By passing the “Combating International Islamophobia Act,” in the House, the American liberal political establishment has joined the war on Muslim societies, on their cultures, on their diversity, on their freedoms and most importantly, on their future. The legislation introduced by notorious antisemite and Islamist apologist Ilhan Omar brings the American foreign policy machine into one of the largest and most consequential civil wars in history: the war on the future of Islam.
As in every high-stakes war, everything that can be used, is used: faith, religion, violence, sex, politics, social sciences, money, identity, democratic elections, etc. Naturally, every concept, term or tool of value is heavily mined and exploited in the struggle to control the future of a quarter of humanity. Islamists, paradoxically some of the most modernized Muslims, were quick to utilize the most advanced tools in the political toolbox, including the most sensitive and explosive socio-political issue for Western society: racism.
The “Combating International Islamophobia Act” guarantees that the annual human rights report submitted to the US Congress will include information about both physical and verbal Islamophobia by both official and private parties. This is as ambiguous, obscure and dangerous as any heresy law is. If this legislation is signed into law, the United States government and State Department bureaucrats would be officially in the business of deciding what is and what is not Islam and Islamism.
Taking advantage of public ignorance and sensitivity to identity issues, Islamists were able to convince an impressive amount of both Westerners and Easterners that Islam, an enormous human religious tradition, is akin to a race and is worthy of protection. Criticizing Islam or Islamic symbols, bringing common Islamic practices into question and above all, trying to expose Islamism was condemned as a transgression against the dignity of Muslims and a manifestation of bigotry equal to anti-black racism.
Muslim rulers of major Muslim countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia were accused of Islamophobia in major American publications because they violently oppose Islamism. This is the context in which the term ‘Islamophobia’ was conceived and this is why many intellectuals, scholar, and journalists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were suspicious and even opposed to such a term being crafted and used to shield Islamists and their version of fascism being pushed on the world as the final and authentic version of Islam.
Liberal Muslim activists, such as Majid Nawaz, Yasmine Mohamed, Ayan Hirsi Ali and many others were hoping they could find in Western liberal institutions an ally in their war for Muslim lives, minds and bodies. They were wrong because they underestimated the power of human selfishness. The fact that openly antisemitic Islamist apologists such as Linda Sarsour and Ilhan Omar became the Muslim icons of progressive liberalism exposed how liberal institutions care more about receiving self-gratifying diversity trophies than they do about Muslim people.
Moreover, the worst disservice that Americans can do to Muslims is to reinforce the siege mentality that Islamism seeks to impose on Muslims as if they are some small endangered minority in need of protection all over the globe and not a staggering 1.8 billion people. This siege mentality is what prevents Muslim societies from being open to a healthy sense of self-criticism that works against the forces of extremism and terrorism. It also reinforces the image that Muslims and Islam are indeed exceptional both at home and abroad and deserving of exceptional status.
Since the rise of ISIS, and all over the Muslim world, candid and honest conversations about Islam, sex and violence have finally taken off. For the past few years, on national TV in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, Muslim reformers have been systematically deconstructing Muslim traditions about hatred and conquest. Ironically, much of what they say, including scrutinizing the chauvinist moral worldview that the hijab creates, would be considered not politically correct to American liberal sensibilities and certainly be considered Islamophobic by the likes of Omar.
More importantly, there is nothing in the bill that could prevent it from targeting Israel and accusing it of violent Islamophobia against the Palestinians. This is quite literally the Islamist accusation against Israel all over the Muslim world: that it is a Jewish state that seeks to target Islam, an antisemitic trope that used to attack the Jewish states by the likes of Sarsour and Omar.
Is Islam a religious tradition or is it empire? Is there a divinely revealed sacred law or not? Are the stories about Muhammad the warlord and sexual god a real representation of the Islamic ego ideal or are they delusional and damaging fairytales embedded in the Islamic tradition? Do women have bodily autonomy or are they a public reproductive resource? Should Muslims tolerate offensive speech or should they severely punish those who offend their religious sensibilities? Is there an obligation for Muslims to work towards a unified political community or can they separate the political from the sacred? Can Muslims accept Israel or should they collectively work towards its destruction?
These are some of the most central questions over which the Muslim world is split today. These questions are the center of a major battle that has raged in nearly all majority Muslim societies for decades, a global civil war waged with both the pen and the AK-47, conducted in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, English, French and many other languages over the meaning, the purpose, and the future of Islam and whether there is such a thing as a unified whole and total Islam to begin with. To call it a war is not an exaggeration for it indeed generated and continues to generate a massive amount of global violence, a global war that landed in New York City on the morning of September 11, 2001.
The Muslim civil war has two camps, and like in all human affairs, each of the camps is in turn made of a myriad of different quarrelsome groups, ideologies and political projects. One camp became known in English as Islamists, a big tent that includes a wide range of antagonists who disagree on everything except for resisting the West, insisting on regulating gender norms, and using Islam as the point of mass and global mobilization.
The other camp is significantly less cohesive, more quarrelsome and lacks any defining characteristic except for not being Islamist and it includes autocratic Sunni Arab rulers, traditional religious institutions, liberal activists, and non-Muslim minorities living in Muslim countries.
Many have lost their lives in this war: politicians, men of letters and laypeople. Muslim intellectuals were brutally murdered, western journalists and cartoonists massacred, ex-Muslims hacked to their death and Muslim women sprayed with acid for uncovering their faces. Entire societies fell under the rule of Ayatollahs, Mullahs, Wahabists and Muslim Brotherhood politicians. This war has seen different waves, Islamic revolutions, global terrorist attacks, massive outbreaks of outrage, intifadas, political springs and winters.
Despite all the cries about the war on the West, the primary target of this global assault was Muslim societies, their diversity and their cultures. From Indonesia to Morocco, from Turkey to Nigeria, a uniform of austere, legalistic, antisemitic, reactionary, chauvinist and colorless Islam was being forced down the throats of hundreds of millions of Muslims suffocating their local cultures and historical heritages. It tries to impose both internal and external uniformity from which no deviation can survive. This latest episode of anti-modern fascist reaction to the liberal world order, which is nothing but the continuation of what had started in Europe over a century ago, sent millions of refugees to the Western hemisphere, brought antisemitism back to Western societies, ended modern nation-states, eroded the chances for democracies in many Muslim societies, and sparked off the longest American military engagements in history.
In the global age, a major civil war inside the world of Muslims, who already make up nearly a quarter of humanity, is nothing if not global. It is a war that has been taking place every day in the most important Western institutions, in academia, in politics and in journalism. While many Westerners understandably fail to grasp the politics and struggles of foreign and far away societies, this doesn’t change the fact that this war has been truly global for decades. It touches every modern life, and whether one knows it or not one has to take a side, and sadly the American liberal political establishment seems to have picked a really bad one.
Passing the Islamophobia bill shows that the American political liberal establishment is willing to aid the Islamist global war effort as long as it consolidates its ruling coalition at home. This is not malevolence. This is not a conspiracy; it’s pure and raw selfishness and a true moral failure of the modern liberal society.
It is heartbreaking to see the American political establishment, once a beacon of hope to the lovers of liberty all over the globe, acts in such completely self-absorbed selfishness. Passing this bill is a terrible contribution to the war on the future of Muslim societies and contributes to the voices that seek to convince Muslims that they are a victim under siege by global evil forces in need of paternal protection. This is indeed a major victory to Islamism in its quest to gain immunity from scrutiny, a victory handed to it by those who claim to be the protectors of liberalism.
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