TL;DR: Treating Islam as a race, instead of as a religion, hinders the efforts to treat all citizens equally under the law, by way of giving Islam a special treatment, that is religious privilege. With their proclivity to low expectations racism, the Regressive Left has abandoned the secular goal, lest it offends Muslims. The right has seized the opportunity to disguise its chauvinistic agenda with the colors of equality.
One of the main legacies of the Enlightenment is objectivity: the understanding that there is a cognizable reality out there. Admittedly, the idea could have been proposed before, nonetheless, it was with the Enlightenment that it became widespread, with worthy endeavors such as the Encyclopedia. The idea of objectivity is one of the main fabrics of our modern world and, sadly, it is under attack by people who just happen to hate civilization: the Regressive Left.
One of the worst symptoms of this rather bleak state of affairs is the war against dictionaries. Whenever they feel the meaning of a word doesn’t suit their agenda, they just change its meaning, and voilà. It’s happened, for instance with the word “atheist“: it just means disbelieving in gods — but some deluded guy with a blog wants it to mean something entirely different, namely people who share all and every aspect of his worldview at that point in time.
Just to give you another example, let’s take an almost random word, such as “racism“: for sane people, it means having a prejudice against anyone because of their skin color/ethnicity. But, since that doesn’t help the agenda of people who supposedly hate racism, then they just pretend it means a whole other thing.
Actually, racism is the kind of topic these creatures will talk about endlessly like they’re obsessed or something. Too bad they got it all wrong. To them, “racism” means racial prejudice plus power, which is just a semantic trap they play in order to be able to advocate hatred and prejudice against whole groups of people based on their ethnicity without being called racists (which tells you everything you need to know about how these moral cretins go about: they actually think it’s OK to be ethnically prejudiced against whole groups of people, as long as they have the ‘wrong’ skin color). Go figure.
But wait, there’s more. They also have some funny ideas about power: politics doesn’t matter anymore. What matters are the biological traits of people in power… which means they’d rather a Condoleezza Rice presidency instead of a Bernie Sanders‘ one. That’s because they have embraced the fascistic notion that people’s biological traits such as their sex or skin color determine their ideas, so whenever Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Maajid Nawaz step out of line, they’re branded ‘traitors’ to the biological box they’ve been assigned to.
And just when you think things couldn’t get worse, then they prove you wrong. Since they can’t stomach dictionaries (for, according to them, realities are caused by the narrative, and not the other way around!), they also have an alternative meaning for Islam. You know, for sane people, Islam is a set of ideas (namely that there’s a god called Allah, his prophet is Muhammad, and a magic book called Quran), and anyone, no matter their skin color, can believe in this set of ideas and behave accordingly or not. For the ID politics camp, though, Islam is race (?), and anything you say against the whole set of ideas, Muslims in general, a Muslim group in particular, a Muslim person, a characteristic of a Muslim person, any claim or idea put forward by a Muslim group or person, or a group of claims put forward by a Muslim group of person, is a pseudo-offence called Islamophobia, which amounts to racism (remember: “racial prejudice+power”) against a whole race which is not identified by their skin color but by sharing a set of beliefs.
And here is where things get uphill for secularism. Secularism is the Enlightened idea that all and any branches of Government should be separated from religion — any religion, in any quantity. It’s like the “color-blind” stance applied to religions: all citizens should be treated equally under the law, no matter their religion. Second to free speech, it is the single most important bulwark of democracy: it prevents people from having to comply with laws based on religious concepts they do not believe in (because in a democracy, there’s no space for such laws), and it guarantees the rule of law — no one gets free passes for having such and such imaginary friends. Sadly, to date, there has been no country capable of implementing a fully secular democracy whatsoever, which in its purest form would imply repealing all religious freedom law statutes, and giving religions the cigarette treatment: the industry pays taxes, you’re entitled to whatever flavor you like, and you can swap brands as many times as you want —or quit the whole thing—, as long as you are 18 or over, you also don’t get special treatment of any kind just because of your beliefs. If you’re under 18 years old, nada.
It should go without saying, but it is 2017, so it’s better to be safe than sorry: secularism also means there are no such things as blasphemy laws because they entail censorship to favor a religion or group of religions: if you feel bad or attacked when someone says anything about ideas you hold dear, that’s on you. Everyone is entitled to their opinions so if I think Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas (which I do), whatever you feel about my opinion is your responsibility, not mine. I won’t be held responsible for others’ people’s feelings and, likewise, I won’t hold anyone else responsible for my own. (Go ahead, try saying anything about how democracy sucks, or how free speech is this or that, or how atheism is bad, or whatever; I’m not a crybaby, so I don’t expect people to hold dear —or sacred— what I hold dear myself. That’s a totalitarian attitude and, like I’ve said, I’m for democracy.)
Anyway, secularism poses a quandary to identity politics advocates because, in their view, it doesn’t allow for the historically oppressed (Muslims!) to revenge against and rule over their historic oppressors. Funny thing: we, atheists, are actually the most persecuted minority in History and we don’t want anyone being forced to stop believing in god(s) or revenge for past wrongs; we just want justice and the playing field to be leveled —at least, those of us on the Enlightened side of the atheism rift want that—.
And just like the oligophrenic mantra that claims color-blind is racist, mutatis mutandis, fighting for secularism would also be racist (via the aforementioned Islamophobia canard). And once the ID politics left renounced to defending this cornerstone of civilization (and embraced the multiculti nonsense, instead), then the right-wing picked up the baton: from Le Pen in France to Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, to the conservatives in Quebec, they all have seen the perfect scapegoat in secularism: it’s a way to further their anti-Muslim bigoted agendas disguising them as equality. The really sad part of the story is that the Regressive Left actually drank the kool-aid.
That’s when the likes of Gleen Greenwald and the serial plagiarist CJ Werleman come along to advance the conspiracy theory that New Atheists are in bed with white supremacists, just because we all happen to reject Islamic theocracy and concepts such as sharía. What Greenwald and his sidekicks can’t wrap their heads around is that we, New Atheists, also reject Christian theocracy, Hindu theocracy, Buddhist theocracy and Amish theocracy, while the far-right has a documented history of not giving a rat’s ass about Christian theocracy. A difference any honest person would care to mention.
(Another funny thing —quite scary, actually—. It stands to reason to claim that in the New Cold War, Le Pen and Greenwald are on the same side: they are Kremlin puppets working tirelessly to dismantle what’s left of the West and the liberal democracy model the Enlightenment bequeathed us.)
We’ve all seen it at play: pseudo-liberal bigot calls “bigot” an actual liberal for not being a lower expectations racist — people on the authoritarian side of the atheist rift going after Richard Dawkins for tweeting facts, a smearing campaign against Sam Harris, Ben Affleck being all worked up and spouting nonsense in Bill Maher‘s Real Time. I think it needs a name. “The regressive gambit”, maybe? I take suggestions.
And I couldn’t care less what crypto-fascists think about me, or being called a “bigot” for standing up for equality instead of using history to privilege any group of people based on biological traits and pretend that to allow them to avenge for past wrongs is some kind of justice. The problem lies, then, in that secularism is now being branded as a right-wing goal (!), and in their efforts to destroy everything they deem right-wing, regressive leftists are actually throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Nothing good can come out of this: Islamism and the far-right are the same thing — the fact that one tends to be primarily WASP, and the other mainly Muslim and with a majority of brown-skinned advocates is an unimportant distinction: they’re both the same threat to freedom and equality.
And only the most unrestricted equal and objective treatment for all, regardless of religion or skin color, can put us on the right path. I don’t see that happening in the short and medium term.
(image: Dana Goldstein)