Saturday, November 14, 2015

Islam Is the 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room for Progressives


The terrorist attacks that took place in Paris Friday are yet another reminder that Islamic extremists are capable of visiting enormous death and destruction upon the West. Whether it's a large-scale, localized 9/11 operation or the stream-lined and more generalized one that occurred Friday, one thing is certain: we are not even close to getting a handle on how to deal with this enemy. Neither the Bush nor the Obama Administrations have had effective solutions for combatting it and I suspect it will take out of the box thinking to begin to grapple with this issue.

But for progressives, there is another, far more disturbing issue that plagues them. An almost single-minded refusal to come to grips with a staggering reality. That Islam, as a religion, runs counter to everything they claim to uphold. It isn't just that the majority of Muslims in the Middle East are insular and hold deeply conservative views. Many Christians are also deeply conservative and just as insular. The row over the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage is an indication of just how determined the Christian Right is to resist what it views as a growing secularized world.

But there is a profound difference between the conservative wing of Christianity in the West and Islam in the Middle East. The former is not representative of the majority of Christians and, as such, does not hold much influence within the faith; the latter has a stranglehold on it. To be a moderate or liberal Muslim in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran is to have a death wish. In Pakistan, a judge was forced to flee the country after he sentenced a man who had been found guilty of murdering someone who had been critical of the Koran.

These countries are deeply oppressive in the treatment of their people, especially their women. They are raped, many times by their husbands, and subjected to genital mutilation in their youth. Journalists who speak out against the regimes of these countries or challenge the orthodoxy of the religion in any way are imprisoned or killed outright. If there are any moderate Muslims in the Middle East they are keeping a very low profile for fear of their lives.

And while all these atrocities are happening, progressives turn a deaf ear and blind eye. Astonishingly, a movement that supports gay marriage, goes to the mat to protect a woman's right to choose and fights against draconian voter restriction laws that disenfranchise millions of African Americans and Hispanics, pulls a Sgt. Schultz when it comes to the Middle East. It staggers the mind.

A while back I wrote a piece that dealt with this hypocrisy within the progressive community. In the piece, I wrote the following:
Let's cut to the chase. Progressives can't have it both ways. We can't vehemently defend the right of women to earn equal pay for equal work and to have control of their own bodies while at the same time turning a blind eye to the atrocities that are committed against them on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis in the Islamic world. It isn't just hypocritical; it's obscene. We can't defend the right of free speech yet ignore the very sad and salient point that those who criticize the prophet Muhammad are considered heretics who must be put to death. It has been more than twenty-five years since Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses and to this day the fatwa on his life remains in place.
As I mentioned in that piece, it is not Islamophobic to point out the brutality that exists within Islam. The religion, despite progressive gains in some Western nations, is hopelessly stuck in a perverse 7th century landscape that threatens the whole planet. The fight going on between extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and countries like Saudi Arabia is not so much about ideology per se as it is about the degree of that ideology. Yes, it is reassuring that most of the Muslim world condemned the Paris attacks; it would be far more reassuring if the majority of those Muslims rose up and deposed the clerics who have openly supported the jihad against the West. Now that would be news.

But while we are waiting for that miracle to happen in the Middle East, the very least progressives can do here in this country is to stop being hypocrites. Enough with the granting of Mulligans to this religion. It's time to call a spade a spade. The Ben Afflecks can scream all they want about how mean the rest of us are. We aren't mean; we just have the courage to see the facts as they are, not as we'd like them to be. We see violence being perpetrated on innocent people and we refuse to remain silent. We see injustice and it makes our blood boil. We see it as our solemn duty to shed light on such violence and injustice so that it can be stamped out.

Last time I checked, that was called being a progressive.

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