The Strange Case of the Secular Progressive-Islamist Alliance
One of the frequently cited quips in the halls of Congress is that politics makes for strange bedfellows, meaning that some alliances between Democrats and Republicans, especially given today's toxic environment in Washington, are hard to fathom. However, perhaps even more difficult to understand is the strange affinity that has developed over the past two decades between Islamists – radical Muslims – and the American progressive movement, or what Michael Walsh has termed the "unholy left."
At first glance, the two entities seem utterly different – one proceeding from the darker recesses of Islamic culture, and the other a seemingly quintessential product of American idealism. In fact, however, what we find between the two political movements is a confluence of interests and perspectives on a variety of matters. Indeed, often the affinity of these two outlooks is frightening.
For instance, both share an animus bordering on hatred for Christianity and Judaism, with the secular progressives trying to expunge Christians from public life, while Islamists yearn to annihilate Jews. Certainly, academic progressives do nothing to discourage the anti-Semitic hatred of Muslims from being expressed on American campuses, as David Horowitz recently pointed out. Why, he wonders, do prominent American universities, such as Brandeis and UCLA, permit offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood to have free rein on their campuses? "Any other group that preached hatred of ethnic groups or supported barbaric terrorists who slaughter men, women and children as part of a demented mission to cleanse the earth of infidels would face campus sanctions, disciplinary action, and be charged with conduct code violations."
But apparently this doesn't bother secular progressives, who dominate American higher education. Quite the contrary: progressives luxuriate in moralistic narcissism whenever presented with the opportunity to condemn "primitive thinkers" for "Islamophobia," sometimes even after radical Muslims have perpetrated some horrific attack, as in the Fort Hood massacre. And other times, it just takes a youngster falsely accused of bringing a bomb to school, which turned out to be a homemade clock, to trigger progressive sensibilities: "Finally," crowed The Daily Beast, "the Muslim hero America has been waiting for." In fact, Ahmed Mohamed's little exercise earned him a visit to the White House and a note of encouragement from Hillary Clinton. He later departed with his family for the apparently more agreeable clime of Qatar, a Muslim country. Perhaps officials are more tolerant there.
They're not, of course, nor are secular progressives in America or radical Islamists everywhere. Neither believes in free speech, as progressives put clamps on expression wherever they can, especially in higher education, by forbidding outside speakers to lecture and by doubling down on trigger warnings, microaggressions, miniscule free speech zones, and "safe places" for suffering souls overcome with a case of the vapors after being exposed to a dissident thought. Meanwhile, Islamist punishments for blasphemy are unforgiving, brutal, and nefarious.
Further, secular progressives and radical Islamists hold America in contempt, and they favor rule by an unaccountable elite – an administrative-bureaucratic class of experts, in the progressive case, a vision that has lurked in the progressive imagination since Teddy Roosevelt's days, while Muslims insist on obeisance to sharia enforced by religious overseers. Both aspire to totalitarian rule under dictatorships of those who are self-selected by political or religious criteria. These presiding masters are radically anti-modern and yearn to establish or recreate primeval societies based on apocalyptic rants of environmental cultists on the one hand and atavistic seventh-century radicals on the other. Both movements lie habitually, with the assurance that deception is justified by the needs of their religious-political movements, and with the assurance of never having to face the consequences of their words and actions. Finally, both are supported by very large segments of their societies.
Of course, there are differences as well, several of which are important. For instance, radical Islamists view Western libertinism with abhorrence, do not tolerate homosexuality or feminism, and worship a higher being – all of which are anathema to secular progressive ideology. Indeed, in the long run, progressives could no more live under sharia than Islamists could celebrate the gay lifestyle. But this matters little in the short run, during which each side finds the other useful for combating a common foe – a constitutional democracy with Judeo-Christian roots. This means that secular progressives and Islamists will continue to work in concert, indefinitely, for all the reasons cited above. And in spite of isolated setbacks, they are winning.
Perhaps not such a strange alliance, after all.
Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a retired professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled The Thirteenth Commandment.