Are We Hearing the Death Knell for Liberal Values?

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The famous Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (Photo: National Parks Service)
The famous Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (Photo: National Parks Service)

Editor’s note: Dr. Terri Murray’s new book Identity, Islam & the Twilight of Liberal Values is a critique of the Left and its ever-growing collusion with totalitarian ideology, including political Islam (Islamism). The following is a summary of the book’s central themes that Clarion Project asked Dr. Murray to write for our readers.  

The last years have seen a host of neologisms introduced into the political discourse. At the same time, old terms were resurrected with new meanings.  This “newspeak” has suddenly gone mainstream – and not only with millennials. Words like “intersectionality,” “the AltRight,” “cis gender,” “trans kids,” “TERFs,” “Antifa,” “Islamophobia” and “populism” all have made their way into our everyday language.

Yet, many of these terms contain unstated assumptions or conclusions that have not been argued for. But the reality is that once the words are treated as meaningful, the point has already been conceded.

This peremptory use of words begs important questions that effectively short-circuit and supplant critical thinking and debate with cheap rhetoric and victimhood claims.

In fact, much of what is now being peddled as liberal, left-wing policy in fact erodes key aspects of classic liberal political philosophy. Simultaneously, this new labeling is being used to “sell” the regressive contents of these political “products” to the next generation of would-be liberals.

The primacy of the individual and the protection of his or her civil rights (classic liberalism) have given way to collectivist social arrangements. These arrangements give importance to social hierarchies that ironically constrain individuals to a subordinate status vis-à-vis cultural traditions and customs.

These arrangements sound nice, though, when packaged as “multiculturalism.”  Yet in Britain, for example, due to multiculturalism, Muslims were made to interface with the government as communities. Due to money (and the influence it buys), leadership roles in those communities were assumed by Salafi-Wahhabists (backed by Saudi Arabia). These ultra-conservatives did not represent Britain’s large secular Muslim constituency but rather served to drown out their voices and colonize whole communities.

In the United States, there is the Muslim Brotherhood-linked group CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations). CAIR represents itself as the voice of American Muslims. For example, in June 2018, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Trump’s travel pause for a number of majority-Muslim countries, at least seven Democrats from the House and Senate shared a platform with CAIR’s executive director Nihad Awad and spoke in harmony with him.

However, a closer look at the organization’s history, activities, statements and causes suggests that its primary goal is to silence and delegitimize its critics (including secular Muslim critics) and to redefine what it means to be a “moderate” Muslim.

In general, in the last years, tolerance for intellectual dissent and diversity of opinion on moral and social norms has been replaced by a state-sponsored demand for “diversity.” This demand (to “respect” non-Western religious ideology) replaced the neutral state with a top-down mandate to show deference and positive esteem for difference (that is, difference from the West). Any refusal to do so is now punished as a thought crime.

At the same time, a new demand for “tolerance” emerged, this time for aggressions against the West. As we have seen, each new act of Islamist terror is quickly followed by apologetics explaining why these acts were the inevitable consequence of legitimate grievances against the West and its imperialism.

Typical of this was Glenn Greenwald’s apology for the Boston bombers, in which he explained,

 “As the attackers themselves make as clear as they can, it’s not religious fanaticism but rather political grievance that motivates these attacks.”

This “wicked West” mantra plays on the truth that Western governments and their agencies have indeed waged overt, covert or proxy wars in foreign lands, including in the Middle East.

But opposing Western foreign policy does not require one to “buy-in” to the grievance narrative of Islamists (which, to no small degree, serves to obfuscate the extent to which Western superpowers have actually colluded with Islamist repression and its leadership).

Liberals are now told they must adopt an either/or stance between condemning either U.S. foreign policy or Islamist terror, when in fact we can and should oppose both. This false dilemma glosses over the fact that Islamism is itself a colonizing force that seeks to impose a global caliphate and impose universal sharia law — hardly a democratic antidote to imperialism.

Defending Islamism as though it were the only option for leftist opponents of U.S. foreign policy overlooks the fact that violence and censorship are not justifiable means of redressing grievances. Doing so merely replaces one form of repression with another, rather than taking the moral high ground.

It also spins the fiction that Islamism has no inner ideology of its own that it wishes to impose.

Meanwhile, in the West’s universities, moral relativists disseminate the view that ideologies that respect self-determination are on an equal footing with authoritarian, theocratic or fundamentalist ideologies (that do not respect self-determination).

These moral relativists reject “Western” understandings of ethics and human rights, claiming that there can be no “master discourse” (meaning, objective moral judgments are impossible). Ironically, they simultaneously presuppose that Western colonialism should be seen as an objective moral evil.

Further, liberals are now being told they must either oppose racist speech or defend freedom of speech, not both. This false dilemma obfuscates the fact that this type of censorship has been used primarily to shut down the most progressive Muslim voices by the fundamentalists (and their Leftist enablers) who wield the charge of “Islamophobia” as a de facto blasphemy law.

Identity, Islam and the Twilight of Liberal Values unpacks many fallacies that were pedaled in 2017 and 2018 and offers readers some helpful suggestions for how to recognize and counter these misleading political ploys.



‘Islamophobia’: A Strategy Devised Before 9/11

Where Is the Islamophobia Lobby on This Issue?

Moderate Muslims Oppose ‘Islamophobia’ Tactic


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Terri Murray

Dr. Terri Murray is an American educator and essayist. She has taught philosophy, critical reasoning and film studies for over 14 years in secondary and adult education. A former documentary filmmaker, she is a regular contributor to Philosophy Now magazine and The New Humanist. She is the author of Feminist Film Studies: a Teacher's Guide. (Auteur/Columbia University Press, 2007) and Thinking Straight About Being Gay: Why It Matters If We're Born That Way (Auteur, 2015). She presently works at Hampstead College of Fine Arts & Humanities, where she is director of studies.