On Shadi Hamid’s “Holding Our Own: Is the Future of Islam in the West Communal?” Spring 2020: A sublime piece by Shadi Hamid, who draws attention to the fact that as they have become part of the Democratic coalition, American Muslims have adopted some very liberal positions. But this, Hamid argues, is not the only natural alliance; he argues for common cause between conservative Christians and Muslims.
Is there room for a more genuinely Islamic conservative political and social presence to emerge in the United States? I think there may be. It is possible to imagine a cross-religious coalition on the grounds of cultural values.
Europe is secular, and some of Europe’s – especially France’s – anti-Muslim sentiment builds on historical anticlericalism and anti-Catholicism. But Europe’s inability to tolerate Muslims’ worldview and religious observance predates its secularism and has, at least in part, a different origin. Unlike the United States, Europe’s identity has always been partially defined in opposition to Islam. Europe is equally unwilling to accept white Muslim immigrants as it is to accept black and brown Muslim immigrants. Its animus is framed in religious, rather than primarily racial, terms.
Hence, Hamid’s point that conservative Muslims have a chance to be politically active in the United States and need not accept the Democratic Party’s liberal dogma is compelling. It’s not just that the United States is less secular than Europe. It also lacks Europe’s long history of Islamophobia. There just might be room for a Muslim conservative Republican constituency in the States.
In one of the most interesting and important sections of the piece, Hamid gives voice to Ismael Royer, who hits the nail on the head by criticizing the left’s attempt to redefine “Islam as a secular identity group centered on ethnic ‘brownness.’’’ It is much easier to integrate Muslims into the Democratic coalition as people of color than as a religious group. That still doesn’t make it intellectually honest, and doesn’t serve either of these communities.
The 2020 election cycle has highlighted this issue. The Sanders campaign’s main Muslim supporters did exactly what Royer describes: they reduced Muslims to ethnic brownness. But at least one in ten US Muslims is of European origin, and their voices have to be taken into account when discussing the dilemmas Muslims face as a religious and cultural group in the West.
To conclude, Hamid’s main point is novel and groundbreaking: American Muslims have a unique opportunity to live in freedom while potentially forging political and social alliances with conservative Christian political actors who share a similar view of morality, society, and the human person.
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