In a stunning op-ed in Newsweek magazine titled “The World’s Red-Green Axis Has Come to Our Streets,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser breaks down the connections between Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Islamism.
Jasser is the founder and president of American Islamic Forum for Democracy and one of the leading North American Muslim reformers. The article maps out the overlapping agendas of what he calls the “pseudo-progressive” movements:
- BLM, like its American Islamist brethren, is avowedly a neo-Marxist organization. It is anti-capitalist, anti-individualist, anti-democratic and anti-American, and seeks to remake the entire country in its own image
- Those who dare criticize the movements are publicly shamed or canceled and fraudulently charged with racism or Islamophobia, even if they are black or Muslim themselves
- Both BLM and modern Islamism are street-led movements whose members, whether clerics or activists, see themselves as grassroots revolutionaries—not modest reformers
- Driven by nihilism, they tear down historical statues, ban books and rename institutions
- On a global scale, the most obvious link between BLM and modern Islamism is the embrace of anti-Semitism
Dr. Jasser continues:
Both BLM and modern Islamism are cut from the same cloth; they are victim-obsessed, ethnocentric struggles that frame every difference of outcome in terms of identity, whether race or religion. They are the commissars of the thought police, the connoisseurs of cultural demagoguery.
Whether out of allegiance or fear, we have witnessed the entire Democratic Party and swaths of the Republican Party fall into lockstep with their narrative. The only way to fight them is to recognize their strategic similarities and recommit ourselves to authentic ideological diversity. No race should bend the knee to any other, for we are all equal in the eyes of God.
The next question is how do we meaningfully challenge the “red-green axis?”
Develop New Arguments
The old arguments that many of us have been relying on simply aren’t working; in fact, many would argue they never worked. For example, a recent debate within the UK counter extremism sector looked at whether to censor out language like “Islamist.”
While there are many sound academic arguments about why not to censor such language, I developed a new argument rooted in freedom of religion, simply that: The Right to Say Islamist is a Religious Freedom Issue.
The right of Muslims — or anyone — to speak freely about the faith should have protection under civil rights statutes: An attempt to regulate speech within or outside the government or private sector is nothing short of a violation of freedom of religion (as well as freedom of speech).
This is an important piece. https://t.co/XowL5RTj1I
— David Toube (@ToubeDavid) July 23, 2020
Shireen makes some interesting points about language and diversity and representation of religion. https://t.co/1MEgZTMfYK
— Dr Katherine E Brown (@K_E_Brown27) July 24, 2020
Expand Our Identity
For Muslim reformers, since our work is often focused on and comes specifically from the platform of our “Muslim” identity, we’re doing exactly what the Islamists do, which is hyper-focus on identity. Taking an expansive approach to how we think about ourselves and our issues challenges the cult of race, color and creed which our ideological competitors are consumed by.
The world is fast-changing, and those who can’t keep up will either lose or be left behind, or possibly both. For many years, those fighting Islamism collectively rattled the alarm against creeping shariah. Fast forward 15 years, and we now find that the struggle against Islamism does not narrow on shariah anymore, but on intersectional identity politics.
On August 13, fellow Muslim reformer Raheel Raza penned on op-ed in Clarion on The Rise of Modern Islamism, starting with the timeline triggering the birth of political Islam to the landscape today. Raza underscores the idea that Islamism isn’t about faith, it’s about power.
That puts Jasser’s entire argument in perspective and helps us understand why Islamists are allying with an ideology that eventually will also set it’s sight on Islam as a faith.
It’s all about power.
The question for all of us fighting against this ideology is: How do we need to change our strategy to address this new reality?