguided and reductive worldview, the Islamic peoples were grouped together with the other non-Western cultures. The Arab-Israeli conflict gave this idealism a geopolitical significance that had little to do with religion. The Arabs attacking Israel were transformed into victims of neo-colonialism and “illegal occupation” by the capitalist puppet Israel. Like the Viet Cong, the Algerian Liberation Front, and Castro’s guerrillas, they were freedom fighters struggling for national “self-determination.” The Islamic roots of Arab revanchist hatred were ignored in the West, even as PLO leader Yasser Arafat issued the traditional Koranic call for “jihad, jihad, jihad” from the “river to the sea”—that is, for a war to ethnically cleanse Israelis from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.
America’s Cold War involvement in other Muslim nations seemingly confirmed this narrative, making the Muslim people yet another Third World victim of the evil West, and so an object of admiration and idealization by leftists and progressives. The illiberal, anti-modern, intolerant dimensions of sharia law were dismissed or rationalized. Just mentioning such things became a sign of Western bigotry against the oppressed “other,” as the literary critic Edward Said argued in his still influential Orientalism.
The persistence of these ideas among Western liberals and progressives was immediately evident in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9⁄11. Traditional Islamic doctrines regarding jihad against the infidel were played down. America’s foreign policy, particularly its support for Israel, became a favorite rationalization. Poverty, lack of economic opportunities, even restricted access to women were also invoked to explain the attack. A few brave writers on the left, like Christopher Hitchens and Nick Cohen, pointed out the contradictions between the leftist ideology of liberation, and traditional Islam’s tenets of submission. But in the main, liberals and leftists stuck to Third Worldism’s old narrative of oppressed victims of Western historical crimes lashing out in violence. The misogyny, hatred of homosexuals, religious obscurantism, and intolerance of infidels were all forgotten or explained away.
Indeed, the new thought-crime of Islamophobia became an obsession of government officials in the Obama era, who have enforced the “nothing to do with Islam” analysis of jihadist terror, most recently in the redaction of references to ISIS and Islam in the transcript of the Orlando killer’s 911 call to the police. Just quoting accurately Koranic verses or passages in the hadith that justified violence and intolerance was deemed a hate crime. Politicians, security agencies, and the military scrubbed their public statements and training materials of any reference to violent jihad and Islam. Attacks by Muslims against Westerners were now characterized vaguely as “terrorism” or “hate,” as President Obama put it on the day of the Orlando slaughter. As a result, Islam, one of Marx’s “opiates” previously scorned as false, has been protected from criticism and admired as the “religion of peace” by the same leftists who protest the slightest expression of Christianity in the public square as a breach of the mythical “wall of separation between church and state.”
The contradictions do not end there. We have witnessed the spectacle of Western feminists obsessing over masculine pronouns, decrying alleged “wage gaps,” and exaggerating sexual assault on elite university campuses, even as millions of Muslim women endure genital mutilation, honor killings, forced marriages, inadequate education, and stunted economic opportunity. We hear cries of protest when kooks threaten to burn Korans or deface mosques with graffiti, even as Christians are being killed, tortured, enslaved, and systematically cleansed from the lands their ancestors inhabited for seven centuries before Islam even existed. The slightest hint of insult to gay people summon up thundering denunciations of homophobia, even as across the Muslim world gays are executed in accordance with sharia law.
The left’s reticence on Islam, in addition to being a repudiation of its deepest professed principles, hamstrings our ability to engage and destroy the jihadist enemy. As James Woolsey, Director of the CIA under Bill Clinton, said after the Orlando attack, “This reluctance [to link terror to Islam] is doing real damage. You can’t effectively fight something if you can’t discuss it.” The jihadists tell us in no uncertain terms why they want to destroy us––we are decadent infidels whose mere existence threatens the Muslim faithful. They have been hammering this message as far back as the 1920s when the Muslim Brothers were created to call the faithful away from modernity and back to the purity of Islam’s first centuries. And recent attackers have sent the same message by linking their crimes to ISIS. Perhaps after nearly a century of sending this warning by word and bloody deed, we should start heeding it.
Yet we prefer to believe that neurotic or mentally impaired individuals—or perhaps “evil” men and “extremists” consumed with irrational “hate”—are the reasons why countless were murdered in Fort Hood, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Boston, to name only the deadliest recent attacks. That the left should be so blind to the beliefs of a faith that hates everything the left stands for is just another sign of that ideology’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy.