Within a week of his presidential inauguration, Trump initiated a refugee ban amidst widespread international protests.
What effect did the Left's censoring of intellectuals, moderate Muslims, and liberal thinkers on the issue of Islamic reform have leading up to the election and the subsequent Muslim ban? And more importantly, what can the Left learn from this?
In the last couple years, there’s been growing concern about Islamic terrorism, and how to cope with the massive amounts of refugees and immigrants coming to Europe and to a smaller extent to the United States.
Sadly, no matter how inclusive or compassionate they are, anyone who honestly approaches this topic with an objective but critical approach towards Islam is gagged with a one-word label of islamophobe or racist. In the name of free speech, all ideas must be criticised if any progress is to be made. And by silencing the voices of reason, the regressives on the left have handed the podium to extremists on the right.
Less than halfway into his first month in office, Trump initiated a 90-day moratorium on non-diplomatic citizens entering the United States from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Despite the fact that citizens of these countries have never committed a terrorist attack on US soil, and Americans are 2000 times more likely to kill themselves than to be killed by a terrorist. Media programs captivate attention with fear, but you should be way more scared of a bottle of aspirin than of a Syrian family fleeing Islamic Extremism. Nonetheless, with the emergence of ISIS and with terror groups continuing to recruit and grow their numbers through social media, and as millions of Muslim refugees flee to the west creating a massive European refugee crisis, this is clearly an issue that needs to be talked about.
Surrounded by two oceans, the US has had much more control over its borders than Europe. Back in 2011, after an Iraqi refugee’s fingerprints were found on a roadside bomb, the Obama administration slowed, but did not completely halt, the flow of refugees coming from Iraq, in order to implement new vetting processes. However, a widespread ban like this on legal immigrants from seven Muslim countries has never before been implemented. Trump claimed shortly afterwards that it’s not a ban on Muslims, and I realize the ban doesn’t cover Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, or Pakistan. But unlike Mohammad. Trump can’t claim that God changed his mind to account for his own personal abrogation. So I’m going to stick with what he called it back in 2015.
With poor communication, lack of preparation time, and without a sufficient heads-up on the upcoming change, implementation of this executive order has been nothing short of abysmal. Doctors, college students, families, and even an academy award nominee were affected by the ban as airport officials scrambled to enforce the new order. Massive international and domestic blowback followed, and thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest.
You may be asking yourself, “How did this happen?” Now, I know that nothing in politics is simple enough to be condensed down to a single issue, but as close as this last election was, there are a number of factors that helped swing the election in favor of Trump. And one of them was definitely his no-nonsense approach to Islam.
For years, liberals, Muslim moderates, and anti-extremists have been writing, lecturing, and studying how to effectively reform Islam – de-radicalize its followers, and make Islam more compatible with the 21st century. Recognizing the distinction between people and ideas, these reformers promoted tolerance and peace towards Muslims, but brutally critiqued the ideas held in the Quran – the ideas of Islam. This approach represents the very essence of American values: treat all individuals equally, but scrutinize all ideas rigorously with critical thinking and rationality. But at every turn they’ve been attacked. Not just receiving threats from Muslims, but they’ve been smeared by other liberals. Sam Harris, a soft-spoken intellectual, was called an Islamophobe by Ben Affleck for criticizing the bad ideas held in the Quran. Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim of Pakistani origins, and Ayan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim from Somalia, were labeled anti-Muslim extremists by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) an American, anti-hate watchdog organization. Their crime was speaking out against human rights violations in Muslim countries and attempting to reform Islam. Dr. Bill Warner, an Islamic scholar who studied the Quran under Sufi Muslims was told by the president of a Florida community college that he should be censored and never allowed to speak because he was critical of political Islam, a criticism shared by many moderate Muslims, even if they can’t safely express so publicly. This is absurd! Since when have universities supported censorship of ideas? But the list goes on and on. Ali Rizhvi, Sarah Haider, and other critics of Islam have faced similar blowback from leftist defenders of Islam who don’t have the slightest clue what they’re defending. Merely scrutinizing the ideology is treated as social barbarism by those unable to draw a distinction between criticism of an ideology and contempt for its practitioners.
But ironically, those actually living under oppressive Islamic regimes are often grateful for the secular voices speaking out on their behalf. Because with blasphemy and apostasy laws, they have no voice. That’s why Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, has been translated into Arabic and spread through the Muslim world like wildfire.
I grew up in a Muslim country, and while I can attest that the majority of Muslims are indeed moderates, and most of the refugees are fleeing the same radicals you fear, I can also attest that the majority of Muslims don’t follow their Quran, which is why they’re not fundamentalists – because they don’t adhere to the fundamentals of Islam. And when you really start getting into the meat of the Quran and the Hadith, there are doctrines that fly in staunch opposition to classical liberal values.
I go into greater detail on some of the issues I have with Islam in my blog post, Is Islam Peaceful or Violent, but the fact is, the Quran paints non-Muslims in a very ugly light. I get that interpreting the Quran can be difficult. The book is filled with contradictory messages. It says things like “Let there be no compulsion in Islam.” Which sounds great, but it also says of those who resist Islam to strike off their heads, and to ambush them wherever you find them. And while it’s easy to say, “you’re taking it out of context,” there are hundreds of Islamic scholars and clerics, all studying the context and none of them can agree on one interpretation. That’s why Dr. Shabir Ally, a Sunni Islamic scholar, can sit next to Ali Rizhvi, an ex-Muslim atheist, and talk peacefully about the nature of Islam, while Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, who also has a PhD (in Islamic studies) is running a campaign of hate and terror, slaughtering hundreds in the name of Allah, throwing gays from buildings, and burning people alive.
When the Quran contradicts itself, Mohammad famously stated that when his later teachings contradict previous ones, the new ones are better. He didn’t say the old should be done away with. He just said the new ones are better, granting Islam a tremendous amount of power, because it can rightfully claim to be a religion of peace, while simultaneously advocating jihad of the sword, promoting political Islam. Muslims will often say things like, Islam
was the first to give women their rights, but did you know that in Jihad, Muslims are given the right to rape infidel women. They’re also permitted to beat their wives and take part in polygamy. If you think Islam treats women as equals to men, you’re not getting the full picture. That’s why Saudi Arabia, one of the most devout Muslim nations and home of Islam’s most holy site requires women to have chaperones at all times, forbids them to speak with a non-family member in public, forbids them to drive, forces them to cover up from head to toe (no matter how hot), and many Muslim nations give women only half a testimony in court. Should a woman break any of these laws, she is beaten or killed. God forbid she have bacon cheeseburger, a beer, and a one-night stand.
And good luck if you want out. In 8 Muslim countries, there are laws in place that condemn apostates to death, and most of the rest have some form of punishment or other for apostasy, or at the very least have blasphemy laws that imprison or require the beating of anyone who criticizes the religion or the prophet. So much for freedom of speech or religion – two of the most precious, core principles of the west.
We cannot be silent on this issue. But at the same time, we can’t let fear blind us of the fact that many of those fleeing these war-torn regions are sick of Islamic tyranny. Most are either moderates, Christians, secular, or care more about providing a home and food for their family than about the doctrines of Islam. We must take the moral high ground and not lose our compassion, but we need to be discussing ways to promote assimilation and secular western values.
Unfortunately, the second you start to have this conversation, the Left is quick to pull the Islamophobia card – which is completely meaningless keyboard-warrior jargon from illiterate western buffoons who’ve never had their clitoris sliced off and were never forced into an arrange marriage against their will. Which is exactly what happened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Or they have never had their friends shot in the back of the head by Muslim extremists. I have! Phobia means irrational fear. There is nothing irrational about approaching Islam with calculated caution.
You question Islam, and you’re called racist. But Islam is not a race. It is a belief and way of life that people of many different races choose whether or not to follow. All beliefs should be questioned. No idea is sacred! I’ve said it so many times before, but if a belief is true, it will hold up to scrutiny. And if it’s not, then why follow it?
The fact is, a lot of Americans are afraid because they don’t understand what’s going on. They know there’s a problem, and they want to solve it in a kind, compassionate way. Sadly, the voices of reason – those that may be able to provide an actual, viable solution – are squashed. We should be having calm, rational conversations and debating how Islam can reform itself to be compatible with classical liberal values in the 21st century. But the complete hijacking of the conversation by the Left with character assassinating slurs like “racist” and “Islamophobe” has silenced liberal politicians on the issue. Rather than have a nuanced conversation, most liberals keep silent, allowing fear mongering demagogues like Trump to step in, because he’s the only one who would even address it, even if he didn’t have the slightest clue about the nature of the problem or how to solve it.
Clearly Islam is something people are concerned about. That’s one of the big reasons why people are tuning in to Milo, joining the alt-right or listening to Richard Spencer. They’re actually talking about it – even if some of their ideas are flat out insidious. We have to put aside the septic PC press gags and talk about this rationally. Because by silencing the intellectuals, the moderate Muslims, and the anti-extremist liberals, the Left has handed the platform to Trump on a silver platter. If you’re a part of the PC movement that’s suppressed the voice of reason, you can protest the 90-day ban all you want, and I understand the outrage, but just know that it’s your own damn fault! By refusing free speech to those of us actually want to look at this critically, you’ve become part of the problem.
If we want to get things right, two things have to be done:
1. The rights of all immigrants and refugees, including Muslims have to be protected.
2. Doctrines like Islam have to be challenged.
The Right is utterly failing at the former, and the Left has completely failed at the latter. And until we can nail down both, things are only going to get worse.
“The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.” - Salman Rushdie
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