There’s been a lot of discussion about the cultures wars and the way they seek to destroy basic concepts and norms that help a society function. Along with overly-generalized discussions of white supremacy and discussions of LGBTQ+ rights are tiring demands for specific terminology to be used to refer to men and women (“cisgender”) and people who feel they are a man or a woman but are in reality not.
It has also opened up discussions as to what type of romantic relationships are socially acceptable (this includes for raising children). While for the general public, it tends to be those on the left who are the culture war warriors, with those on the right opposing them, for those in power, the lines are more blurred. They’re interested in maintaining power, so if it means supporting the Republican transgender gubernatorial hopeful (who is conveniently not speaking out for “trans rights”), then that’s OK.
For Muslims, what’s also helpful to consider—and indeed what is good news—is that the culture wars help clarify some of the problems that secular democracies pose to all citizens (not just Muslims). A system that is fed to us as naturally being the best option does have some serious flaws that need to be considered.
Secular democracy, at least in its current form in the US, allows for desire to reign supreme. Some see this as not a problem. After all, it’s about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” While it is natural to want to be happy, we know from our faith that not everything that we see as making us happy is good for us. Recall that in part of ayah 216 of Surat al-Baqarah, Allah tells us:
وعَسَىٰٓ أَن تَكْرَهُوا۟ شَيْـًٔا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تُحِبُّوا۟ شَيْـًٔا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُون
“Perhaps you hate something which it is good for you, and perhaps you like something which is bad for you. Allah knows what you do not.”
We can understand the culture wars to be the pinnacle of desire reigning supreme. While these ideological and semantic wars are over varying topics, consider how discussions of gender and sexuality are changing perceptions of marriage and what is societally acceptable.
Transforming What’s Acceptable
Marriage, once a union recognized around the world basically to be a certain way, that is male-to-female (whether polygamous or not), has now morphed over a very short period of time into something else.
From polyamory to homosexuality, what is morally and legally acceptable in society is changing before our eyes. While in some cases the expansion of the view of marriage has actually opened up many people’s eyes to some of the benefits of polygamy, the definition of marriage has expanded so broadly that is beginning to render it meaningless. Consider this description of the polyamorous union discussed in this article:
“Andy Izenson, Roo Khan, Cal T., and Aida Manduley envisaged creating a utopian place where queer, trans, and polyamorous people could feel safe and welcome. For years, they had told one another stories about the property they would build. At the end of 2017, when Andy and Roo lost their lease, in Brooklyn, the time had come; Cal, who had been living in New Hampshire, was ready to move in, and Aida, a psychotherapist in Boston, planned to relocate as soon as possible. They found a house with fourteen acres and some outbuildings in Ulster Park, on the Hudson. They called their ménage the Rêve.
Like the others, Andy goes by the pronoun ‘they’ and described themself as ‘gender ambivalent.’ A lawyer in their early thirties, they spoke in long, hyperactive paragraphs, their eyes wide with passionate focus. Their pronoun preference, however, is mild. ‘If you’re saying a sentence about me, you can use whatever pronoun you want,’ they said. ‘They’re all manifestations of the incomplete power of language to translate human experience into sound. We’re all genderqueer. ‘Polyamorous’ is a close enough description of my practices in the same way as ‘trans-masculine’ is a close enough description of my gender.’
Roo said, ‘I like the word ‘caucus.’ We caucus with polyamorists, you caucus with trans-masculine folk, I caucus with trans-feminine folk. I’m independent from that, but I’m on your side.’ There are various romantic configurations among the four partners, but only Andy is in a romantic relationship with all three of the others. In addition, they all have ‘comets’—lovers from outside the group who blaze through and then are gone. ‘It’s a more stable structure with more people,’ Andy said.”
If you were able to read that and still be able to define the term ‘marriage’ based on it, then you deserve an award. If you read that and were able to define the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ based on it, then you get a second one.
It’s quite ironic that the very people who are demanding that we understand and engage with all of this jargon are the same people that are saying that everything is ‘fluid’ and to a large extent undefinable. Why bother making a point of saying that you “caucus with polyamorists” then?
Along with the danger of it being increasingly difficult to communicate with one another—the primary purpose of language—is this basic breakdown of society as we knew it and as Allah decreed it.
Why This Is So Dangerous
The more that fighting against one’s biology is normalized, the more that those with seemingly flippant desires to do so (we’re all human after all) may try it.
You can imagine the thoughts running through one’s mind: “Feminizing hormone therapy is offered by my insurer; I’ve always felt too delicate to be a man.”
The same goes for marriage: “Yeah, I love my wife, but I also find this woman attractive, and my wife maybe likes her too. She could be the “comet” that blazes into our marriage. Maybe we could have a polyamorous love affair for a while. We can have a chat to the kids about it. Why cut off oneself from such strong pangs of love? This will make me happy.”
If such pursuit of base desire (i.e., perversion) is seen as acceptable, then it’s much easier for members of that society to engage in such behavior. These perversions are displayed—over and over on every social media platform and in the media as well—making it seem like such behaviors are common and acceptable. Furthermore, politicians recognize that if they want to stay in power, they better start using terms like “birthing parents” and “human milk” and pronouncing that “love is love no matter who you are.” They and the good people at the CIA understand that these conversations are useful distractions and are happy to utilize them for their propaganda.
It’s clear now that anyone who said that it’s no one’s business what goes on in someone else’s bedroom was kidding himself. Not only were citizens voting on laws related directly to that, but now the conversation has moved even further into the gyre. For example, homosexual relations are so normal that the culture wars are focused on far more sophisticated and nuanced matters like pansexuality. After all, it is both economic benefits and societal recognition that LGBTQ and ‘platonic and/or pansexual, non-heteronormative’ couples are hoping for.
Will these relationships replace many nuclear families? Many see this as positive, but consider this study by the Institute for Family Studies, in which the authors state:
“These liberal values and virtues [“individualism, personal fulfillment, and tolerance”] can be valuable in the public square, yet they often stand in tension with stable, married family life. In fact, scholars have found that the spread of these more individualistic values since the 1960s has been strongly linked to more cohabitation, less marriage, more divorce, and greater family instability.”
It’s significant that they are pointing to individualism as the problem because individualism allows for one’s own desires to take precedent over what is best for the whole. The culture wars are taking those individual desires and forcing them upon us all. Accept my polyamorous, gender non-conforming relationship so we can raise kids like you do. I am what I say I am—a man (even though I have female genitalia). Let me use this bathroom, let me enter this women’s sporting competition. I am a birthing person who is nursing my child with human milk, not breastmilk.
Stay Awake or Become Awoke
For Muslims, these conversations are so absurd that it’s easy to be dismissive of them. But whether one likes it or not, they are changing the makeup of secular democratic societies because the will of the people—however fickle or lacking in forethought—reigns supreme in them. If there’s anything positive in the culture wars for us, it’s that it demonstrates the wisdom behind Divine law.
Islam does not limit self-control to the public sphere. Islam’s laws have also not been degraded; they remain clear. While yes, it is not beyond our control in secular nations what someone is doing in his or her house, once this discussion goes into the public sphere, we cannot throw our values out the window, smile, and say we think everyone should do whatever they want. While we want to be happy, our goal is not “the pursuit of happiness,” it’s to please Allah, and from that we attain happiness.
The culture wars are pushing one set of values (if we can call it a ‘set’) on everyone; it’s up to everyone to resist allowing these desires to manifest and become reality.
يَـٰدَاوُۥدُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَـٰكَ خَلِيفَةً فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ فَٱحْكُم بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ بِٱلْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعِ ٱلْهَوَىٰ فَيُضِلَّكَ عَن سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يَضِلُّونَ عَن سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌۢ بِمَا نَسُوا۟ يَوْمَ ٱلْحِسَابِ
Surat Saad, Ayah 26
“˹We instructed him:˺ ‘O David! We have surely made you an authority in the land, so judge between people with truth. And do not follow ˹your˺ desires or they will lead you astray from Allah’s Way. Surely those who go astray from Allah’s Way will suffer a severe punishment for neglecting the Day of Reckoning.'”
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