Is Islam the only way to talk about Christian fundamentalism? | islamophobia

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We really need to talk about Mehdi Hasan’s latest Intercept video.

In the clip titled Caliph Donald Trump and the Rise of the Christian Taliban, broadcaster and journalist Hasan spends nearly four minutes warning viewers against the “Christian Taliban” or “Bible-hitting fundamentalists who are determined to theocratize the US government. “

Using Islamic terminology, Hasan is sounding the alarm bells on the policies of the Christian right. For example, he argues that they want a “sharia law”, of the “biblical variety,” then goes on to talk about the multiple “mullahs” in the Trump administration, ending with “Caliph Trump” himself. In the video, Hasan also compares the use of “To God be the Glory” by the Christian right to intervene in the secular legal system to the quintessential angry Muslim shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

Hasan is not the first person to invoke Islam when he talks about extremism within other religions. He is simply part of a growing group of liberals and leftists who think it is fashionable to use Islam and Muslims as a prop against religious extremism around the world, and especially in the United States. United.

Resorting to comparisons is a quick and easy way to make a point and win over moderates and liberals, often convinced that religious fundamentalism alone is the root of all evil.

And certainly, religious fundamentalists of all stripes seek to use the Scriptures to justify their actions. But while the intention of Hasan’s video, for example, might have been to teach a quick (and clearly viral) lesson on the pervasive nature of religious extremism, its use of “Muslim extremism” tropes, and its use of “Muslim extremism” tropes. attempt to rely on Islamic terms are actually quite destructive.

Hasan’s video relegates Islamic terminologies, which Muslim leaders and academics have worked hard to reclaim, to the inaccurate definitions advanced by Islamophobes. In turn, “mullah” – which simply refers to someone who has learned Islamic law and theology – becomes synonymous with “religious bigot”.

Sharia law – which is a way of life for Muslims – is equated with the fixation of the right on “sharia”, or a short-sighted legal system that seeks to infringe individual rights.

Caliph – which means civic and religious leader – becomes synonymous with fascist leader.

“Allahu Akbar” or “God is the greatest” – a phrase Muslims say in their daily prayers – is transformed into a catch-all phrase embodying religious extremism.

On a more generous reading of Hasan’s video, one could see him suggesting that there are double standards in how people react particularly negatively to Muslims who invoke religion. But this is where the problem with this reasoning lies: what is, then, which standard should apply? Is any expression of religion in the public sphere “bad”? Should we then also speak of a Mullah Martin Luther King Jr?

In a global context which is mainly defined by the so called “war on terror” and rampant Islamophobia, use a few Arabic words and inject the fantasy of your favorite Christian fundamentalists dressed in the black dress of the figure of “mullah” is Orientalism. to his favorite.

It’s as if Hasan had forgotten everything he wrote about the Iraq war, the killings of civilians by American drones, and the rise of the right in India to join the ranks of a so-called “mob.” moderate ”liberal (which would never kill civilians, expel en masse, hijack ships carrying refugees, or intervene in other countries without legal justification).

This approach only perpetuates the trope of the unconscious, radical and fundamentalist Muslim – one who has no history or politics, but only a fanaticism that cannot be rationalized. He then transposes this figure into a completely different historical context.

Anti-Muslim racism has become so common that the use of these tropes is not questioned, even by those who claim to fight it. How bad must America’s cultural literacy be for there to be no way to discuss a domestic issue without invoking these Islamophobic tropes?

Another problem with this comparative approach is that it is historically selective. It establishes Islam as the gold standard for religious extremism. It is as if religious extremism can only be understood through the actions of Muslims and, in fact, it never existed before Islam itself.

Never mind that Christian fundamentalism has historically been associated with white supremacy, functioning as a key justification for slavery and colonialism.

It does not matter that the very word “fundamentalism” is itself a term coined at the beginning of the 20th century to describe the strict observance of certain Christian principles and beliefs.

Why then are the “mullahs” of Afghanistan the obvious starting point? If Hasan’s goal is to educate people that religious fundamentalism and extremism exist outside of Islam, then wouldn’t this have been a perfect opportunity to root Christian fundamentalism in its own history and language that goes far beyond the abusive policies of the Trump administration? Why does Hasan have to deploy the Muslim bogeyman he has so often castigated?

Criticizing Trump’s America, Hasan also asserts that “like the Middle East, to truly politicize religion you need a group of politicized clerics.” Here again, the Middle East, now synonymous with Islam and Muslims, unfolds as the only space beyond rationality.

Certainly, Hasan must be aware that the politicization of religion in this ancient Middle East occurred as its populations were undergoing colonialism from the Western powers. Or that this process of politicization continued under the auspices of secularizing and modernizing postcolonial political leadership. Or that it is not only the clerics who “politicize religion”.

These absurd comparisons also undermine critical differences in context.

Christian fundamentalism in the United States is emerging in a majority context, in a democratic country. Its closest parallel is therefore in reality Hindutva, and not the Taliban. The armed group emerged from a civil war that the United States fueled by supporting “religious fundamentalists” it called “freedom fighters” for fighting the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Or don’t the facts matter when looking for the formula for this perfect viral video directed at a liberal class already in denial of its entrenched Islamophobia?

Such analogies also deflect substantive criticism.

In another example, The Guardian in 2015 published a column by British sculptor Anish Kapoor, who wrote that “India (under Modi) was ruled by a Hindu Taliban”.

And while Kapoor raised concern over the attack on free speech, dissent and the erosion of democratic values, as well as the assault and battery of minority groups under India’s Hindu nationalist government, his column sparked outrage in India.

In major newspapers, a number of columnists condemned his use of the term “Taliban”, claiming it was offensive to Hinduism itself.

Hinduism as a peaceful religion was different from the “kind of society or culture implied in the word Taliban,” one columnist argued.

As a result, the critical issues raised by the Guardian article have been completely ignored. People were more concerned that offended Hindus were compared to Muslims; The “peace” of Hinduism and the “violence” of Islam could never be reconciled.

If we are to speak out about today’s destructive political moment, then let us do so with critical inquiry, honesty, and thoroughness. Today, as people of all faiths and backgrounds must question their own role in perpetuating extremism and terror, this is not the time for simplistic overtures.

For Hasan, who has sought to combat Islamophobia, this video ironically harasses the most basic of Islamophobic tropes. Certainly, it is not necessary to involve Muslims every time we talk about religious extremism.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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