The Myth of the Liberal, Secular Muslim

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

In 2018, the first two Muslim women- Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar- were elected to Congress representing districts with large Muslim populations and districts that are traditionally liberal.  This mirrors a growing trend in America where the Left and Muslims have formed, it is believed, a temporary ideological alliance.  Some sectors of Islam have embraced rather liberal stances despite their contradictions to the dictates of Islam.  Some Muslim commentators have remarked on the “creeping liberalism” of some American Muslims.

But, is it really?  Or is it just a creeping progressive narrative?  There is a debate among some Islamic scholars that boils down to a simple question: to what extent should Muslims dilute their theological message to fit Western political narratives and gain a political foothold in America?

To be sure, there is dissent within the Islamic community and not all of them are bearded men in Arab dress.  Some have suggested that a more likely ally is Christian evangelicals especially with their steadfast opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage.  However, they are unlikely to find many, if any takers, among evangelical Christians for an alliance.  But, some sections of the Left have been more than willing to embrace Muslim activists into their fold.

Some of the dissent is obvious.  Some oppose the effort by others to “Westernize Islam” through an embrace of progressive policies.  Even still, those embraced by the Left often are the loudest voices invoking “Islamophobia” and allying themselves with Black Lives Matter while warning about too close an embrace with feminism and the LGBT community.  This is seen most vividly in Muslim Student Associations across America on campuses.  When they take a break from marching with other “oppressed groups,” they are often in heated debate on who to “de-platform:” the modernist or the traditionalist.

The modernist networks have looked around and seen the growth of political activism in the Muslim community.  They have seen Muslims elected to Congress, to state legislatures, and appointed to positions of power.  Their success is attributable to these modish political trends.  But, much of the progressive rhetoric is deceitful.

In public, there is one set of talking points.  In private sermons, there is something quite different.  Take the following two examples: The Texas-based cleric Omar Suleiman has been an active protester against President Trump.  He was arrested in an immigration protest in support of “dreamers.”  Yet before a Muslim audience, he warned against promiscuity among Muslim women and without reservation declared that a promiscuous Muslim woman maybe should be killed by her family.  Second, Al Jazeera’s social media channel (AJ+) regularly runs programs on transgender rights, the evils of misogyny and homophobia.  The parent all-Arab Al Jazeera, meanwhile, gives a voice to clerics condoning the killing of gays, and husbands beating wives.

There are the two extremes.  On one side, you have clerics like Yasir Qadhi expressing his shock that young Muslims would march with the gay community.  On the other side, you have young hijab-wearing graduates of the MSA working in CAIR offices who have reconciled working for a terrorist-linked organization while writing social media petitions for gay rights.

Linda Sarsour is a perfect example of the latter.  She has been steadfast in her hatred and denunciation of President Trump.  She once quipped: “You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia Law if suddenly all your loans & credit cards become interest free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?”  She has praised Saudi Arabia’s policy of ten weeks paid maternity leave for women and denounced their then-ban on female drivers.  She is the face and harbinger of the new trend.

Many Islamic groups are now so entrenched in the progressive camp that a generation has grown up thoroughly convinced the Leftist social justice and sexual identity agendas are an intrinsic part of Islamic thought.  This scares the living daylights out of the traditional Muslim.  They warn against liberal ideology or embracing it too closely.  In actuality, their radicalism is being replaced by another type of radicalism.

Today, American Muslims are conflicted.  Some reject Leftist policies wholesale.  Others clearly exploit the Leftist agenda for political gain and to advance their cause.  Then there is the third group- the intersectional Muslim- who has somehow reconciled their deeply held religious beliefs with the gay-friendly agenda of the Left, among other Leftist causes, that stand in stark contrast with teachings from the Koran.  To the rational observer, these stances appear confused and inconsistent because they are.  Long-held religious beliefs will ultimately trump short-term politically-motivated strategies.

Make no mistake- whether in the traditional mold or the intersectional mold- both seek a radical undertaking to remake America.  They are the flip sides of the same coin and neither side is a winner for America.