Trump has really stepped in it with his executive orders on immigration. As I wrote yesterday, they’re reprehensible and may actually violate the First Amendment’s prohibition against discrimination on religious grounds. Around the U.S., and around the world, people are rising in protest, and I wonder what The Donald and his advisors are thinking now?
One take from New Zealand is given by reader Heather Hastie in a post on her website called “Why Trump’s refugee ban is stupid.” She raises many problems with Trump’s order, one of which is that the “Muslim-country ban” isn’t likely to have much of an effect on terrorism, at least given the past history of Islamist terrorism in the U.S., which, by and large, has been committed by those who weren’t refugees, were Americans themselves, or were from countries not on the “ban” list:
. . . . it is previous terrorist attacks, especially 9/11, that are the basis for the order. The problem is, the countries those terrorists came from are not the ones the order bans. Most terrorists US citizens that were radicalized at home. The others come from countries others than the seven in question.
Origin of US Terrorists
An analysis of the worst terrorists illustrates this point:
The 9/11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia (19), the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt (1), and Lebanon (1). The Boston bombers were born in Russia and brought up in the United States; their parents were not refugees but asylum seekers. The Florida nightclub shooter was born in New York, the son of immigrants from Afghanistan. The couple who perpetrated the San Bernardino terrorist massacre were also not refugees. The husband was a USian born in Chicago (his parents were immigrants from Pakistan) and his wife was born in Pakistan though lived most of her life with her wealthy family in Saudi Arabia. She was admitted to the US as the wife of a citizen. Major Nidal Hasan, who killed thirteen fellow soldiers at Fort Hood was born in Arlington County, Virginia, the son of Palestinian immigrants.
Not a refugee in sight, and no mention of the countries Trump has targeted.
Over on his website, Sam Harris has written on the same issue: “A few thoughts on the ‘Muslim ban’“. He makes seven points (his words indented):
1. I did everything I could to make the case against Trump prior to the election (while many of the liberals now attacking me for enabling his “Islamophobia” actively undermined the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, even in the final days of the campaign).
2. I think Trump’s “Muslim ban” is a terrible policy. Not only is it unethical with respect to the plight of refugees, it is bound to be ineffective in stopping the spread of Islamism. As many have pointed out, it is also internally inconsistent: It doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, or Lebanon, any of which has been a more fertile source of jihadist terrorism than several of the countries Trump named.
3. However, most of what is being said in opposition to Trump’s order is thoroughly contaminated by identity politics and liberal delusion. The Left seems determined to empower the Right by continuing to lie about the problem of Islamism. As David Frum recently wrote, “When liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won’t do.” I have been saying as much for more than a decade—and am vilified by my fellow liberals whenever I do.
4. It is perfectly possible—and increasingly necessary—to speak about the ideological roots of Islamism and jihadism, and even about the unique need for reform within mainstream Islam itself, without lapsing into bigotry or disregarding the suffering of refugees. Indeed, when one understands the problem for what it is, one realizes that secular Muslims, liberal Muslims, and former Muslims are among the most desirable allies to have in the West—and, indeed, such people are the primary victims of Islamist intolerance and jihadist terror in Muslim-majority countries.
5. If liberals who refuse to speak honestly on these topics continue to march with Islamists, denigrate free speech, and oppose the work of the real reformers in the Muslim community, they will only further provoke and empower Trump. And Trump, in turn, will empower Islamists the world over by threatening the civil liberties of all Muslims within his reach.
6. The next acts of jihadist terrorism to take place on American soil will most likely be met with terrifyingly blunt (and even illegal) countermeasures by the Trump administration. If all that liberals can do in response is continue to lie about the causes of terrorism and lock arms with Islamists, we have some very rough times ahead.
7. If you are listening to obscurantists like Linda Sarsour, Dalia Mogahed, Reza Aslan, and representatives of CAIR, and denigrating true secularists and reformers like Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Raheel Raza, and Sarah Haider, you are part of the problem.
I agree with nearly all of this, especially #4 and #7. In the well-meaning rush to condemn true “Islamophobia”—bigotry against Muslims simply because they are Muslims—many progressives are joining forces with regressive Muslims who defend things like the oppression of women (symbolized by the hijab) and sharia law, while continuing to demonize Muslim reformers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz (this demonization still defies me).
Harris’s point #3—that progressives shouldn’t lose sight of the dangers of radical Islamism and start going all starry-eyed about the tenets a repressive faith—is what Harris means by “identity politics”. I’ve written before about how Democratic politicians’ refusal to use the “I-word,” and I think it’s to our detriment. Nevertheless, P. Z. Myers, who’s never met an atheist more renowned than he whom he hasn’t smeared, goes after Harris, and after point #3 in particular, in a post on his website this morning: “‘Identity politics’ is racist code” (Steve Pinker also gets a slap in passing).
Myers’ post is just one more in his continuing attempt to smear Harris as a racist, despite the reasonableness of the 7 points above. Myers goes on about Harris quoting David Frum (who cares what Frum’s political background is if his quote is trenchant?), adding that “Identity politics” is not just “racist code,” but a far right dog whistle. As Myers claims, “the only identity politics being practiced is a refusal to accept the privileges of being a white man — the only division being fomented here is between a larger vision of a united humanity and the bigotry of the status quo.”
That’s simply not true. What Harris is maintaining, and has maintained, is that the racism of low expectations—glossing over the unsavory bits of extremist Islam simply because Muslims are seen as oppressed “people of color”—is detrimental and anti-progressive. While you can argue against that, what you can’t say is that using the word “identity politics” to mean “the fracturing of the Left based on things like race and religion” is a far right tactic that instantiates and enables racism. As I’ll show below, identity politics has fractured feminism as well—and that’s not white men.
By the way, although Myers calls out Pinker for saying that the proposed Scientists’ March on Washington not only showed extreme identity politics, but was “anti-science,” in his tweet Pinker was actually responding to a different statement appearing earlier at the March website. That statement, which has mysteriously vanished, called science a racist and sexist enterprise, and that is anti-science. It can be found here, and is much more militant and uncompromising than the statement Myers reproduced, which, mirabile dictu, has also mysteriously vanished from the Scientists’ March website.
While I approved of the Women’s March on Washington against Trump, and thought it went off well (it was a paradigm of mass, peaceful protest), I couldn’t approve of two aspects of identity politics that infected that march: the idolization of the dubious Linda Sarsour as one of its heads and the adulation for the hijab, as shown on the march’s poster by Shepard Fairey. Fairey is the guy who did Obama’s famous “Hope” poster shown just below:
Fairey also produced a poster for the Women’s March, shown on the right below. That I don’t find so wonderful, as it not only uses as a symbol of the American woman a hijabi, wearing a garment that symbolizes women’s oppression, but the hijab is also an American flag, supposedly the symbol of freedom and equality.
Eiynah of the “Nice Mangos” website has her own interpretations of Farley’s poster. Here’s one in a tw**t
And two more:
Eiynah, like Sam, finds it necessary in these Trumpian times to defend her stand against Islam while still defending the rights of Muslim refugees. This dilemma is again result of identity politics on the Left:
As a woman who grew up under Sharia in Saudi Arabia, I cannot help but resist the glorification of the tools of my oppression.
As much as I loathe Trump, and the chaos he’s creating, as much as I stand in solidarity with Muslims at this time….as much as I am personally affected by discrimination against Muslims myself…I cannot sit back and watch conservative Islam be championed in this complex and toxic political climate.I ask my fellow critics of religion to be particularly cautious at this time not to feed into far right narratives of hate…. similarly, I ask my fellow left leaning liberals not to fall into romanticizing conservative Islam. It’s like walking a tightrope, I understand – but the more we avoid falling into traps on either side…the better equipped we will be to combat this.
As I said, identity politics has led not only the progressive left to align itself with conservatives on some issues, but also led the regressive left to align itself with Islamists. Linda Sarsour is one of those Islamists, and should under no circumstances be idolized. If you think “identity politics”, as PZ claims, amounts to “racist code”, please note that Sarsour, as noted by Emma-Kate Symons in The Washington Post, not only has a history of advocating sharia law, but also prohibited pro-life women from participating in the march. If that prohibition—which has nothing to do with white men but is simply a purity test—isn’t identity politics in a “women’s march,” I don’t know what is. Symons’s take:
The emphasis on a particular perspective regarding religion appears to have something to do with one of the march’s lead organizers. Linda Sarsour is a religiously conservative veiled Muslim woman, embracing a fundamentalist worldview requiring women to “modestly” cover themselves, a view which has little to do with female equality and much more of a connection with the ideology of political Islam than feminism. Could we imagine a wig-wearing Orthodox woman emerging from a similar “purity”-focused culture predicated on sexual segregation and covering women, headlining such an event? No, because she is rightly assumed to be intensely conservative, not progressive on issues surrounding women’s roles and their bodies. Bizarrely, however, it is Sarsour, who has taken a high-profile role speaking about ordering pro-life women out of the march, after a bitter dispute over the initial participation of a Texas anti-abortion group. In justifying the decision, the co-organizer invoked the liberal language of choice, despite her association with an illiberal ideology that many Muslim women say is all about men controlling their bodies, and taking away that choice on a range of issues including reproductive health.
And why is a woman seen wearing a heavy veil pulled up tight to cover her neck — not even a headscarf — emerging as the symbol of the rally? Yes, Trump is singling out Muslims but must we play his reductionist game? Muslim women are a diverse group. Such a vision purposefully excludes non-veiled Muslim women, who make up the majority of American Muslims, and all feminists who champion a woman’s right to be free from the degrading virgin-whore dichotomy that has afflicted them since most of the world’s great religions blamed women for tempting men.
Such is the conundrum in which the Left finds itself. While chafing under an authoritarian and unhinged President who is demonizing Muslims, we must take care that, while harshly criticizing his stands, we not go overboard and get all starry-eyed about one of the world’s most repressive faiths.