I am sometimes criticized for focusing too much on the Islamic threat to the West and not paying enough attention to the more immediate threat from the political left. One of the reasons I concentrate on the former is that the threat from the left is more obvious and is widely covered by numerous columnists in major periodicals. Most Catholics who are paying attention realize by now that the left-leaning Obama administration is no friend to Catholics, and that it constitutes a threat to crucial freedoms that Americans have long taken for granted.
Focusing on Islam, however, does not preclude worrying about the left. Both are worrisome. More to the point, they are not unrelated threats. It is unrealistic to think of the two ideological movements—the one secular, the other religious—as separate and distinct, as though we can afford to tackle the immediate threat first and the remote one later. In reality, leftism and Islamism are best understood as a combined threat. Radical leftists and radical Islamists share similar ideologies and goals and have formed numerous alliances, both tacit and not-so-tacit.
In this regard, I should point out that there is a debate among scholars as to whether Islam is primarily a religion or a political movement. Another debate revolves around the question of whether or not the political aspect of Islam can be separated from the religious aspect. Those who think that the political and religious aspects can be treated separately tend to use the terms “Islam” and “Islamic” when referring to the religious side, and “Islamism” and “Islamist” to identify the political side. Since I am one of those who believes that the Jekyll and Hyde sides of Islam cannot be easily separated, I will use all four terms interchangeably.
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The words “Islamism” and “Islamist” were chosen because of their similarity to “communism” and “communist,” but the ideological similarities between Islam and communism were noted long before the politicized terms came into common usage. The list of philosophers, historians and intellectuals who have likened Islam to communism includes Bertrand Russell, Arthur Koestler, Whittaker Chambers, Jules Monnerot, and Bernard Lewis. More tellingly, the three most influential Islamic theorists of the twentieth century—Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Maududi—were all deeply impressed with Soviet communism. Though they rejected the atheistic element of communism, they recognized its affinities with Islam, and their writings reflect the influence of leftist thought. Take this passage from Maududi:
In such a state, no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states. (Islamic Law and Constitution, p. 262)
And apparently from other aspects as well. For example, both ideologies look upon themselves as transcending race, language, and nationality. Here’s Maududi again:
In reality, Islam is a revolutionary ideology and programme which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals. (Jihad in Islam, p. 8)
Thus, ideologically-minded Muslims don’t think of themselves as Turks or Saudis or Egyptians, but rather as members of the umma—the worldwide Islamic community. According to Maududi, “Islam requires the earth—not just a portion but the whole planet.”
When we move from the theoretical level to the practical level, we find that there are many instances of leftists working closely with Islamic groups and in support of Islamic goals. Perhaps the most obvious example is the close relationship between leftist Venezuela and Islamist Iran. The Obama administration’s warm embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood is another example. Obama and his State Department did everything they could to bring Mohamed Morsi and the Brotherhood to power in Egypt, and they did their utmost to return the Brotherhood to power once they had been deposed. And this despite the fact that the Brotherhood’s relentless persecution of Christians was by then well-known. Indeed, the Obama administration has shown a penchant for siding with more radical Muslim parties against more moderate ones. This has been the case in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey, and elsewhere. According to national security expert Andrew C. McCarthy, “the more unabashed [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan became in promoting sharia and the Brotherhood’s jihad against Israel, the closer Washington drew to him” (Spring Fever, p. xiv).
Here are some other examples of left-Islam collaboration:
- Under Hillary Clinton, the left-leaning State Department worked closely for several years with the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to find ways to implement the OIC’s long-standing objective of silencing speech critical of Islam.
- A voluminous set of documents released by the Department of Justice in early 2012 revealed a high degree of collaboration between the leftish DOJ and various Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups.
- In October 2011, at the request of Muslim activist groups the U.S. Attorney General’s office ordered the FBI and other national security agencies to purge their training materials of any suggestion of a link between Islam and violence.
- Most of the demonstrators at a September 11, 2010 rally to support the building of the Ground Zero mosque in New York City were members of various leftist, socialist and communist organizations. Leftists in the U.S. and Europe have shown themselves to be reliable supporters of mosque construction. For example, according to Soeren Kern, a senior fellow at the Madrid-based Strategic Studies Group, “Many of the mosque projects in Italy have been promoted by left-wing politicians who are waging an ideological war with the Roman Catholic Church.”
- The left-leaning media, which never hesitates to implicate the whole Catholic faith when crimes are committed by priests, makes every effort to avoid implicating Islam whenever crimes are committed in the name of Islam. Whether reporting on the Fort Hood massacre, the Boston Marathon massacre, or the Nairobi mall massacre, journalists can be relied on to keep to the script which says that “This has nothing to do with Islam.”
- Leftist organizations such as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and The Huffington Post have been in the forefront of the campaign against “Islamophobia.” Much of their work consists of attempts to smear and silence groups that report on the oppression of women and minorities under Islam. The left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, is in the habit of designating human rights activists who stand up for the victims of Islam as “hate groups.” Meanwhile, in collaboration with the Council on American -Islamic Relations, the considerably left-of-center Center for American Progress has produced a report titled Fear Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America. As far as the left is concerned, there is nothing to fear from Islam; the real enemies are those who dare to point out the problems with Islam.
Mecca may be 7,000 miles from Washington, but the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim-American Society, and other such groups have offices in Washington and other major American cities, and they seem to have considerable access to the current administration. If one thinks in terms of armed conquest, then of course there is little to be feared from Islam. But societies can be conquered in other ways than by warfare. Twenty years ago it would have seemed a very remote possibility that wedding photographers in the U.S. would someday be forced to provide their services to same-sex weddings or risk arrest. That once-remote possibility looks like it will soon be enshrined in law.
The reason that so many once-remote possibilities—same-sex marriage, gays in the military, transgender bathrooms in grade schools—arrived far ahead of schedule is that these causes were taken up by liberals and leftists in education, media, the courts, and the entertainment industry. These social transformations occurred not because there were battalions of gay and transgendered troops massed on the borders, but because there were enough willing enablers within the borders.
It may be argued that the enablement of Islam is a completely different matter. Leftists, we assume, would never let the Islamization of the culture go too far because to give Islamists a secure foothold would be suicidal for our society and inimical to the interests of leftists themselves. But, in the long run (and perhaps even in the short run), the left’s other social experiments also spell societal suicide. That hasn’t stopped the true believers from the single-minded pursuit of their agenda. It needs to be kept firmly in mind that the left’s first major goal is the destruction of the existing social order. Utopia comes later.
When your gaze is fixed on that sort of objective, it’s very likely you won’t be able to grasp the larger picture. Right now, for example, left-leaning governments in Europe are pursuing ill-advised policies in regard to Islam that will almost surely result in the Islamization of large parts of Europe within a few decades. The triumph of the left in Europe has made the eventual triumph of Islam that much more likely. America seems to be following a similar trajectory and, for that reason, it may not be wise to look at the leftist menace and the Islamist menace as two separate threats—the one immediate and the other remote. The more the left advances in America, the more likely that radical Islam will be one of the main beneficiaries.
Islamists and leftists constitute a double threat. This is not to say that the alliance will last forever. At some point, one of the parties will decide that their “useful idiot” allies have served their purpose and can be dispensed with. As Recep Erdogan said in 1998, four years before his Islamist party swept the secularists aside, “Democracy is just the train we board to reach our destination.” Once they have attained sufficient power, Islamists in the West can be counted on to ditch their leftist friends.
Editor’s note: The picture above was taken at a January 3, 2009 demonstration in London against Israel by various Palestinian, Muslim, and Leftist groups such as the Socialist Workers Party. In recent months, left wing American academic associations like the American Studies Association and the Modern Language Association have approved boycotts or condemnations of Israel. (Photo credit: Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira / WikiCommons.)