Thanks to Peter Beinart for this thought provoking piece, which includes a couple of statements that I made to him as well as a quote from one of my essays on homosexuality and the American Muslim community’s political alliances.
Beinart investigates glaring contradictions in American political discourse. He focuses on right wing conservatives and their contradictory attitudes toward Muslims and the liberal secular principle of “religious freedom.”
He could have just as easily made the focus of the piece the left wing and its intolerance for certain religious views and theological positions.
It is not hard to find these kinds of inconsistencies in our political discourse. The larger point is that liberal secularism often runs up against such contradictions in its encounter with traditional religion, whether Islam, Orthodox Judaism, or conservative Christianity. Noah Feldman dubbed this tension the “Orthodox Paradox” — despite one’s best efforts, one cannot, without contradiction, both be fully committed to one’s religious tradition and liberal secularism at the same time.
Beinart states, “The biggest losers in all this are [socially conservative] American Muslims, who find themselves stranded between a Christian right that dislikes Islam and a progressive left that dislikes what they see as core Islamic teachings.”
Aspiring for consistency — whether intellectual, spiritual, or both — is a subversive act in a political environment predicated on the convenience of contradiction. But history has shown that consistency is always vindicated.