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The Fight Against Fascism Requires Awakening The Left's Liberal Conscience

31/01/2017 12:38 GMT | Updated 31/01/2017 12:38 GMT

While it was heartening to see millions of women all over the world take to the streets to assert their rights, the Washington March was not without controversy. Hallowed organisations such as Amnesty USA and prominent Leftists rallied around the March's co-chair Linda Sarsour on Twitter, who faced flak online for her religious views, which seem rather incongruous with liberal values (to put it mildly).

If a conservative Catholic nun who believes in 'Biblical laws' and waxes eloquent on the virtues of chastity were to claim she stood for women's emancipation, liberals would laugh her out of the room. Yet, a march that banned pro-life women's groups from officially partnering (and rightly so, IMO) chose a pro-Sharia hijabi who moonlights as an apologist of male-guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia, as the face of intersectional feminism.

The Left's bizarre fetish with conservative Islam isn't new. Google the words 'Muslim American Olympians' and the Rio 2016 gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad will be the last entry on page three. All prior hits on pages 1-3 point to articles on Ibtihaj, celebrating her participation draped in a symbol of female sexual repression decreed by 7th century misogynists. By making the pious hijabi an archetype of everything -- from minority rights to women's emancipation -- Leftists are unwittingly practicing a sort of benevolent bigotry, and the same cultural stereotyping that they claim to be fighting. The vast swaths of diverse, non-observant, clean shaven, non-covering Muslims are non-existent in the liberal-Left narrative.

Liberal reformist Muslims and Ex-Muslims will be the greatest casualties of the Trumpian Right. Treated as pariahs within their own communities, they seldom find support from secular Leftists in the West either. Now, in the aftermath of the deplorable #MuslimBan they will be further marginalized, as any criticism of Islam becomes taboo for fear of being co-opted by right-wing bigots.

As Ali A. Rizvi sums it up in his new book ironically titled 'The Atheist Muslim' (the most well articulated and prescient one in its genre):

"In their well-intentioned effort to protect what they see as a targeted minority, Western liberals unwittingly find themselves fighting to guard and protect the same backward values that their counterparts in Muslim-majority countries are fighting against."

"As well intentioned as they may be, Western liberals like Noam Chomsky and journalist Glenn Greenwald have conflated protecting the right of Muslims to believe as they want with protecting the beliefs themselves."

The Left is facing its greatest crisis in recent memory, from both within and without. And there is only so much we can blame on racist white men and their brown Hindutva doppelgangers. At some point the Left will have to introspect as to how its narrative became so vacuous amongst the masses, that fanatical fringe elements like Le Pen and Geert Wilders were able to take centre-stage in mainstream politics.

Folks who trended #TerrorismHasNoReligion and blamed western foreign policy in the Middle-East for jihadist attacks against cartoonists, carried out by second generation European zealots (born and brought up in the West), are now wondering why one-issue voters are opting for far-right sociopaths. The onus of explaining the difference between a diverse, largely peaceful population of 1.2 billion Muslims from a totalitarian ideology at the root of terrorism (namely Islamism) was on the Left. And Leftists failed miserably at it. Their hypocritical apologia and failure to address the elephant in the room is what enabled Trump to hijack the narrative and paved the way for this despicable #MuslimBan.

While feminist groups on European campuses were busy defending the safe spaces of Islamists from fellow feminists like Maryam Namazie and Ayaan Hirsi, and chastising hapless white boys for "appropriating" dreadlocks, real bigots and xenophobes were being elected to high office and winning referendums across the world.

If Leftists hope to stem the ascent of the far-right and counter the lies and deceit that drives its propaganda machine, we must question some of our own paradigms:

Does countering the Right's anti-Muslim bigotry necessitate pandering to equally regressive and dogmatic Islamists?

Can we claim to fight Hindutva fascism while remaining apathetic to the victims of Islamist fascism-- the Kashmiri Pandits, and the Shirin Dalvis of the world?

Can we claim to defend minorities in non-Muslim countries, while looking the other way when dissidents and reformists within these minorities are silenced? Will we stand up for Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen the next time they are threatened by murderous Islamists, the same way we defended Linda Sarsour from alleged cyber trolls?

Are the precepts in Wollstonecraft's 'Rights of Woman' subject to a woman's melanin levels, ethnic origin, or her belief in a specific medieval fairy-tale that must never be critiqued? Will we rise above petty identity politics and condemn misogynistic beliefs and practices across all religions and cultures, instead of allying with them just because it helps our crusade against White majoritarianism?

As reassuring as it was to see pictures of lawyers working pro-bono at airports across the United States against Trump's #MuslimBan, Leftists need to analyse how the free world got to this point in the first place. In many ways, the fight against Fascism in 2017 will require an earnest attempt to rouse the Left's liberal conscience.