‘Shut Up or Else!’ The True Link between Islam and the Left
Despite their many outward differences, Islamic authoritarianism and leftist liberalism are, in fact, very similar, especially in that they brook no dissent.
Here, I’d like to offer a more focused look into their similar modes of operation, especially in the context of belief vs. compliance.
For starters, few Muslims -- including some of the most “radical” -- really care what anyone else, including Muslims, believes or disbelieves about Islam. This may seem counterintuitive; after all, isn’t Islam draconian and in your face concerning its beliefs, subjugating and even killing those who reject it and its dogmas?
Yes and no. What Islam has always required of both believers and nonbelievers is compliance to its authority. What gets people in trouble is when they say or do anything that can be perceived as a threat to the Islamic order of things.
Consider those two draconian laws that have seen the persecution and slaughter of countless through the ages: apostasy and blasphemy. On the surface, they seem to suggest that Islam is concerned with making sure that no Muslim ceases believing in its message (apostasy), and that no one, Muslim or non-Muslim, dares criticize Islam (blasphemy).
Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that the ultimate reason Islam fears apostasy and blasphemy is not because they reflect disbelief in and disrespect for Islam, but that, left unchecked, they both culminate in undermining Islamic state and society.
Take blasphemy, or speaking against Islam. In his discussion of Koran 5:33, which calls for the crucifixion and/or mutilation of “those who wage war against Allah and his messenger [Muhammad] and spread mischief upon the land,” the highly revered Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) -- the “Sheikh of Islam” -- once wrote:
Muharaba [waging war] is of two types: physical and verbal. Waging war verbally against Islam may be worse than waging war physically -- hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to kill those who waged war against Islam verbally, while letting off some of those who waged war against Islam physically. This ruling is to be applied more strictly after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Mischief may be caused by physical action or by words, but the damage caused by words is many times greater than that caused by physical action… It is proven that waging war against Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) verbally is worse and the efforts on earth to undermine religion by verbal means is more effective [Crucified Again, p. 100; emphasis added].
Taymiyya is making a seemingly starting claim: criticism -- mere words -- is more detrimental to Islam than war itself. Why? Because of all the world’s major religions, Islam is by far the easiest to dismantle through critical thinking (hence why Christian/Muslim debates often end with frustrated Muslims beating and even slaughtering their opponents).
Built atop an easily collapsed pack of cards -- namely, the very self-serving and opportunistic words and deeds of its founder -- silencing any criticism against Muhammad has, indeed, been essential to Islam’s survival. Left unchecked, this “verbal war” will have a snowball effect: other Muslims, exposed to such critical thinking, will also start thinking critically, ultimately rebelling against and overthrowing the Islamic order.
It is the same with apostasy. Few Muslim leaders actually care what Muslims believe in their hearts. But if a Muslim apostatizes openly -- which is tantamount to openly saying that Islam is not true -- other Muslims will start thinking about and scrutinizing Islam; other Muslims will be encouraged to reject its claims and, ultimately, rebel against Islamic authority. As one of the Islamic world’s most influential clerics, the late Yusuf al-Qaradawi, once said, “If they [Muslim leaders] had gotten rid of the punishment for apostasy [often execution], Islam would not exist today.”
Now consider how all of this applies to the so-called “Left.” Every day, and from virtually every official institution and channel -- academia, media, government, etc. -- we are bombarded with very obvious lies, for example, that women can become men, that men can become pregnant, and so on and so forth. Does that mean that most Americans believe this? No. But that’s never really been the goal -- to get you to believe what is unbelievable.
Rather, the ultimate goal is to condition you never to publicly challenge such sacred “dogmas” -- that you never openly blaspheme against or openly apostatize away from this new cult, thereby encouraging others to blaspheme and apostatize -- the dreaded snowball effect which every regime fears.
As with Islam, the Left cares little if in the quiet of your own mind you refuse to play along. All that matters is that you formally go along -- that you formally acquiesce -- even if through silent though implicit consent.
In short, the Left wants you to dread the consequences of openly defying their narrative, one which, like Islam, is also built atop an easily collapsed pack of cards.
This is what many miss. They tell themselves, “Well, I won’t openly say anything against these nonsensical claims concerning gender, pronouns, etc. -- after all, I don’t need to be canceled or lose my job. That said, I certainly know better.”
That may well be true, but by not openly opposing these dogmas, the Left establishes a monopoly on the narrative, which is all that matters.
Returning to Islam, we see that it has been and continues to be swift in silencing any public dissent -- to the point that sharia calls for the execution of blasphemers and apostates. As a result, Islam perseveres -- fourteen centuries now and counting -- even though many Muslims have serious reservations in the quiet of their mind if not downright apostasy in their hearts.
How long before such sharia-like laws -- I don’t mean being “canceled,” but being imprisoned and possibly executed for openly challenging the Left’s narrative -- are promulgated in the West?
Think that can’t happen here? Think again. Former generations of Americans could never in their wildest dreams have imagined what’s currently happening (as when people get fired or arrested for refusing to disavow science and say a man is a woman and vice versa). If the current trajectory continues unchallenged, where will the West be, and what will the punishments meted out to dissenters be?
Such is the plight of the slowly boiling frog.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.