The fox and the wolf: Liberal Islamophobia and the pressure of ‘moderate’ Islam

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem, In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Becoming a Muslim convert is a unique experience. It allows you to truly see how comfortable people are in their bias. The first thing that I noticed in the people around me was the discomfort towards my change. They would make comments about brainwashing and would try to steer me away from ‘radicalisation’. Any viewpoints on how society and relationships should function were dismissed without evidence or discourse. This prejudice towards uncomfortable ideas is something that with time I realised is pervasive throughout the western world. Pervasive on both individual and political terms.

 If I experienced this as a twenty-two-year-old male, I cannot imagine what a large cohort of Muslim youth has had to go through. The compromises they could have made at an early age to avoid ostracisation. The term often used to discuss this pressure is Islamophobia. Islamophobia refers to indiscriminate negative perceptions or feelings towards Islam or Muslims. This is important as it combines the Muslim as the individual and Islam as a religious doctrine. Islamophobia can be as overt as verbal abuse, or as subtle as ostracisation and the belittlement of belief.

Examples of Islamophobia can be found overtly across the world, especially the women who regularly wear physical proof of their religious belief. A report on Australian Muslims in 2015 found hundreds of cases of harassment heavily targeted around the Muslim identity. 79.5% of the time women were victimised while wearing the hijab, a prominent religious symbol. When it came to online harassment, women were largely humiliated through insults about their chastity and honour. The harassment also extended to Muslim youth. The report found many incidents of bullying related to religion, with one child even being suspended without investigation from their school for allegedly using the term ‘ISIS’. Overt discrimination against Muslim individuals, especially those wearing recognisable symbols like the hijab and even from support systems like schools and the extending community is a problem that still exists to this day.

A more sinister and pervasive use of power to influence the Muslim identity is completely separate from reactionary Islamophobia or racism. The way that liberals subtly contribute to the pressuring Muslims through Islamophobia is by attacking Islam as a religious ideology. ‘Liberal Islamophobia’ refers to the use of a pseudo-progressive narrative based around liberal equality, freedom and rights to attack Islamic doctrine. Muslims today are largely pressured into apologetics for their ideals or are labelled as extremists if they refuse to conform. This can be seen in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, where the journalists were proclaimed as martyrs in an Islamic attack on free speech. With little to no understanding of how the gut-wrenchingly offensive depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is to most Muslims, some liberals used this attack in support of their ideals.

Image from Creative Commons.  Encontro com Sua Alteza Real, Mohammed bin Salman, Príncipe Herdeiro do Reino da Arábia Saudita

While seemingly tolerant, the western world has minimal allowances or acceptance for Islamic ideals of civilisation. Malcolm X once famously said,“[The white liberal] actually differs from the white conservative in the same way that the fox differs from the wolf. Their appetite is the same, their motives are the same; it is only their mannerisms and methods that differ.” Where the conservatives resort to overt attack, the liberals are not immune from the same fears. Since 9/11, Muslims have been categorised as either ‘moderate’ or ‘extremist’ by counterterrorist and liberal dialogue carrying undertones about what is regarded by the western world as toleratable Islam and the risks posed by the Islamic community. While there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and no more than 100000 Muslims explicitly involved in political violence in the name of Islam as an ideology. Still, there is constant pressure from liberal establishments for Muslims to be “moderate”. 

A solution to this problem is an acceptance of the rights of Muslims to practice their faith regarding the legal rulings of Muslims both in the Western world and regarding the Western World’s condemnation of the Middle East. Islamic views on gender, promiscuity, marriage, relationships and every other aspect of civisilation are based in our tradition and a portion of the Muslim population will always abide by these restrictions. This is not a precedent that is unknown in the western world either, Australia has had indigenous urban courts and justice practices since the late 1990s to make court processes more culturally appropriate. We must as a community acknowledge that justice is not blind, the liberal western world should not be seen as a final culmination of society at the expense of all others.

Infographic by Vincent Ipsaro-Passione

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