Sunday, November 26, 2006

Islam, Conservatives, Liberals and Progressives

Appearing right above this essay later today (if time permits) or tomorrow will be a rather classic liberal look at one aspect of Islam, both Islamic religious teachings and the effect those teachings have on certain aspects of middle eastern societies.

That soon to be written essay will be critical and will apply the same perspectives I have already applied to nearly identical Christian teachings frequently here in this blog over the last ten years.

Of course, if you are reading these words on Monday, you've already read the essay, since it appears directly above this one. So reading down here is a lot like time travel. You've traveled back in time, before the above essay was ever written. But I digress.

As a long time, traditional liberal who fought for human rights in Afghanistan long before anyone outside of Texas heard or cared about George W. Bush, I find the silence of the left on issues of Islamic teachings and practices very disturbing.

The Huffington Post rails mightily every day about women's rights, racism, the rights of hispanic immigrants, gay marriage, the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transexuals, daily outbreaks of Christian hypocrisy, prayer in school, global warming and evolution versus creationism. But you'll virtually never find a single blog about the failings of Islam or the Islamic world on these very same topics.

To be certain it's easier and more fun to attack Kansas than Teheran, However, the left wing hypocrisy is glaring and, to my mind, maddening.

Years ago I fought against the evils of the Taliban along side these same Hollywood liberals as we pleaded for the UN to intercede on behalf of women in Afghanistan. Now the silence from the left is deafening.

Meanwhile the right is on a unified campaign to point out nearly every Islamic evil. If a day goes by without a good enough (errr.... bad enough) example, the right dreams one up or relives some past evils.

Right wing bloggers like
Michelle Malkin and Little Green Footballs are on a crusade against Islam.... and, absolutely, the pun was intended.

What's really interesting is that the right is generally using the exact same arguments traditionally used by the old school left: women's rights, racism, the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transexuals, daily outbreaks of Islamic hypocrisy, prayer in school, global warming and evolution versus creationism.

Read Michelle Malkin today and you could be reading Susan Sarandon ten years ago. Now that is a disturbing thought.

Why is this happening? I have three observations.

First, the left today has two rather diverse movements, liberals on one hand and so-called progressives on the other. Progressives are not liberals. In fact many hold very traditional conservative goals. They tend to be isolationist, against free trade, and against open borders. This crowd includes many who fight against big corporations, fear international institutions and want a stronger, bigger U.S. government with socialist overtones.

Talk about a big tent. This crowd includes everyone from
Keith Olbermann to Pat Buchanan to Alex Jones.

Progressives unite in one critical area: they hate George Bush and they hate the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They want the troops home now and they want Bush humiliated and controlled, if not impeached and imprisoned. Nothing can be accomplished until Bush is removed from effective power. No time to criticize Islam until the greatest evil in history is removed from the world stage.

Once Bush is gone (and their campaign can only last two more years, at most), this coalition can turn to other issues. A few might become objectively critical of Islam. Others will not. Many will continue to strictly confine their observations to things within the sphere of US influence. They will never be critical of anything but the United States, it's policies and practices.

Second, we liberals do often suffer from terminal, if highly selective, political correctness. We are rightfully sensitive to the feelings of millions of Muslims worldwide, and especially those living in the West. We want to draw a line between valid criticism and an attack on an entire religion.

With the right labeling Islam the "religion of perpetual intolerance," or "the religion of perpetual outrage," we liberals are careful to actually protect the religion and people being so unfairly attacked. We delay or curb our criticism of Islam for fear of being accused of "piling on."

Worse yet, if we attack any aspect of Muslim life, we might get lumped into a basket with Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.

We can safely attack the foilbles of Christianity because Hannity, Coulter and Limbaugh will defend the Christians. We are prevented from similar criticism of Islam because it puts us on the wrong side of the "liberal versus conservative" dichotomy.

I know that is stupid, but you know I'm right.

Finally (third), I'm embarrassed to tell you the left is withholding criticism of Islam out of fear. How many liberal free speech advocates openly defended the Danish cartoonists? How many reprinted the cartoons? Damn few. Once again, liberals had to look toward leaders like Michelle Malkin to carry the water for them. Sarcasm fully intended.

Around the world written criticism or even minor insults to Islam lead directly to beatings, torture, imprisonment and death. And it is scary. Here is a
short capsule of recent brutality (courtesy once again of the great liberal leader, Michelle Malkin).

Conservatives are fearless and stupid. Just ask George "Bring it on" Bush. Malkin, Coulter and others are actually baiting Muslims. "Go ahead, make my day!"

Liberals need a little more courage. And so I begin the essay that will appear above this one later today or tomorrow.

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8 comments:

Vigilante said...

I have three observations. Two of these may conflict, without cancelling each other out.

In the first instance, you are continuing your old flawed habit of being preoccupied with labels. This is a problem I have had with your writing before. Briefly, this identifies you as a spectator more than a participant in politics. This habit of mind encourages you to publish team programs instead of game plans; punditry instead of advocacy. This would be okay, as long as your readers knew what they were getting when the wanted to know who is on what team and whether they play offense or defense. The problem is. in politics the labels you toss out, (left, right, liberal, conservative, progressive) are subjective, in the eye of the beholder. This tempts you into making glib, over-generalized observations. And some readers, who disagree with your assignment to, or descriptions of, various 'teams', will tend to feel that your generalizations are gross over generalizations, and not at all benevolent.

I, OTOH, know you better and would expect that you intend no malice. Even so, I am so blinded or distracted by this penchant of yours, that I might easily miss the import you intend with your piece. (Maybe, in fact, I have in this instance.)

Vigilante said...

Secondly, in light of the lack of objectivity in attributing political labels, ought you not rely more on self-identification of politicos? In other words, rely on specific writers, officials or activists to identify themselves as leftists, rightists, liberals, conservatives, progressives? That might encourage you to be more specific into linking your observations to the actual words or actions of people.

Having said this, I will confirm for your benefit and your readers' that you have accurately ascribed to me the label of Progressive:

"Progressives unite in one critical area: they hate George Bush and they hate the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They want the troops home now and they want Bush humiliated and controlled, if not impeached and imprisoned. Nothing can be accomplished until Bush is removed from effective power . . . until the greatest evil in history is removed from the world stage."

I self-identify with and own this description. You may have had me in mind when you wrote it. Or you may have read my site this morning before you wrote it.

Vigilante said...

Part III

Finally (and briefly) in regards to who has said what on which strain of Islam, I have two observations:

One, I submit that Americans who are most effective in their political activity - writing, acting, serving - address most of their concerns with American governance, as opposed to - in the instance of your concern - Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or the Sudan. It is our own government we can, theoretically, most expect to influence. Not that it isn't important to scrutinize things in foreign lands. It is. It is often said that Americans don't learn much about foreign countries until they find themselves at war with them. So, pro active critical thinking about international issues is critically important. But much of our partisan writing and action is understandably directed at our own political institutions.

Finally, and this probably pertains to the Blogosphere more than anywhere else: even with the powers of a Wizard, you have no idea how much energy anyone - myself included - has spent critically examining and criticizing different Islamic writers or actors. There's no way you could be conscientiously secure or confident in your grasp of my perceptions, concerns or depth of feelings pertaining to Islamist, Islamism, or Islam.

Vigilante said...

As a footnote to two of the above points, here is a self-described socialist who think Bush is a (Biblical) savior of Darfur. I give you, John A. Akec

the WIZARD, fkap said...

vigilante, Thank you for the very insightful and helpful comments.

First, concerning John Akec, I an a regular reader and have corresponded with him in the past.

I'm sure you realize that he and I are of one mind on this issue and I have posted similar (virtually identical) praise for President Bush and his entire cabinet, especially Colin Powell, John Bolton and John Danforth for their work on behalf of the people of Darfur.

The efforts of the Democrats against Bolton show our political system at it's very worst. In order to continue pressure on Bush, Bolton is held hostage, soon to be either sacrificed or held up as an example of Bush's arrogance.

It's tragic.....

More to follow. I'm going to separate this contentious issue from the more important comments you made earlier.

the Wizard.....

the WIZARD, fkap said...

vigilante, Onward to your first point ~ Labels. While I regret you find my use of labels a "flawed habit," I find the use both necessary and insightful.

To be certain, no one, not one single person, ever fits into any group. If you take 100 Southern Baptists and place them in a room, you'll get 100 different theologies (this, as opposed to placing 100 Unitarians in a room, where you are certain to get well over 200 different theologies ;) ).

Still, it is useful to discuss Southern Baptists as a group to help understand their impact on small town southern culture.

For example, our small town is "dry" and it is the very powerful Southern Baptist influence, including organized and highly motivated church voting blocks, that keep the town dry, effectively defeating every ballot measure that would allow liquor by drink or in package stores.

And yet, individually, virtually every church member I know drinks and goes into the "big city" and buys liquor or visits chain restaurants and has a drink with dinner.

Individually, all will claim to be in favor of the great economic boom alcohol would bring to our struggling community, and yet, in the clostered privacy of the voting booth, the measures are easily defeated.

So, while you might feel I would be better served to discuss a specific liberal or progressive rather than the group, it is actually pointless and certainly less than useful. While I often quote Trey Ellis over at The Huffington Post, I only can really know him on the very narrow basis of his few writings. And then only based on writings I might have read.

But, to visit the big blog factories like Huffington or Kos or even Technorati and do a search and quickly determine that topic "A" is being totally ignored by one general group of bloggers, is helpful and insightful.

Trey Eillis may or may not really and deeply care about the plight of women in UN occupied Afghanistan. I don't know. But I do know that virtually no Huffington Blogger is writing about it.

How do you feel about the plight of Afghan women? I actually do know you do care, but it's hardly a topic you write about. Your focus IS ON PRESIDENT BUSH. Even a casual reader knows that. You write about what you care about. That is as it should be.

There is such a thing as "group think." There are shared values. It's not wrong to discuss these. They are very important.

Lables are very helpful. I recognize that no one fits perfectly into any group. But the group still does exist, even without a single "ideal" member.

the Wizard.....

the WIZARD, fkap said...

vigilante wrote: "Finally, and this probably pertains to the Blogosphere more than anywhere else: even with the powers of a Wizard, you have no idea how much energy anyone - myself included - has spent critically examining and criticizing different Islamic writers or actors. There's no way you could be conscientiously secure or confident in your grasp of my perceptions, concerns or depth of feelings pertaining to Islamist, Islamism, or Islam."

Agreed. And that is my point exactly. And the final proof is your link to John Akec. Individually, each of us is different. Which is why you cannot discuss individuals and reach any reasonable conclusions.

Group labels are helpful, they do not deny individuality.

the Wizard.....

Vigilante said...

Wizard, thanks for conscientiously addressing each of my concerns. We are destined to agree to disagree for the time being. I will say that I write mainly on what (a) I care most deeply and (b) what I think I can influence. (I may be extremely delusional about the latter.) The constraints on my time require both A and B variables.

I care deeply about the Taliban. I don't think I can influence the way they treat women (or men); If they haven't changed in 3 1/2 years, then I feel as I did on 9-20-2001, hearing Buush's speech: I would like to bust them back (permanently) to the Medieval world whence they came. If we could just get our troops re-deployed from Iraq where they are doing no earthly good, we might be able to bust them again. (But that's another story. And a complicated one.)

It comes to me, if we must talk about labels, that we ought maybe to think about a new taxonomy. The traditional dichotomy of conservatism and liberalism do not work for me. Maybe I can come up with some classifications or categories we can both agree on. (A daunting task!)

One final thing. I think it is my calling - I'm sure you share it - to engage in outreach. Not that I think I possess or embody truth, but I feel it is incumbent upon me as a member of our planet's demographic, to speak out to others. To go out of my way, seek them out, wherever the limits of language permit. And the limits of time, of course. That is why I engage Israelis, Muslims, and Republicans (!) - just to name a few - whoever I can find someone who will change a few words with me. Frequently, the time spent is not rewarding. But I persist. I persist because I don't think the end of blogging - its mission - is eloquent posturing (good thing for me, eh?); it is change and pursuit of consensus.

Thanks for participating in that process with me, Wizard.