For all their internal disagreements – should, for instance, gays be celebrated or stoned to death? – the various subcults of the larger progressive movement have learned from each other and absorbed each other’s tactics.
The more political among American Muslims have proved particularly creative in their adaptations.
Borrowing from their African American allies, they coined the term “Muslim-American” to give their fully heterogeneous followers the patina of racial homogeneity, all the better to demand the various perks that come with oppression.
“Black Muslim leadership has foisted an ideology of victimization on immigrant Muslims, and it has stuck,” said Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, an African American convert to Islam who watched this happen.
When Muhammad converted to Islam in about 1985, he joined a radical wing of that faith. The events of September 11 made him rethink his allegiances, and, at the risk of never getting asked to appear on CNN, he committed himself to exposing “the stealth elements of radicalism” that permeated Islam in America.
Muhammad knew something about the word “Islamophobia” as well. He was there at the creation. He traced its origin to a group meeting at the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Northern Virginia.
“Muslim is the new gay,” said writer an humorist Mark Steyn only half-jokingly, and he was more right than he knew. According to Muhammad, the IIIT Islamists consciously decided to mimic gay activists.
The LGBT crowd had been successfully using the phrase “homophobia” to defame the opponents of their political agenda since the late 1960s. Radical Muslims saw the same potential in the concept of “Islamophobia.”
With just this one word, they could tie their struggle to those of other marginalized groups and “beat up their critics.”
The word – and the charge behind it – offended Muhammad. The suffix “phobia” means irrational fear. There was almost nothing irrational about America’s reaction to September 11.
“You had Muslims saying, ‘She looked at me at the airport, they looked funny at me. I was oppressed,'” Muhammad told Congress.
“No, this country just got hit by our people – by Muslims. And they’re acting like all of this anxiety over Islams and Muslims is happening in some type of vacuum, like 9/11 didn’t happen, like Fort Hood didn’t happen, like Abdulmutallab trying to put a bomb on a plane didn’t happen – like none of this is happening.”
The claim is that wary Americans and other Westerners “are just evil, rotten people that hate Muslims,” said Muhammad. “That’s the narrative.”
As a liberal neuroscientist and leading figure in the “New Atheist” movement, Sam Harris would seem among the least likely figures to be called an “Islamophobe.” So too would be his fellow traveler in the world of skepticism and progressivism, talk-show host Bill Maher.
A few years back, Maher and Harris got a taste of progressive medicine, the dispenser of which this time was actor Ben Affleck.
Harris was describing how liberals failed to stand up for their avowed principles when confronted with the issue of Islamic theocracy, and he explained why. “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia,” said Harris, “where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people.”
Affleck, who had been chafing throughout Harris’ conversation with Maher, rudely burst in, “You’re saying Islamophobia is not a real thing.”
Without a trace of irony, Maher reminded Affleck that those like Harris and him, who have been certified among the progressive elect, are incapable of Islamophobia.
“It’s not a real thing when we do it,” protested Maher. “It really isn’t.”
Affleck wasn’t convinced. He called the comments by Maher and Harris “gross,” “racist” and “ugly.” Fellow panelist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times added that their criticism of Islam had “the tinge, a little bit, of how white racists talk about African Americans.”
Harris tried to explain he was not attacking Muslims as people but rather their applied theology, specifically the decidedly illberal practices of stifling speech, suppressing women, beheading infidels and persecuting homosexuals.
“We have to be able to criticize bad ideas,” said Harris, “and Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.” He lamented that Affleck refused to understand the point he was making.
“I don’t understand it?” shouted Affleck. “Your argument is ‘You know, black people, we know they shoot each other, they’re blacks!'”
As Harris wrote after the fact, “What did he expect me to say to this – I stand corrected?” For Harris, perhaps even for Maher, the show was a learning experience.
“One of the most depressing things in the aftermath of this exchange is the way Affleck is now being lauded for having exposed my and Maher’s ‘racism,’ ‘bigotry’ and ‘hatred of Muslims,'” wrote a dispirited Harris.
“This is yet another sign that simply accusing someone of these sins, however illogically, is sufficient to establish them as facts in the minds of many viewers.”
Harris had absorbed his first real blow from an unhinged progressive, and he obviously did not anticipate how maddening it all was.