Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
The left’s greatest intellectual error is its conviction that the world can be divided into a binary power struggle in which both sides agree on the nature of the struggle, but disagree on the outcome.
For leftists of a certain generation, it was class. Marx began the Communist Manifesto by laying out a primal class struggle throughout human history. For Marxists, everything in the world could be broken down to a class struggle with the wealthy oppressors on one side and the oppressed on the other.
It didn’t matter that this model didn’t fit a reality in which Communists leaders came from wealthy backgrounds and their opponents were just as likely to be poor peasants. To the left, everything is defined by the model. Reality is an inconvenience that is suppressed with gulags and firing squads.
Today the variable is identity politics. Everything must be intersectional. There are those who stand on the right side of history, in favor of abortion, gay marriage and illegal immigration. Everyone who isn’t on board is a racist, even if they’re black or Latino, a sexist, even if they’re female, or a homophobe, even if they’re gay. Once again, reality doesn’t matter. The binary struggle is the model for everything.
The left believes that there is a binary struggle over the future of humanity with only two sides. It does not understand how the right actually thinks and it has no room for understanding equally compelling belief systems that operate outside this model.
That’s where Islam comes in. Or doesn’t.
The left has never been able to understand religion. It’s not so much secular or atheistic as it is consumed by a compelling belief system of its own which leaves no room for religious conviction.
It cannot understand anything in terms of what it is. It can only understand things in terms of itself. The left cannot understand religion on its own terms, only in terms of how the religion fits into the left.
Unable to understand religion, the left assigns it a place based on its alignment in the struggle. Is it a reactionary force that supports the existing order of a progressive force that opposes it? Is it working with the ruling classes or the oppressed? Is it on the side of the left or on the side of the right?
Islam is racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has become the left’s closest Islamic ally, was politically influenced by Nazi Germany. Its leaders were outraged by the end of the Caliphate’s feudalism and maintain extensive business networks around the world. They incite riots against minorities and seek to establish a theocracy.
If there’s any Muslim organization that should be a textbook reactionary, fascist and fundamentalist group, it’s the Muslim Brotherhood. But instead the left cuddles up with the violent hate group. Why?
Because the Muslim Brotherhood in the West is aligned with their progressive causes. Therefore it can’t be reactionary. If the Brotherhood were aligned with conservatives, then it would be the enemy.
And so liberals don’t care what the Koran says. The Koran means nothing to them, just as the Bible means nothing to them. Religion is either on the side of social justice or it isn’t. Since Muslims are part of their glorious intersectional rainbow coalition, then Islam must be a good religion.
It’s that stupidly simple. And no amount of Koran quotes will change that.
There’s a strong element of cynicism here. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. But there’s also a deeper inability by the left to understand Islam and any ideology outside its worldview.
The left reacted to the rise of ISIS with frantic incoherence. They literally could not understand what made the Islamic State tick because it didn’t fit any of their political models. ISIS couldn’t exist, yet there was no way to deny that it existed. And so lefty pundits and politicians gibbered that they were nihilists who believed in nothing, even though no one blows themselves up because they believe in nothing.
Muslim terrorists don’t kill people because of Allah, the Koran or the Caliphate. It doesn’t fit the model. They kill, because like all Third World peoples victimized by colonialism, they are oppressed. A Muslim terrorist doesn’t kill Jews or Americans because the Koran commands the Believers to subjugate all non-Muslims. A Muslim migrant doesn’t sexually assault German women because the Koran allows him to.
These are all reactions to Western oppression. The Muslim oppressors are really the oppressed.
But the Islamic State killed other Muslims to establish a Caliphate ruled by Islamic law. The oppressed Muslims were suddenly acting like evil Western oppressors. And if Muslims could be oppressors, then the whole binary model the left had been using to explain the world comes tumbling down.
When the left comes up against inconsistencies in its binary model, it doesn’t revise the model, instead it tries to understand why people are behaving so irrationally that they don’t fit the model. Why don’t poor rural whites vote for the left? It must be talk radio and racism. How can there be conservative minorities? False consciousness. Also Thomas Sowell and Stacey Dash aren’t “really” minorities.
Islam and Muslims are fundamentally outside the left’s model. They are part of their own binary struggle between Islam and everything else. They have their own “right side of history”.
Islam and the left both claim to have “perfect” systems that can create a utopia… after a whole lot of killing. They are aligned with each other, yet unable to understand each other because their worldviews have no room for anything outside their perfect models. Leftists despise fundamentalists and Islamists despise atheists and yet here they are working together while ignoring what the other believes.
The left cannot process the idea that religion transcends politics. At best, leftists see religion as a subset of politics. And since Islam conforms to their political axis, it must be progressive. But to Muslims, politics is a subset of religion. Politics cannot transcend religion because it is an expression of religion.
Leftists do not understand religion and therefore they cannot understand Muslims. They see Islam as another religion to be brought into its sphere of influence to promote social justice to its followers. They cannot understand that Muslim clergy will not become preachers of social justice or that Muslims kill because they genuinely believe in Allah and a paradise for martyrs. These ideas are alien to them.
The alliance between Islam and the left brings together two narrow-minded worldviews. The left cannot recognize that Islam wants something other than gay marriage, abortion rights, a $15 minimum wage, Green Jobs and all the rest of its endless social justice agenda because that would put it on the same side as the Republicans and the rest of the right. And that clearly isn’t so either.
The left need not give up all of its beliefs to understand Islam. But it would have to abandon its binary thinking and recognize that there have been and are other struggles in the world than the one it defines. And this the left is unwilling to do because a binary struggle is what makes its worldview so encompassing. If its worldview doesn’t encompass the world, then it cannot demand absolute power.
The left cannot accept that its great struggle is really a disastrous sideshow in a larger civilizational conflict or that its agenda is not universal, but the product of a particular intellectual strain that has little application outside its own bubble. And so it will go on rejecting the truth about Islam, because learning the truth about Islam would not only destroy the alliance with Islam, but would also destroy the left.