I often get compared to the “Alt-Right” and “Men’s Rights Activist,” though the similarities are superficial at best. Nowadays, anyone who critiques liberalism or feminism is discredited by being lumped in with this disgusting group of half-wits. The comparison would be insulting if it were even minimally substantive.
What is ironic is that the Alt-Right really is the spawn of social justice activism. The Alt-Right is the bastard child of progressive liberal discourse. Not coincidentally, the Alt-Right found it’s lifeblood on college campuses with millennial college students awash in “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” This essay makes that point despite itself.
“Why would anyone want to associate themselves with these people? Perhaps its because the alt-right is a new and exciting flavor of right-wing conservatism, which presents itself not as the steady hand at the wheel in turbulent times, but as an edgy, transgressive, youthful, fun-loving force in a repressive world: a world where, supposedly, all meaningful discussion has been stifled by cultural shibboleths about gender and race. It is liberals now, not conservatives, who are overly attached to received ideas, to unquestionable mantras, to behavioral protocols; liberals who are humorless, inflexible, and easily scandalized; liberals who selectively punish and censor ideas they consider dangerous, or even merely distasteful. In this context, the alt-right paint themselves as countercultural. They encourage people to express the primal urges and instinctive beliefs that The Man has been telling them to repress for most of their lives.”
Isn’t that amazing? Who knew that encouraging people to take their feelings and subjective desires as the basis of identity and moral authority could have negative consequences?
I guess if a man searches deep down and discovers that he is sexually attracted to other men or that he is actually a woman in a man’s body, those are all feelings that need to be tapped into, expressed, acted upon, taken as constituting ones identity and, ultimately, accepted, supported, and even celebrated by others. But if that same introspection leads one to discover that, deep down, he is a racist bigot who is suspicious of other races and believes that his own race is inherently superior, well those feelings are illegitimate, right?
Apparently a whole lot of people are, for good reason, not able to distinguish between those two scenarios. Go figure.
But there’s more!
“But left-wing arguments for recognizing the importance of race carry a perverse consequence: by reinforcing racial categories, they encourage white people to preserve their white identity. This is a strange tension that many on the left seem to find it difficult to talk about. Progressives accept the existence of minority affinity groups as self-evidently worthwhile and necessary […] Demographic changes will only continue to make this question more complicated. As the racial makeup of the U.S. changes, and parts of the U.S. become increasingly minority-majority, will it be socially acceptable for white people to have some form of explicitly-stated group identity that is racially-defined without being racist? If we wish to build a society that is both multiracial and truly egalitarian, we are going to have to revisit this question.”
This is extremely relevant for Muslims, as I have been arguing for quite some time now. In the US, American Muslims have opportunistically used the liberal language of discrimination discourse to portray themselves as essentially an oppressed racial minority in order to take advantage of the political benefits that come from that. Besides Muslims, the LGBT movement, of course, has pioneered the co-opting of civil rights discourse to tap into the narrative of racial justice in casting themselves as an oppressed minority group that deserves human rights and “equal treatment,” despite the fact that no other aspect of sexuality is thought to constitute a race, much less an oppressed race deserving certain rights and privileges. In other words, both Muslim and LGBT political identities and their concomitant rights discourses rely on the troubling, nauseating premise that “LGBT is the new black,” or “Muslim is the new black.”
In any case, putting aside the conceptual and ethical confusion at the heart of the issue, among the things that make the Muslim use of race discourse backwards and self-defeating is that, while Muslims are the minority in the West, they are the majority in the East!
Unlike in the case of whites in America, we don’t need to wait for demographics to catch up with us. That means whatever arguments we use to fight against what we consider bigotry in the Western context ipso facto can be used against us in Muslim countries where we are in the majority. And some of the possible objections go right to the core of contradicting even the most basic tenets of Islam.
A very simple example: the adhan which is loudly and publicly projected throughout Muslim cities across the world. What does the adhan consist of? It starts with Allahu akbar and bearing witness that there is no god other than Allah. How are non-Muslims in these countries to feel about this? Couldn’t the shahada be considered an attack on other faiths? Isn’t the emphasis on the shahada and tawhid that is embedded in the ethos of Muslim society alienating to non-Muslims? Isn’t it “othering”? Therefore, shouldn’t the adhan at least be banished from the public space? How would Western Muslims feel if 5 times a day, loud public announcements were made that “Jesus is the only Lord and Savior” in the US? And even if Muslim countries did cease the adhan, it would still be the case that historically, Muslims gave the adhan following in the footsteps of the Sahaba and the Prophet himself ?. Did they do something wrong? Were they ignorant of what social justice and just treatment of the “other” entailed? Na`udhubillah!
Again, that is a very simple example but it is the tip of a massive, massive iceberg, and unfortunately we as American Muslims who have been using such identity politics for our benefit are on the Titanic, chugging along full-steam.
It hasn’t fully happened yet, but it’s just a matter of time before the enemies of Islam, those on the left and the right, really dig into these inconsistencies and absolutely eviscerate Muslim identity politics, leading to… well, use your imagination.
So what do we do? First step is to take a step back and reevaluate our discourse and reevaluate the ideologies and philosophies upon which they are based. Stay tuned.