One term that is often used by right-wing neoliberals (or the faux-left) who pretend they are “liberal” because they support nominal left policies – is the “regressive left”. Maajid Nawaz likes this term, a lot.
The Regressive Left’s betrayal of liberal Muslim reformers (especially reforming Muslim women) will not be forgotten by us. History is not on your side.
So yeah, the idea is. The “regressive left” is supporting right-wing “Islamists” at the expense of “liberal reformists” as exemplified by people like Nawaz. I guess this makes me a “regressive-leftist,” after all, I think that “reformers” like Hirsi-Ali are helping the progressive Muslim community as much as people like Pamela Geller are. I.e. not at all. And as a Muslim, I refuse to renounce my faith, to cut out parts of my Quran, to renounce my respect for the Prophet Mohammed – obviously this makes me exactly like ISIS.
I’ve already discussed that “Islamism” is theocracy but with the added “Islam” bit to single out Muslims and make it seem like a unique problem. That way, Islamic theocracy can be dealt with, without touching the very holy grail enclaves of Christian theocracy in Western culture. In addition, one can feel superior, in one’s superior Western culture, because the West just has right-wing nutjobs who want to impose Dominionist theocracy which would mean no rights for women, the death penalty for LGBT(among others) and a whole host of other scary, scary things; while Muslims have “Islamists” who want to do the same thing but are so few in the West that they have no chance of achieving their goals. It also allows neoliberals to ally themselves with the likes of open hatemongers like Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson while maintaining their “liberal” cred – after all, SHARIA! SHARIA! SHARIA! SCARY WORD!
Obviously theocracy is bad. The difference is how we fight theocracy.
Neoliberals take an “ends justify the means” approach – stop Islamism at any cost(as long as it doesn’t affect us). Profiling, torture, Orwellian policies, wars – all to combat right-wing ideas. We’ve seen that approach with Soviet and Chinese Communism, it leads to repression and harm.
As a leftist, my approach is systemic change. Ideally we would have socialism, until then there are many ways to promote secularism without harming the rights of others. Strengthening and enforcing separation of religion and state(without infringing on the free exercise of believers), fighting racism, promoting equality. The way we treat refugees and new immigrants is deplorable and yet we expect them to conform to a Western way of thinking and acting, without providing them with barely the means to survive and then blame them for being “backwards.”
Let’s take a theocrat. A really obnoxious theocrat. Yes folks, I’m thinking everyone’s favourite marriage wrecker, Kim Davis. Kim Davis is a theocrat, she wants to impose her religious views on everyone she can. She’s a Christian so she can’t be an Islamist but let’s make up a scary word for her, she’s a Christianist!
So what do we do about Kim and people like her? She’s a threat to our way of life and our pseudo-progressive values of pretending to care about LGBT rights while doing little to nothing on discrimination and the rampant violence against the trans community. Do we set up government monitoring of churches? Do we screen children for signs of Christianism, like writing letters to Santa? Do we profile white men and boys when they go to medical clinics, movie theatres and schools? Do we tell churches that they MUST adopt the reforms we tell them to adopt, including scriptural reforms, or be subject to persecution, prosecution or violence? Do we mock all Christians, and then when called on it, do we say “no, no, we just mean Christianists”?
Or do we use the Constitutional framework we have to make sure that when Kim is at work, she has to do her job, or resign or face consequences? Do we support people who don’t want theocracy, including Christians who are devout in their faith, who believe in the Bible and use that to promote liberal values? Do we promote liberal values in the media instead of using the media as an attack and marginalisation tool. In other words, do we unite for good instead of increasing the divisions in society?
This is the difference between a right-wing approach and a left-wing approach.
People like Nawaz claim that “reforming” Islam in the manner they prescribe is the only legitimate method of dealing with theocracy and that anyone who disagrees is a “traitor to liberalism.” Needless to say, that is bullshit. The approach of the reformers is, for one, not effective – you don’t piss on a whole community and then expect them to adopt your “reforms” because you know what’s best for them. This is imperialist thinking, it is the opposite of liberal.
You want reform? Work with the feminist Muslims in your community to make mosques more open and friendly to women. Support empowering women and LGBT in the Muslim community. Support refugees, help immigrants in your community feel welcome, stop supporting wars that create more radicalisation, stop supporting Israel, oppose corporate exploitation of developing countries – you know, actual leftist policies.
I think it is clear where the “regressive left” truly is and it’s not with the critics of “reformers” and white wannabe knights. People who use the term “regressive left” are saying that their approach and their approach alone is the right, effective and “leftist” approach. They falsely accuse critics of their approach of being on the side of theocrats at best (and ISIS at worst). It is not honest rhetoric and they need to own it.