One of the problems that you have in negotiating this world as an individual is that your own specific views are always too nuanced to “fit into any box.” But though you may not believe in a box, the boxes believe in you! Consider two people.
Person #1 believes that our “special relationship” with Israel does not serve our national interests. Rather, we should have a more normal relationship with the Jewish state, and treat it more as the Levantine society which it is rapidly becoming (due to demographic factors). #1 also does not view Islamic terrorism as an existential threat. In fact, this individual believes that international Islamic terror is the policy equivalent of “shark attacks,” extremely salient and emotionally arousing, but far less important than we currently perceive it to be (we in this case refers to citizens of the USA). Person #1 also does not believe that the Muslim religion is inherently, congenitally, or fundamentally violent or illiberal. In other words, it is not logically impossible to be pro-gray, and a devout, sincere, Muslim.
Now, lets’ move to person #2. This individual believes that the average Muslim has illiberal, and frankly barbaric, beliefs. That immigration of Muslims to Western societies is altering those societies toward a unfavorable equilibrium in light of #2′s core values. Person #2 believes that the current multicultural dispensation is not stable, and that in the long term it will have to give way to a Millet system. Or real substantive assimilation and integration will be necessary.
Could you comprehend that #1 and #2 are the same person? Let me blow your mind and submit that I am that person, one in the same. Over at Secular Right I put up a post musing on the double standard which I perceive in many American liberals when it comes to varieties of religious conservatism. Socially conservative beliefs among white Christians are regressive and redolent of the “American Taliban,” while those same beliefs among American Muslims go relatively unexamined. Now, many American conservatives are guilty of double standards as well, insofar as when it comes to Islam they become rather strident in their defense of feminism and skeptical of theocratic inclinations.
But since my social circle is overwhelmingly liberal I see the blind spots and hypocrisy of the Left far more often in my own life. For example, liberals decry “stereotypes,” but routinely engage in them when it comes to Republicans, Tea Party members, etc. The majority of Muslim Americans happen to be against promotion of homosexuality, but the reality is that a minority are strongly pro-gay. We shouldn’t stereotype. The majority of Tea Party activists have implicit white nationalist sympathies, but the reality is that a minority are strongly anti-racist. We shouldn’t stereotype. How you perceive the credibility of these two assertions is probably conditional on your personal politics.
In any case, a liberal reader at Secular Right engaged in a little stereotyping, to comedic effect. Since I use the webonym “David Hume,” he did not know my name was “Razib Khan.” Ensues the hilarity:
A “rational” phobic response? Are you nuts? Seriously: go visit a Middle Eastern country. Or actually talk to a Muslim. It’s clear you have no real personal experience in the matter. Just because religion is at its base a lie doesn’t mean that all religions are equally awful. I found much to admire in the Muslim focus on charity, caring for the sick, and many other laudable things. I also found much to despise., as I have in all religions, and other “isms” for that matter.
I think you seriously underestimate the extent to which American Muslims feel targeted by our government, and by just one side in our political discourse. (Yes, of course some Dems are just as bad.) Again, introduce yourself to a Muslim. Ask them what they see. You clearly haven’t.
I responded that of course I talk to Muslims every week. My parents.
The reality is that I can understand where the commenter is coming from. Many anti-Muslims are stupid. My main issue with my liberal friends is that they are fighting stupid with stupid. Or, if they’re not stupid, they’re fighting stupid with lawyerly argumentation. Individual rights are sacrosanct and fundamental. This is why I hope all Americans applaud that the Westboro Baptist Church continues to be able to exercise their rights, despite how despicable the specific exercise of those rights are. The fact that Muslim, or Fundamentalist Mormons, Americans have rights which should be defended does not mean that we need to whitewash who and what they are.
Finally, it seems that people think just because you oppose the values of Islamic civilization as they are realized today means that you must think Muslims are evil amoral trolls. Not at all. I oppose my parents’ values in many deep ways. Though not exceedingly religious they reflect the mores and expectations of 1970s Bangladesh to this day, despite having made practical compromises with the United States. They are considerate people who try to do the right thing. But what they think is right may not be what you think is right, and what they think is right may be what you think is profoundly wrong. Cultural differences matter. The problem I have with Islam is not so much with Muslim Americans, who are numerically marginal, and not politically well mobilized, but the fact that there exists an Islamic world, an organization of Islamic states, whose core values are at some variance with those of the West. This is clear in the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which is anodyne in many parts, but objectionable to Westerners in some very important details.
At the end of the day I’m not interesting in the mucky and dirty practice of proximate politics. I wish to reflect upon the values which distinguish civilizations, and also unite civilizations. There are certain truths, certain atomic units of human belief and practice, which we accept as enabling human flourishing. On the cultural margins there are differences between societies, and these differences may be irreconcilable. At least in the same territorial unit. The Ottoman Millet system only persisted as long as it did because a hierarchy of subordination of non-Muslims to Muslims was explicitly acknowledged. The irrational Islamophobia of the American Right seems to devolve into unthinking hysterics, losing all sense of proportion and analytical distance. Muslims are turned into almost inhuman animals, lacking all basic fundamental human properties. In contrast, the anti-Islamophobic American Left papers over the reality that many American Muslims, perhaps a majority, have deep sympathies with a broader civilization which implicitly is offering up “another way” to that of the liberal West.* The dichotomization into “good” “moderate Muslims” and “bad” “Islamists” elides over the subtle texture of the disputes within this broader civilization.
But just as the Muslim world needs to be rationally fearful of the acidic effect of Western cultural imperialism, so the Western world needs to be cognizant and fearful of the model of the Islamic world. In many profound ways, such as the relationship to religion and politics, and between the sexes, it is the Muslim world which is more typical of human societies, and may approach closer to the “lowest energetic state” of social orders. Though the Western way of flourishing may be one which we value, it may not be such a stable confluence of parameters. What we feel to be most precious, may be the most fragile. Ergo, the rationality of fear of the Other which may destabilize what we value to the core.
* China is the other instance of this which seems clear, but Chinese civilization is not international in scope, though it is numerically very prominent.