Why are some of the most famous names in the Left wing in America today aligning themselves with Islamists, the Muslim religious Right?
Islamists believe in things no sane Left winger would ever endorse: strict gender roles, the authority of scripture over human reason and law, and a rigid hierarchy based on religious faith and practice.
The Left wing is largely atheist and opposes any sort of governmental role for clerics.
Yet Left wing socialists like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez routinely rub shoulders with Islamist apologist Linda Sarsour. In the United Kingdom, Left wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn described the Islamist terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends.”
What is going on?
First, it seems to be a simple case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
The joint enemy they share is the American and European Right, which traditionally believes in a robust foreign policy to counter national security threats, a strong sense of patriotism and national identity, and a commitment to free enterprise and low taxes.
Both the Left wing and Islamists share an antipathy to foreign intervention in the Middle East on the grounds that it is extremely expensive, of dubious national security advantage and has myriad associated human rights concerns.
They also share objections to domestic attempts at confronting extremism, since those policies entrench the power of the state and give national security Right-wingers a legitimate issue to present to the public as a threat to help them get elected.
But there the similarities end. While the Left wants to see capitalism replaced with a different economic system, Islamists want to see it replaced with a religious theocracy.
In 1979 in Iran, both the Left and Islamist factions originally worked together to overthrow the dictatorship of the shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
As soon as the shah was deposed, they immediately turned on one another. Almost immediately Ayatollah Khomeini made wearing the hijab compulsory. This was swiftly followed by bans on alcohol, mixed gender gatherings and on certain kinds of music.
When the Left tried to protest these developments and gain back some measure of control, the response was swift and predictably savage. Thousands of political prisoners were rounded up and detained in the notorious Evin prison.
In the 1980s waves of repression saw the Iranian regime execute tens of thousands of political prisoners, many of them socialists and communists who had participated in and fostered the revolution alongside the Islamists.
Nor is there any reason to assume that the far-Left would have been any more reasonable. Following victories in Russia and China, communists instituted policies of brutally enforced state atheism, suppressing religious activity of all kinds.
Today in communist China, millions of Muslims in Xinjiang province are being denied their basic rights while the authoritarian government seeks to eliminate their culture and identity.
Muslims are not allowed to worship or study. An estimated two million have been taken to “re-education” camps, while extreme surveillance methods are implemented to ensure compliance with Beijing’s rules on the rest of the population.
Authoritarian ideologies do not work well together. When it comes down to it, only one can triumph.
America has tried to take advantage of this, most famously this was done in Afghanistan under the CIA’s Operation Cyclone, where the United States supported the mujahideen (Islamist jihadists) against the Soviet Union.
This effort worked in the short term, but ultimately emboldened an ideology which has proven time and again it has no intention of working for anyone else.
This does not mean that the entire Democrat Party and Islamist terrorist groups are united in a plot to destroy Western civilization. Most American Left-wingers are a long way from communist authoritarians.
Islamists recognize this and are simply using Left-wing concerns over racism and America’s foreign policy to gain support from constituencies that would not normally support them.
Similarly, Left-wing activists are using any weapon they can to take on the Republican Right.
But the idea that the Left and Islamists share goals has taken on a certain amount of traction. This has the unfortunate side effect of branding anyone opposed to Islamist extremism as Right wing, and anyone on the Left as in favor of Islamist extremism.
Neither statement is anything close to true.
The best way to address these expedient and political alliances is not to accept them: Take each issue in isolation and argue for its strength or weakness on its own.
Islamism is a manifestly bad idea, as are other extreme and totalitarian systems. They can disguise themselves by trying to hijack other social movements and get carried along for the ride.
But once you start looking at what they really say they want, in isolation, it is much easier to see them for what they really are.