Beware of Partisans Bearing Gifts

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A protest in London at the French Embassy after France banned wearing burkinis on its beaches in the summer of 2016.
A protest in London at the French Embassy after France banned wearing burkinis on its beaches in the summer of 2016. (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In the United States, all political issues of late tend to boil down to Republican versus Democrat. This is for a number of reasons, including the first past the post-electoral system and tribalistic tendencies innate to everyone. It’s also the fact that in a big country, coalitions between different interest groups have to be formed to get things done.

But it can be very damaging. The issue of radical Islam is no exception.

Some activists, from both sides of the aisle, seek to rope radical Islam into their partisan dispute in order to gain adherents. Some National Security conservatives seek to use the radical Islam issue to gain supporters for other positions they may hold about having a strong military, using it and supporting large government surveillance programs. They do this by latching onto terrorism as the big national security fear of our time.

Some left-wing activists seek to use the radical Islam issue the other way, to gain supporters for other views they hold about dismantling white supremacy and deconstructing the system. They do this by hyping up fears of an anti-Muslim backlash and framing Muslims as a persecuted group in need of protection in order to mobilize activists in their war against capitalist patriarchy.

Both groups require you to buy into a whole host of other unrelated positions once they’ve used radical Islam to get you into the door.

This partisanship damages the discourse and reduces our capacity to come to agreements about common sense solutions to problems. Just because you disagree with someone about one thing, that doesn’t mean you can’t agree with them and work together to achieve a different thing.

Clarion’s opposition to radical Islam is based on our principles of religious freedom and human rights, which are threatened by Islamist groups all over the world. Religious theocracy is a political position which has been largely driven out of the Christian world, although it was very prevalent up until relatively recently.

Islamist theocracy, where it has been implemented, has seen the death penalty for “crimes” such as blasphemy, mandatory modest dress codes for women enforced by religious police and the persecution of non-Muslim faiths.

What Clarion supports is the separation of religion and state, by which we mean that religious law — in the case of Islam, sharia — should not be the law of the land or forced onto on others unwillingly. We support the rights of all faiths, including Muslims, to worship freely and practice religion as they see fit, as long as that practice does not trample on the rights of others.

These values are encoded into the First Amendment of the United States constitution and are embedded in the legal and moral traditions of Western countries in general.

What these values are not is politically partisan. Opposing radical Islam has nothing to do with other political issues such as climate change, abortion, tax rates, the size of the military, legalizing marijuana, nationalized medicine, immigration rates, feminism, trans-rights, free trade, charter schools, whether the state should subsidize higher education, the correct final status agreement between Israel and Palestine, and the death penalty (to name but a few). (Of course, there are other issues that influence the struggle against radical Islam, but Clarion assesses them as contributory factors rather than on their own merits.)

As you may have noticed, things are getting pretty weird out there, and we’re all going to need to hold hands and work together if we’re going to muddle on through. Since the old rulebook seems to be disintegrating before our very eyes, Clarion Project intends to seize the cultural moment and forge new partnerships with people who otherwise might never speak to each other.

It’s why we support Maajid Nawaz, a leftist British counter-extremism activist, while also praising U.S. President Donald Trump when he comes down on the right side of the fight against radical Islam. It’s why the Clarion Project staff can sit and work together every day, despite disagreeing on pretty much every meaningful issue except this one (#DiversityIsOurStrength).

What matters are policies not party.

We don’t care if you’re an abortion-hating, deregulation loving, second-amendment supporting Christian West Texan trucker wearing a MAGA hat, or if you’re a feminist gay cyclist who won’t drive because it’s bad for the planet and thinks what the world really needs is a revolution in consciousness.

If you’re against radical Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry and just want an end to theocracy and religious coercion, we are for you and you are for us.

We don’t have a dog in any other fight but this one. Join us.



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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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