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Muslim-Christian Alliance Against #Pride
My thoughts on the new coalition and its consequences.
Last week, we found out that some Muslim parents in Maryland were very unhappy about a new school policy which removes parental authority to opt out of coursework that includes LGBT material. Evidently, such material used to be classified as “family life and human sexuality”—which state law requires to be opt-in only. The school district in question, however, decided to reclassify some of this material, so that the parents would no longer be informed or have the option to take their children out of school. Muslim parents began to organize, and started protesting.
Similar scuffles are taking place in Canada, and around the world conservative Christians are locking arms with Muslims in their opposition to the inclusion of gender and orientation in classroom materials. Some are applauding this new brotherhood of Abraham, and hoping that this heralds a change in the winds.
I’ve been receiving some questions from followers and friends about all this, such as:
Is this new coalition a “turning point” in the culture/gender war?
Will the parental outcry help progressives recognize that they might be pushing things too far?
Will progressives instead recognize the socially conservative tendencies of Islam and correct their stance on the faith?
The short answer: No, no, and no. Sorry. The longer answer is more interesting, so I’ll get to it.
“True Islam” is Intersectional Islam
It is true that Muslims have “energy” in a way Christians do not and progressives will have a tougher time opposing a “marginalized” group. Nevertheless, if a Muslim-Christian coalition emerges, it will make things broadly worse for most parties.
It is worth remembering that in America, Muslims have no direct political power. Unlike European Muslims, ours are fewer in number and are more dispersed—nor do they have the finances to make up for it. American Muslims are also some of the most socially progressive in the world—which means that the Muslim parents will face opposition from within as well, most effectively from an archetype I have come to know well: the MINOs (Muslims in Name Only).
While it is commonplace to see nominal Christians disregard the majority of biblical teachings, this is a much more rare occurrence in the Muslim community and the stigma against it remains powerful. Therefore, these types are few in number—far fewer even than the population of ex-Muslims.
But their numbers are irrelevant—the few MINOs that do exist are larger than life, as they are the literal poster kids for what I like to call “Intersectional Islam”. This Islam is a product of the West, more specifically, of the desires of elite white liberals.
In that sense, the Islam of the MINOs might be better understood as an “identity” rather than a religion—a kind of personal vibe, a stylistic choice. It leans strongly on visible markers of “otherness”—colorful ethnic clothing, the casual peppering of foreign words in everyday conversation (alongside exaggerated “correct” pronunciations), and instagram pictures of gorgeously prepared traditional food. Intersectional Islam provides the kind of diversity that educated liberals are comfortable with—all the “enriching” accouterments of cultural difference without any of the underlying ideas. MINOs don’t eat pork, but they do support #TransRights.
*Lest any of you get mad at me for using a real person as an illustration, I’d like to point out that the woman pictured above is a Rachel Dolezol-level faker. As a “progressive Muslim”, she swam in circles adjacent to mine, and from what I recall she seemed nice but personified multiple
stupefying contradictions intersectionalities. (Yes, she’s a hijabi—by choice! And yes, she is also a proud gay woman—what of it, bigot?)… Meanwhile her multi-ethnic status (Latinx/Arab/South Asian) meant that she didn’t shy away from race either—even landing a senior position as a diversity officer at a major progressive nonprofit in large part due to her “lived experiences”. Unfortunately, her mom decided to rain on the rainbow parade by telling the truth: her daughter is a race-hoaxer (“white as the driven snow”), the revelations throwing all the other identities into doubt.
If Muslims decide to be more vocal about their opposition to leftist social agenda, they will find that MINOs will be invited to speak over them, and will succeed in drowning them out. We will be treated to a barrage of ludicrous op-eds that posit Islam as a LGBT friendly religion (“How Muhammad Was The First Queer Activist”, etc) as well as profiles of camera-friendly gay Muslims who claim to find no contradictions between “their Islam” and homosexuality. The more intelligent among the MINOs might attempt to put a more theological spin on it with a few cherry-picked quotes from hadith or the Quran, or perhaps bring in some historical flavor by blaming colonizers for anti-gay legislation in the Middle East. “True Islam”, it will be revealed, is a religion of Peace and #Pride.
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Muslims Get the Apostate Treatment
Muslims might be tempted to correct the record, to debunk MINO claims using evidence, legal histories, and scholarship, but they will find (as ex-Muslims know) that no one cares about the truth. When Reza Aslan claimed that “the first thing Muhammad did was outlaw slavery”, the blatant and easily disproved falsehood was uncritically accepted. This was in the time of ISIS and Aslan had said what everyone (including, mainstream Muslims) wanted to hear. When ex-Muslims attempted to expose the lie—to point out that all evidence incontrovertibly points to the fact that Muhammad was a slave owner himself—it was we who were kicked out of polite society.
This is the future that lies ahead of Muslims who do not prescribe to the Islam the New York Times anoints. Their skin color might prevent them from facing the most direct fire, but they will find themselves instead made invisible: Regardless of how much they protest, they will not be heard outside of conservative circles. The media apparatus that couldn’t wait to hear from them when they might have served as sympathetic victims of random-attacks-of-MAGA will look straight through them. It is bad optics for white people to confront brown people, so they simply won’t acknowledge Muslims at all—focusing all their energies on the more palatable villains in their story: the white Christians.
Meanwhile, the MINOs will be deployed to do the work that the whites cannot, and will begin to label those who object to progressive social values as “extremists”. It won’t matter if these “extremist” views are, in fact, widely held in the Muslim community (and thus not actually “extreme”—just deeply conservative relative to American norms). It has never mattered what Muslims actually believe—Islam has always served as a proxy for domestic squabbles. Muslims were too happy to overlook this when they were being valorized by the Left as noble savages, but now the bill is due. The cost of being idealized is that along with the imperfections, your humanity is stripped away too.
Muslims were never truly part of the Leftist fold. The inclusion was only of their idealized representation, a creation that both parties maintained through a mix of falsehoods and self-deception. It was a marriage of convenience, and like all such marriages, bound to turn sour eventually.
On a related note, a public statement signed by many Muslim scholars was released last month, the purpose of which seems to be to corral Muslims into a clear, unified position around LGBT issues and to serve as a point of reference for non-Muslims.
The statement makes clear that sexual relations within the same sex is an explicit sin in Islam, as is “imitating the appearance of the opposite gender”. In addition, Muslims may not “take pride in identifying with labels that categorize them by their sins”—#Pride is haram.
The statement also makes clear that there can be no “progress” on this issue as “...particular principles that are explicitly stated in revelation, known to be necessary elements of Islam, and unanimously agreed upon by qualified scholars are deemed immutable and not open to revision by any person or entity, including the highest religious authorities”. Attempts to reinterpret doctrine to be inclusive of LGBTQ affirmation are, therefore, “theologically indefensible”.
So far, no surprises for those familiar with doctrine.
Next comes the more interesting part, a plea to MINOs and other liberal Muslims who might be tempted in fashioning a more #Pride-inclusive Islam:
We urge Muslim public figures to uphold the sanctity of our faith and refrain from making erroneous pronouncements on behalf of Islam. We reject any attempt to attribute positions to Islam concerning sexual and gender ethics that contravene well-established Islamic teachings. To be clear, we cannot overstate the detrimental spiritual consequences for those who intentionally reject, advocate the rejection of, or misrepresent the will of God, as in doing so they endanger their status as believers (Quran, al-An‘ām: 21).
Sounds a little desperate to my ears—one imagines that if they really did have the authority they claimed, this would not need to be said. Other parts of the document addressed lawmakers and activists, referencing constitutionally-protected right of Muslims to practice their faith. In a profound reversal of the mode of operation for the last few decades, the scholars felt it important to remind the public that disagreement does not equal hate:
“As a religious minority that frequently experiences bigotry and exclusion, we reject the notion that moral disagreement amounts to intolerance or incitement of violence.”
I had figured that at some point Muslims would come around to this. The romance with the Left was bound to fizzle out, and the ideological gulf between the two would become apparent, and then they would need to fend off the charges of bigotry. Still, it is probably too much to hope that this new “ideas are not people” principle will be applied to the critiques of Islam, too. It is certainly not going to become popular in the parts of the world in which Muslims remain in charge—nor do I expect the American Muslim community to care.
I find that it is easiest to adopt high-minded civil libertarianism when one is in a position of weakness, so (reasoning backwards) we can surmise that if a group is newly adopting such principles, they are newly finding themselves in a vulnerable position. Boring old gays did not have as much moral authority as Muslims in the intersectional victimhood matrix, but the modern LGBTQ+ apparatus is a different beast altogether. If Muslims challenge it, they may lose. Another way of gauging power here is to notice which of the opposing groups can most easily weaponize the word “bigot”. Tellingly, the word “islamophobia” did not occur once in the above statement.
Another good quote before we wrap up:
“Peaceful coexistence does not necessitate agreement, acceptance, affirmation, promotion, or celebration. We refuse the false choice between succumbing to social pressures to adopt views contrary to our beliefs or facing unfounded charges of bigotry. Such coercive ultimatums undermine prospects for harmonious coexistence.”
Well said, and on the face of it this feels like a mature take on ideological differences. Sadly, it isn’t really true.
Some amount of ideological agreement is required for coexistence—or at least, a coexistence worth having. The ultimate function of the culture war is to establish that shared ground—which is yet another reason why those who think culture war issues are meaningless couldn’t be more wrong.
If I had to guess of where this will go, say, three years from now, I would say that it is likely that Muslims will broadly re-join the conservative fold. The Left will abandon Muslims, who are no longer cooperating nor all that useful for signaling tolerance. Conservatives might begin loosening up their xenophobia, and provided terror attacks remain rare, they are unlikely to pick it up with the same intensity as before (against Muslims, at least).
Meanwhile, the religious alliance taking charge of the conversation will discourage secular critics of woke extremism from speaking out—polarizing the debate further. As several writers and commentators have pointed out, the lack of a British religious Right has made it easier for feminists in the UK to speak out against gender ideology. If the religious come storming in citing holy books instead of presenting arguments that can move anyone, the debate will be billed as one about belief vs. “science”—and this is bad news for secular critics of gender.
It is worse news for gays—the religious Right can’t/won’t tell the difference between gays and lesbians and gender ideology—and the Left is giving them no reason to make the distinction. The Left is utilizing the social capital of gays to provide cover for the more radical claims of genderists—hoping that the newly-won unpalatability of homophobia will bias people towards accepting the full LGBTQ+ umbrella. Meanwhile, the religious Right is attempting something of the reverse—using the insanity of gender activism to seed doubt about the gay rights movement too.