Cultural Criticism: The Moral Imperative
Self-criticism is the one unforgeable signature of our humanity. Without this essential quality, there would be no marked difference between us and our mammalian cousins. The English philosopher John Locke underscored this observation best when he quipped that “beasts abstract not”. But more importantly is the fact that coupled with this primary freedom is a moral obligation to criticize those particularly toxic ideas which are detrimental to the collective progress and welfare of our civilization. With little effort, one can immediately see the positive application of this moral imperative in the great historical struggles against tyranny and oppression, be it of slavery, the subjugation of women, or suppression of free thought.
However, determined sadists and madmen, backed by motivational doctrines of hate, seek to erase the heritage of our libertine values- a terror we have come to know as militant Islam. After all, it has been a long standing theorem of theocracy that heaven spoke to the whole of humanity through one humble tyrant, divine warlord or some other authoritarian commander. As it turns out, those who now proclaim that a certain camel grazer from the Hejaz of Saudi Arabia was awarded the divine seal of prophethood, circa 1400 years ago, also happen to be the ones challenging liberal democracy in the 21st century. But such a coincidence of belief and action should come as no shock. The famished and bloodied trails of Fascism and Communism spoke volumes to this point. Needless to say, the exponents of Islamic totalitarianism still insist on the validity of their claim, even if its proof requires the senseless destruction and mutilation of our world.
Whether it is the extreme case of the Islamic State, the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the poaching of freethinkers in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia or the expulsion of cultural heretics from civil dialogue: these are all flesh-wounds of an attempt to weld our greatest moral dilemmas into the alloy of deranged nomadic dogmas. The creative cruelty of the Islamic state, the most outstanding offender, is too voluminous and horrific to fully summarize here, but a few of its latest destructive items include: plundering an abundance of regionally indigenous resources, amassing wealth in the hundreds of millions of dollars, engineering a free market of sexual slavery, imposing sadistic and draconian laws to maintain public order and continuing an anti-civilizational campaign to extinguish any artifact of cultural heritage perceived to be exogenous to its renaissance of annihilation. The Islamist zeal is animated by a lust for violence and disorder, not too unlike the excited brown-shirted hooligans causing mischief in the political circles of Europe, only a century ago. Much like their Euro-Fascist predecessors, the Islamists hunger for the entropic destruction of civilization and indulge on replacing it with a dictatorship of nihilism and oblivion. It is our moral imperative as individuals, not as nations or factions, to oppose and terminate this insurgence of anti-humanism.
But challenging the historical and ideological origins of this anti-human worldview has itself become enshrouded by political correctness and cultural heresy. Translating Islam through its appropriate moral and political lense has become just as prone to censure as challenging the core dogmas of Islam alone. For instance, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a purportedly anti-extremism think-tank, has unscrupulously compiled an “anti-Muslim” blacklist of Muslim critics. The only crime of the indicted suspects was demanding that Islam yield to the modernizing pressures of secular society. Separation of mosque and state, gender equality, religious freedom and freedom of expression are just a few of their primary talking points. But all of these highly prized libertine virtues are natural vices to the brazen fanatics of puritanical Islam and SPLC obscures this fact diligently. A quick survey of the most recent anti-Islamic offenses will help elucidate the point further.
Just over two years ago, the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review of Norway’s human rights record rattled the hive of Saudi Arabia. The Salafi theocrats were really puzzled by how a liberal democracy could allow its citizens so much ownership over their own speech organs. After all, what better judge could pester the Nordic nation on its lax treatment of thought criminals, if not the primary supplier of international terrorism and human rights violations itself, the very capital of Islam – which also happens to be a member of the human rights council (a tribute to the UN’s meritorious standards). The Saudi row was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, only two months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, in which a dozen innocent civilians were slaughtered for the innocuous crime of cartooning a historical mortal, the UK Islamic Human Rights Commission posthumously honored the deceased with the scarlet letter of Islamophobia.
In case you missed it, let us recap: slain staffers of a liberal publication still needed to seek forgiveness from their bloodied graves, while those cheerleading this torment of the dead humorously coronated themselves the “Islamic Human Rights Commission”. I must admit, trying to circumscribe something so heinous as grave picketing into the same ethical plane as humanitarianism, is pretty ambitious. Not even the most strenuous reading of Orwell can match this calibre of double-think.
Ironies set aside though, these attacks on free individuals and nations may seem nothing more than a circus of distraction upon first glance. But, as I argue in this essay, such inquisitions have become more commonplace. At one time the Islamists were safely tucked away in the peripheries of shame and exile; rusting with theocracy and suffocating on their own ignorance and stupidity. Following the decline of the Ottoman and Mughal dynasties, the rise of secular regimes in the Middle East, the Sovietization of Central Asia and the advance of European industrialisation- the Islamist radius was almost in full contraction. It was simply too distant and too weak to cause us any meteoric harm. But now, and as already mentioned in the introduction, the theocrats have regrouped and clawed their way into the pores of liberal society: infiltrating the western academies, consolidating political interests through secular channels, tapping into the culture of political correctness and skewing public opinion to their advantage. It is important to understand how Muslims think, but also how liberal society has best strategized to deal with the Islamic threat. As we shall see, there is a very disturbing and discouraging reciprocal relationship between these two cultural spheres.
At their core, the Islamists sincerely believe they are the anointed gatekeepers of society. Just as their prophet was sent by God to correct the folly of his own fallen kin, so the Islamists proclaim to be the only candidates morally qualified enough to supervise and discipline our impieties in the here and now. This is why they constantly censor the western press and order the restructuring of our democratic institutions in a way that conforms to their theocratic demands. Hustling the international community to strangle away our civil liberties, as a coalition of Islamic nations have been hatching up for years now, is a typical example of their moral bullying. The renewed death fatwa against Salman Rushdie also awakened the same liberal fears. The commotion caused by a cartoon contest in Texas, which threatened to injure 1.6 billion feelings worldwide, is just another depressing chapter in the narrative of Islamic self-victimization.
Time and time again, Muslims have shown how their fragile egos can be shattered by something so devastating as a point of view. Because apparently, bringing down the civilization inherited from the last messenger of God requires nothing more than a pen and good sense of humor. But concerned citizens of the world need not worry: a response team of sensitivity mongers and social justice warriors have pledged put an end to this terror of discomfort. After all, it was only after Charlie Hebdo bled that a coalition of writers and intellectuals rushed to condemn the fallen veterans of French secularism, instead of defending their common profession against marauding theocratic predators. As if a homophobic declaration of hate wasn’t enough to reveal the motives of Omar Mateen’s rampage in Orlando, blaming the only society which opposed his theocratic terror seemed the more appropriate course of justice. While people were recovering from the blood-stained trauma inflicted by motivated murderers and psychopaths, multicultural crusaders were burning the midnight oil to bandaid the hurt feelings of the religiously offended, if not offering them full concessions of outright liberal guilt. As to those who dared call out this immoral marriage of tyranny and liberty, they were more likely to soon find themselves under interrogation for concealing some raging bigot screaming to break out.
If self-destruction is the best response that liberalism can offer us in the face of an illiberal theocratic assault, then its expiration date has already been marked. We as a free society are morally obligated to condemn the hateful impulses of anti-human belief systems, not focus on the invisible bigotry of those courageous enough to point them out in the first place. If this cultural suicide persists unabated, then I fear the future of liberty will be at the disposal of authoritarians and fascists. As it turns out, we may already be seeing signs of such an ideological inversion in the free world. Far right populism and national socialism is rapidly mushrooming across the western hemisphere: the National Front in France, the Eurasian movement in Russia and a variety of other illiberal ideologies. In a sick and ailing mother liberty, the post-modern rabble-rousers may have very well found the fertile ovaries to infect their seeds of poison.
As discouraging as all this may be, the erosion of our values and principles did not happen overnight though. With the revolution of censorship sweeping across universities, which campus activists have now razed into a dumping ground for academic freedom, we have begun to taste what the sensitivity mongers have in store for us. Even the inspiration of educators and administrators is not up to standard for the mercenaries of justice. In 1985, a humanistic proverb from the Dean of Administrative Emeritus, at the University of Oregon, was removed for being too tonally masculine. Apparently, abstract usage of the term “man” was taken as an underhanded slight toward the feminist community (I tremble to think what will one day happen to the historic announcement of “man’s first step on the moon”). But this was just a preview of the gender wars. In fact, the aether of social justice has even transcended cultural and national borders. For instance, at the University of Cape Town, one outfit of post-modern activism went so far as to accuse science of harboring a colonial agenda. If you thought the hidden dimensions of string theory were elusive, wait until you get a load of their colonial extensions and the only qualified mind-readers who can decipher them. You really couldn’t make this stuff up even if you were an alchemist with a magical wand.
To put it simply, discussional freedom is being slowly annihilated by a flourishing industry of cultural psychoanalysis and moral arrogance. Because as long as people are chasing the mythical dragon of perceived bigotry and hidden motives, they will be distracted from the real snake lurking in the grass: authoritarianism and theocracy. Such diversions furthermore testify to the great advances we’ve made in the unworthy field of psychological engineering: disseminating just the fear of being branded a bigot, because of murmuring the wrong statement, at the wrong time or place. In fact, just casually weighing in on any topic these days is risky, where “bad implications” can be bugged into your sentences faster than they can be dismantled and exposed. The defamation of a faculty member at Yale University, whose only crime was being suggestively offensive in a deliberately misunderstood email, demonstrates the point at hand. Such diabolical techniques are not unknown to conversational fascists and have become more felt in our public discourse. The witch-trials of “Islamophobia” and shadowy “racism” are the best and most recent illustration of their finest work. Social media has also become an indispensable asset in this unvirtuous endeavor. For instance, a UK nobel laureate was tragically expelled from his academic post, all because a joke he told was irresponsibly mishandled on twitter.
Lately, it has become quite common to hear about some public intellectual being completely barred from even speaking at a university, because his/her heterodox views offend the sensitivities of local campus theocrats. In other words, the so-called “safe spaces” are really just intellectual prisons seeking to impose a buffer zone between truth and discomfort. The culture warriors have transformed the democratization of “sensitivity” into an instrument of emotional sorcery. Even the university campus, a station once reserved for the patrons of free expression, has now become a playground for speech bullies and demagogues.
According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of American millennials think speech and language should be censored to protect minorities. In fact, supporters of the liberal democratic party are statistically more likely to endorse censorship than their conservative foes. In the face of such intercultural cannibalism, is it really any surprise that Islamist currents of thought have circulated freely with virtually no resistance?
But even the paraders of “social justice” and “cultural sensitivity” have betrayed the virtues of their own cause. Take for instance a resolution of action formerly drafted by the UK National Union of Students which voted against condemning the senseless barbarity of ISIS. Now any genuine citizen of the world can only speculate the justification for such a veto on humanity, especially coming from an organization proclaiming to defend the oppressed and helpless. According to the National Union’s reasoning, criticism of ISIS represents nothing more than a front for Islamophobia, an assertion which otherwise would have come off as less paradoxical had the student body not also passed a motion to economically boycott Israel (which apparently required no peer review for potential anti-semitic abuses). The truly ironic take away message from this incident is that the original proposal was entirely worded to defend the Muslim victims of Islamic theocracy, whereas the anti-Israel boycott was maliciously designed to collectively punish all Israelis by economic sanction*. This only proves that the moral standard of the sensitivity mongers is completely bogus. In the culture wars of our time, what was once the cherished legacy of western liberalism- criticizing the authoritarian in defense of the individual-has now become a blank manuscript of political and cultural editing.
As the above story demonstrates, cultural and political institutions are the greatest source of moral confusion on this topic. A point in case was The National Union of Students’ cowardly response to a genocidal cult which has become synonymous with everything social activists rage against, from mayhem and destruction to indulgent greed and corruption. In fact, according to some reports, the Islamic State’s industrial exploits are actually modeled and fitted to the practices of the very giant oil companies so often loathed by political progressives. Furthermore, a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research put the figure on Syrian civilian deaths and injuries at around 12 percent of the whole population (faulting the majority of deaths on violence), while listing oil production as a major source of revenue for ISIS. One would think the egalitarian watchdogs would riot and protest this issue until the tear gas drops. But instead, the social justice warriors are more concerned with protecting the feelings of those Muslim victims of ISIS, never mind criticizing the horrible ideology which exposed them to the caliphal cancer in the first place. This combination of liberal masochism in the service of religious sadism is truly suffocating.
To fully appreciate the scale of this moral hypocrisy, just consider a thought experiment in which the sensitivity mongers switch sides for a moment. Imagine a parallel universe where criticizing the malpractice and negligence of oil companies (a normal pleasure) is suddenly met with accusations of “petro-phobia” and “anti-corporate insensitivity”. Here, wealthy shareholders and oil tycoons are misrepresented by a few bad apples, so any wholesale criticism of their activities must signal bigotry and broad-brush generalisations. Corporate CEO’s are maligned as “selfish sociopaths”, their portfolios are ruthlessly scrutinized and employees unfairly harassed: all part and parcel of the petro-phobia propaganda industry. Does any of this sound familiar?
If you can regather yourself from the outrageousness of this analogy, but with a deeper appreciation for what prompted it in the first place, then you have passed the moral litmus test failed by so many. Progressives sound the sirens of justice where injustice looms, yet abandon their moral duty when pitted against a state-corporation of theocracy and terror. They hold secular corporations of power to a higher standard of judgement than religious psychopaths hell bent on global obliteration.
When ex-Muslim activist Maryam Namazie was invited by secular organizers at Goldsmiths University to give a talk, she was rudely disrupted by theocratic bullies from the Islamic Society. The intimidations ranged from sadistic atheistophobic insults (laughing at the murder of bloggers in Bangladesh) to gestures of death threats (hand mimicry of a gun directed at the head). As if this brown-shirted orgy of thuggery and cruelty wasn’t enough, the final element of irony came when one of the hecklers yelled “safe space”. From our previous discussion, we saw how this dummy term has been invented and transplanted by social justice warriors to empower fascists and demagogues. To conclude this sordid tale, it would only be redundant at this point to add that the Goldsmiths Feminist Society- of all unlikely actors- came to the defense of the agitating Islamists. Interestingly enough, when Namazie was banned from another speaking engagement at Warwick University, one reason cited for the decision was her propensity to “incite hatred”. Its odd that Islamic groups issuing death threats get to play the “safe space” card and win the sympathies of liberals and progressives, while peaceful activists like Namazie get thrown under the bus.
Instead of feminists and progressives whining about incorrect gender pronouns or gender-biased proverbs, perhaps they should be siding with the Maryam Namazies and Ayan Hirsi Alis of the world. Instead of wasting time and energy on the erection of authoritarian vehicles, like safe spaces, they should be channeling their resources toward clearing the pipes of the accumulating theocratic sewage. As we have seen, the moral and cultural deterioration of liberalism is just beginning with safe spaces. Given time, it will end with theocracy. When it does happen, when liberty is finally sacrificed on the altar of theocracy, let it be remembered that the regressive progressives were there to do the bloody honors.
*It has also been mentioned that the National Union of Students later revised the resolution and passed it. However, this is not the relevant point. Why did the Union hesitate from passing it in the first place, on the grounds of “Islamophobia” while having no remorse about punishing all Israelis through boycott and sanctions? Why were they so ambivalent about condemning ISIS and so hasty with Israel? This is the point.