This might sound like a loaded question, but it isn't.

We see left and right that present day leftists (progressives, liberals, etc.) are jumping in to defend Islam(ism) from legitimate critiques as objectively a very, let's say fascistic and right-wing ideology. One that stands in harsh opposition to what the traditional left (think of it as the punk rock, anti-establishment movement) has stood for.

How do we interpret that it has transformed to support what it traditionally opposed? I'm confused. I consider myself socially liberal, but I can't reconcile the doctrines of Islam with my liberalism no matter how much I strive for multicultural inclusion (or maybe just because).

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    @amphibient Can you please edit your question to add examples of what you are referring to? And/or rephrase your question in asking why some perceive the left to be courting islamism? As it stands, it is hard to answer because it's not clear exactly what you are referring to. However, I do think that the underlying question deserves to be answered, because it's not the first time I see this allegation (without evidence).
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 16:54
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    Quite honestly, I can see why it is perceived that "the modern left courts islam". Whether it actually does or not I cannot say, but a politics site often deals with perceptions, so there really is no need for the rather aggressive downvoting. That said, when an action performed by one group is vilified by "the left" but a similar action is not noted at all when performed by another group, it's easy to see why the perception exists.
    – Michael J.
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 19:12
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    @amphibient I down voted even though I agree with your sentiment because this isn't a good faith question, it's trying to spread a point of view.
    – JonK
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 20:34
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    I think that this question is attributing global universality to a phenomena that is largely limited to Western Europe and North America.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 4:44
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    This question needs citations. What does it mean by 'defends islam'? What is being defended? By who?
    – user1530
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 8:53

15 Answers 15


The modern left is not "courting islamism", but scroll down to see some reasons why I believe it may be perceived as such.

Some examples showing evidence that it isn't:

  • Left-wing groups in Rojava are actively fighting against islamists, for a secular, democratic, socialist, feminist state, and those groups have considerable support among left-wing groups in the west,
  • Emancipatory feminists / feminist groups like Malala Yousafzai, Saudi Women to Drive, Girls at Dhabas, My Stealthy Freedom, Sonita Alizadeh, are receiving almost exclusively positive press in progressive news outlets and blogs in western Europe and North America.
  • Cinema dramatising the struggle of Arab or Muslim girls and women against patriarchy, such as Wadjda, Mustang, or La source des femmes, are well-received at film festivals which are to a large degree aimed at and controlled by what some may refer to as the “liberal elite” or similar wordings.

Why then do some perceive "the modern left" as "courting islamism", then?

One could argue that women (as well as gays, transexuals, and some others) from some minorities (such as Muslims or Romani) in western countries are doubly marginalised: once because they are part of a marginalised minority, and again because the culture of that minority is a traditional, patriarchal one. This puts progressives at a dilemma, because respecting the rights of the minority at large may (in perception or reality) conflict with the emancipation of doubly marginalised groups within the same community. It is difficult for people from outside the minority to campaign for the emancipation of the doubly marginalised group without risking the perception of increasing the marginalisaion of the larger group.

Some concrete examples:

  • Tolerate/permit a few hours per week women-only swimming, or not? If yes: some women may only go swimming if the pool is women-only (either by their own choice, or by pressure from husbands or others); introducing such women-only swimming may be perceived as courting to islamism by some.
  • Ban the burqa in public or not? The burqa may be perceived as promoted due to a view of women very much at odds with the liberal view by the "modern left", which could be a valid progressive argument to prohibit it. On the other hand, one may argue that faced with a ban, women from (conservative salafi) families may not go out at all (again, either because they believe they should not, or because they are under pressure or coercion), which would mean that without a ban, those women are a bit freeer than with a ban. Ore one might simply have the liberal view that the state should not control at all what people wear.
  • Do you tolerate a bus driver who says his religion prohibits him from shaking hands with women, when his job does normally not require him to shake hands at all? How about as a receptionist who might normally shake hands? Is it religious discrimination to reject him the job? Is it "courting islamism" to give him the job, perhaps with the compromise that he doesn't shake any hands (men or women)? I don't think it is, but I can imagine that some view it as such.
  • Does one boycott (the laws of) countries with conservative laws and human-rights violations or not? In 2017, a Swedish government delegation wore hijabs in Iran. This led to criticism from people who considered it hypocritical that members from a government calling itself feminist were wearing hijabs, in a country with a bad human rights record. Perhaps some would call this courting islamism. It can be related to the broader discussion as to whether one should boycott or rather engage with countries with very poor human rights (Sweden is also one of the few European countries with an embassy in North Korea).
  • Many on the left are critical of Israeli policy w.r.t. Palestinians, and may find themselves on the same side as islamists such as in Hamas or Hezbollah, regardless of whether or not they agree with their views on social issues.
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    It's a great answer but “permitted by their husbands“ plays to a stereotype and oversimplifies what's happening. Social pressure can come from many corners, including female relatives, not merely husbands and is not generally a simple allow/forbid alternative.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 7:07
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    Also, women wearing burkas in Western Europe (certainly in France where there is a law against it and some records who has been fined under it) do it for the most part out of personal belief (many of them are converts, incidentally). It's a lot more common for more discrete types of hijab to be worn reluctantly as a compromise with the family or broader social circle, including by women who are not married and, again, that's more complex that simply being “allowed out“ by a husband.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 7:11
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    @Relaxed I am certainly convinced that women wearing hijab do so mostly out of personal belief. I am not convinced that the same is true for the burqa, but the burqa is so exceedingly rare in Europe that I can't see how one could get enough data on this question.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 10:16
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    @JonathanReez That doesn't seem either proportionate or enforceable or practical.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 21:21
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    @JonathanReez Not only the EU, also CoE and UN, exile of own citizens is a violation of human rights, and good luck trying to jail people who prohibit their spouses from doing whatever. As for numerous issues, I believe that today in all EU countries women have a right to work without their husbands permission, just one generation ago that wasn't the case. I'm not sure what issues are caused by not jailing people preventing their spouse from going to the pool.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 9:23

It is a difficult question to answer, mainly because it is a strawman argument.

Let me put you a more mundane analogy. You are in a ship in the middle of the Pacific, and find that ex-POTUS Barack Obama has had trouble while water skiing, and he is drowning. You launch him a lifejacket, or get him aboard your ship.

Do you think it would reasonable to accuse you of "defending Obama's political policies and POV" because of your actions? Does not sound like something anybody sane would say, isn't it?

But, somehow, anytime anyone opposes policies or actitudes he believes are unjust towards Muslims, somebody1 immediately makes a claim like that.

E.g., someone claims that "Queers Against Israel Apartheid" supports Hamas. Evidence? Well, they are against Israel policy in the occupied territories, so it must be "self-evident" that they support Hamas and anything Hamas does or says; the fact that such organization has not made any show of support should not stop people with an agenda from claiming that they do. Moreover, such a supposed, baseless claim about a tiny organization is proof enough of how 'the Left' is allied with 'the Muslims'3.

Mind you, this strategy is far from new or original; those of us with some memory and/or knowledge of history know when people working against seggregation or racism2 where called "black (or Jew) lovers" (or far, far, far worse)

1And, against claims to that effect, usually no Republicans come forward to "policy" this behavior.

2Just an example of many, many uses of the tactic.

3Other times the claim is that the left or anyone disagreing with Israel politics is "antisemitic". As stated above, nothing new under the sun.

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    Nobody claims that QAIA support everything Hamas does, so that isn't really a good point. the strongest claims are that they are complicit by omission and providing de facto support for Hamas (while not agreeing with everything Hamas says). Also, there is a real problem with antisemitism in parts of the left, denying this in a footnote and placing antisemitic in quotes is questionable at best. These things distract from an otherwise good answer.
    – tim
    Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 9:17
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    That's a more convoluted than necessary way of saying "No, liberals don't actually support the more authoritarian practices of Islam." Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 4:57
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    @tim leaving apart that the article seems rather biased (just a short description of the actual charges -supporting the Gaza flotilla- and a lot of people from one side criticizing it), the charges of complicit omission and de facto support sound a lot to "either you are with us or against us"; if you criticize Israel then some people claim that you (indirectly/de facto/by omission) support the terrorists. Strawman 101.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 23:09
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    @SJuan76 I agree that the article has a definitive point of view (I described it as the "strongest claim" I could possibly find; my point was that nobody seriously says that QAIA support Hamas). And it's not about "with us or against us" (that's more the side of QAIA, see eg their support for BSD), but about one-sidedness; they are very quick to critizise real and imagined Israeli crimes, but apply very different standards to "the other side". Anyways, this topic is old, and we are now only arguing because of the (now deleted) comment of a troll, so I think we can probably agree to disagree.
    – tim
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 23:22
  • Just because some people sometimes make the claim when it is not justified does not mean it is a "straw man". You can give all the examples you want of situations where you think someone is unjustly accusing someone of defending Islam, but that doesn't prove that there aren't legitimate cases of someone defending Islam. It's rather hypocritical that you're making an accusation of a fallacy while engaging in a fallacy yourself. And as for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, their logo is clearly based on the PLO (Islamist terrorist group) flag with the red triangle replaced with a pink triangle. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 2:20

Your basic premise is flawed. Traditionally the "left" has stood on the side of oppressed minorities and I think this is what this is. You also have to take history into consideration. After all the "legitimate critiques" of Judaism lead to the murder of six million Jews in Europe and considering that it's not to far fetched to assume some may err on the side of caution when criticising attacks on Muslims.

There are several parallels between 1930s anti-Semitism and modern day islamophobia.

See Døving, Cora Alexa (2010). "Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: A Comparison of Imposed Group Identities" Tidsskrift for Islamforskning. Forum for Islamforskning (2): 52–76.

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    The first two sentences are good. The rest is a slippery slope argument, as if every instance of marginalization would lead to genocide. Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 7:54
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    To keep the answer more neutral, it should be formulated in a way that makes clear that this is the view (or one of several possible views) of those that defend Muslims against criticism, may it be rightly or wrongly. The question is not if the defense is correct or not, but why people feel compelled to defend Islam.
    – Thern
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 8:54
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    @henning : Not necessarily - the argument is not that it will lead there, but that history suggests there is a risk that it could, and the concern is over that risk. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 7:03
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    @henning--reinstateMonica Well it already happened once. Commented Mar 5, 2020 at 16:37
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    If I see a ref with the characters "PDF" in it, I expect a link to read that PDF? Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 19:55

Quite simply it is due to Identity Politics. Muslims, in the US and much of the West at least, are a minority group and are therefore "protected". Christians, on the other hand are not.

Both groups take actions that are considered distasteful or wrong by "the left", and the motivations for those actions are often due to the constraints imposed by their group.

The actions of Muslims, if motivated by their faith, cannot therefore be criticized without criticizing the group itself.

This is not to say that the left actually does court islam, but it does say that their silence in certain cases makes it seem as they do.

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    As a side note, since Christianity is very much on retreat giving way to atheism in Western Europe, I have encountered several people from the left who defended Christianity against fierce attacks from atheists. Contrast that with the bitter fight of the left against the church 50 years ago. It really is much about protecting minorities, and Christians are increasingly a majority in Western Europe, compared with non-believers.
    – Thern
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 9:01

This phenomenon was covered in an in-depth way in an article "I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup" on Slate Star Codex blog.

To help understand it, he starts off by showing a similar, stark example, where a seemingly obvious "others" are the in-group and seemingly obvious "similars" are the ultimate out-group:

Ashkenazi Jews in Germany by 1930s were virtually identical to Germans. They were highly assimilated, mostly looked "white", had German surnames, shared German values to a large extent (yes, a large chunk of them were left wing and Communist, but plenty of Germans were as well), and many of whom had more German blood than Jewish. Heck, even Yiddish (leaving aside that most of them spoke fluent German in the first place) was German-based language, linguistically.

Yet, the racist, xenophobic Nazis pick an in-group to ally with... Asian, non-Aryan-as-you-can-get, Japanese, and concentrate their hate on almost-identical group, Ashkenazi Jews.

In general, it's a known sociological phenomenon - people tend to hate their similar neighbours that are a shade different far more than distant "others". Indians and Pakistanis. Serbians and Albanians. Armenians and Azeri. Russians and Ukranians. Bolsheviks hated Mensheviks far more than they hated the Whites. You can be a Jew in Iran (as long as you kiss the rulers' behind enough); but if a Moslem Iranian converts out of Islam the apostasy gets them automatic execution. ISIS probably kills more Sunnis than Shia, by design. Heretics in your own natural in-group are far more dangerous and bad than heretics elsewhere.

In other words, outgroups may be the people who look exactly like you, and scary foreigner types can become the in-group on a moment’s notice when it seems convenient.


On the other hand, that same group absolutely loathed Thatcher. Most of us (though not all) can agree, if the question is posed explicitly, that Osama was a worse person than Thatcher. But in terms of actual gut feeling? Osama provokes a snap judgment of “flawed human being”, Thatcher a snap judgment of “scum”.

I started this essay by pointing out that, despite what geographical and cultural distance would suggest, the Nazis’ outgroup was not the vastly different Japanese, but the almost-identical German Jews.

And my hypothesis, stated plainly, is that if you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe.

As such, the theocratic, Sharia-imposing-supporting, deeply-and-widely-homophobic, extremely-feminism-nightmarish Islamic societies are not what threatens and frightens the Left the most. It's their neighbours who are right wing/conservative.

The phenomenon is ubiquitous and has gazillion example, one more stark than another.

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    You are overlooking a very important point: distance. The extremely homophobic Iranian government is very very far away, and you can't really do anything about it (if you aren't ready to wage war, killing hundreds of thousands and create a new wave of millions of refugees, and maybe even then fail like in Afghanistan). On the other hand, those neighbors are electing a president (and, especially, a vice-president) that goes actively against all the rights and beliefs in the very own country that one stands for. It is simply just more relevant if it is near.
    – Thern
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 9:09
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    @Thern - there's a difference between (1) "I condemn but acknowledge that I can't do more than that" and (2) "I praise, or at least condemn far far less, for far worse things". The problem with your point and assumption is that, massively, it's the latter that's happening. My points showcase just that.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 12:36
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    Your points are just showcasing a few cherry-picked points. For example, in Germany, Iran is defended much more from the right side than from the left (even if examples exist), with the German Neonazi party NPD even personally inviting Ahmadinedjad to Germany. The main reason: Iranians count as Aryans and are opposed to Arabs and Jews alike.
    – Thern
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 12:51
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    @Thern - the question wasn't about NpD. It was about overall left.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 12:52
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    Yes, and your cherry-picked examples are in no way representative for the overall left. My point is that it is even easier to find right-wing examples; by taking a few examples you can prove anything.
    – Thern
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 13:08

When I was a grammar-school kid, I got in trouble for punching out a bully who was terrorizing people he labelled as 'geeks'. I didn't do that because I was 'pro-geek'; I did it because I was 'anti-bully'. That's a distinction that is lost on far too many people (including my grammar-school principal, sad to say...).

Incidentally, if you're wondering whether that guy was actually a bully, please note that somewhere around the end of high school he went to prison for beating someone half to death with a crowbar.

I don't have much use for (or interest in) religious nationalism, and that applies to any religion: Islamism, Christian Fundamentalism, Zionism, the bitterly xenophobic forms of Buddhism and Hinduism we find in Myanmar, India, and South East Asia, etc. If all religious nationalists decided to find a big, isolated, empty island somewhere and go at each other tooth and claw, I wouldn't even bother to sell tickets. I'd just breathe a sigh of relief and get on with my life.

The problem is that religious nationalists don't go at each other tooth and claw. They go at everyone tooth and claw, or at least everyone who has the temerity to be different from them. With respect to this particular question, U.S. Christian nationalists don't simply attack Islamists, which might have some merits. They label all Muslims as (potential) Islamists. They attack them all indiscriminately, and then attack anyone who objects to their indiscriminate attacks. It's a foaming river of hate spilling over the banks of decency and common sense into my neighborhood, and I see real value in instituting some flood control. I'd do the same with any hate spilling into my neighborhood; I just happen to live closest to Christian nationalists.

Again, this is not pro-Islamist; it's anti-nationalist, and anti-hate. But this also isn't grammar-school. Nobody gets to play 'principal,' and we're (mostly) all adults who fight with words instead of fists. Anyone who fails to make this distinction — who presumes that I fight for something when I'm actually fighting against a vapid spew of hate — might just deserve the rhetorical bloody nose they get.


To begin, the premise of this question is somewhat descriptive of the left wing political movements of Western Europe and North America (maybe even Eastern Europe too), but is not true of the left globally.

With this in mind, the real question is not so much "why is the left supporting Muslims?", as "why are Muslims supporting the left?"

Muslim support was not something that left wing political coalitions in Western Europe or North American actively sought out (at least until very, very recently). It wasn't clear to most people until quite recently in these places, whether Muslim communities tended to favor left wing or right wing political coalitions at all, because the number of Muslims who could participate politically as citizens was quite small until quite recently.

Political coalitions have very little incentive to keep people who want to join them out of their coalition, if they don't demand much in terms of the coalition's policies. All other things being equal, the party with the biggest tent wins. So, they are designed to be receptive to anyone who does not openly oppose their objective or demand policy changes from their platform.

Muslims, in Western Europe and the United States and Canada, tend to be personally more right wing on a variety of social and economic issues that the conservative leaning political parties of those countries (although Muslims immigrants from many countries in Western Europe and North America tend to be more liberal politically than their countrymen who did not immigrate). So, they are not natural candidates to join a left wing coalition (although this has changed over time as Muslims in these areas have joined left wing coalitions and seen their views on some issues, at least, shift to the left over time).

But, in Western Europe and the United States and Canada, the leading right wing political parties tend to more or less explicitly identify themselves with Christianity (in Western Europe they are often called "Christian Democratic" parties, and with their North American counterparts aren't quite as explicit, the Republicans and the Canadian Tories have a very Christian worldview), tend to be anti-immigration (which most Muslims are, or were a generation or two ago, in all of those places), and tend to be indifferent to official misconduct towards minority populations including Muslims.

In contrast, The left wing coalition in all of these places is not wrapped up in a specifically Christian identity, is more welcoming to immigrants, and cares about stopping official misconduct towards minority populations including Muslims.

Notably, these left wing coalitions didn't really have to change anything to have those more attractive policies for Muslims. Their more secular self-conception, their less xenophobic outlook, and their concerns about official misconduct towards minorities pre-dated significant Muslim immigration and was not motivated by Muslim concerns in the first place.

Faced with an existential threat (i.e. a threat to their very existence of people in the society) from the right and overt symbolic and interpersonal expressions from members of right wing political parties that Muslims are not welcome, in a world with only a finite number of available political parties (even in countries that don't have a two party system), Muslims are going to tend to choose to join the left wing coalition rather than the right wing coalition. They do so even thought there are other, less existentially important issues upon which a left wing coalition may not be in line with their personal views or preferences.

As Muslims have come to become more than an insignificant share of the left wing coalition in many parts of Western Europe and North America, despite the left wing not many any real policy concessions to attract them, members of left wing parties have come to have more interpersonal contact with Muslims which has led to reduced fear and increased mutual understanding, and political leaders in left wing parties have felt it politic and appropriate to refrain from emphasizing policies and issues that actively antagonize a not insignificant share of their coalition even when (if push came to shove) they might be uneasy with some of the political and social views of this part of their coalition.

Also, the biggest liberal concerns about Islamist practices and abuses involve matters that can only be implemented with majority control of the government (e.g. excessive use of corporal punishment in the criminal justice system), but which are much less harmful to non-Muslims, at least, when Muslims can only enforce their ideologies on co-religionists and can only do so via institutions of civil society rather than institutions of coercive government control.

So long as majority Islamic control of the government to enforce Islamic law policies on non-Muslims is for all practical purposes impossible, these concerns are not very threatening to left wing political coalitions.

In contrast, left wing coalitions in Western Europe and North America are concerned about theocratic Christian tendencies because Christians could viably gain control of the government if they were politically successful, at least in many large regions of countries in Western Europe and North America. So, their theoretic policy aspirations which could be imposed on left wing coalition members are a much more concerning threat to the left than Muslims for whom control of the government is not a viable possibility in these places.

Like Muslims who must prioritize their concerns in politics, left wing political leaders must also prioritize their concerns based upon which concerns are the most viable threats to the left wing political agenda.

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    "In contrast, left wing coalitions in Western Europe and North America are concerned about theocratic Christian tendencies because Christians could viably gain control of the government if they were politically successful" - this is true for the US only. No Western Europe state has a large enough theocratic Christian part of the population. On the contrary, Christians and Muslims often enough face the same harsh criticism from people who view every kind of religion as an unbearable offense against human intellect.
    – Thern
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 9:15
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    @Them Several countries in Europe still have established churches.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 9:27
  • @ohwilleke - the thesis, if true, would ONLY hold in countries where theological Christians are a governing majority. In actuality, this situation is actually just as, if not more, radical in countries without established Church/theocratic christian government, so the thesis is not correct. Also, you pooh-poohed the question's premise without even a slightest effort to rebut it with facts (and yes, modern left, at least in the West, does defend Islamism, especially the more progressive side. Google Linda Sarosour (sp?)).
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 12:41
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    @user4012 To have a theological takeover, not everyone in their majority needs to support it, many can simply not be bothered by it (they didn't come for me . . . ). And, while the left may defend the right of Muslims like any other community to live their lives in the face of wrongful attacks and discrimination (I kicked in $$ once to help repair racist vandalism at a mosque in my town despite being an atheist), really pro-assimilation, the mod left absolutely does not defend Islamism which is something very different. The question's premise also assumes a more monolithic Islam than exists.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 18:20

What liberal doctrine says
Combating religious intolerance and structural violence, as well as defense of civil rights for religious and non-religious groups, are liberal positions. Below are liberal positions that, in broad terms, support this assertion.

Later waves of modern liberal thought and struggle were strongly influenced by the need to expand civil rights. Liberals have advocated gender and racial equality in their drive to promote civil rights and a global civil rights movement in the 20th century achieved several objectives towards both goals.
As they struggled to expand suffrage rights, liberals increasingly understood that people left out of the democratic decision-making process were liable to the "tyranny of the majority", a concept explained in Mill's On Liberty and in Democracy in America (1835) by Alexis de Tocqueville. As a response, liberals began demanding proper safeguards to thwart majorities in their attempts at suppressing the rights of minorities.
From the liberal perspective, toleration was initially connected to religious toleration, with Baruch Spinoza condemning "the stupidity of religious persecution and ideological wars". Toleration also played a central role in the ideas of Kant and John Stuart Mill. Both thinkers believed that society will contain different conceptions of a good ethical life and that people should be allowed to make their own choices without interference from the state or other individuals.
As Blinkhorn argues, the liberal themes were ascendant in terms of "cultural pluralism, religious and ethnic toleration, national self-determination, free market economics, representative and responsible government, free trade, unionism, and the peaceful settlement of international disputes through a new body, the League of Nations".

Defending a group is not promotion of their belief system
Defending Muslims from bigoted hate, violence, and oppression is not the same as agreeing with their belief system or attempting to spread their religion. Just as in SJuan76's answer, throwing Barack Obama a life preserver to prevent him from drowning is not an endorsement of his policies. We defend Muslims from Islamophobia simply because human life should not be subjected to violence on the basis of their identity alone; especially since, for most people, their religious choice is nearly as inflexible as their birth characteristics (age, race, sex, sexual orientation).

How liberals coexist with religious groups
Islam does not contain uniquely violent scripture, and it is common across religions to disregard scripture that is impractical in modern life. Many religious texts prescribe actions that are ill-suited for modern society. For instance, the Christian Bible, in the book of Leviticus, prescribes putting people to death for a whole swath of "abominations," including wearing mixed fabrics, working on the Sabbath, eating ostrich meat, eating shellfish, and the notorious "man laying with another man as he lays with a woman." The book of Leviticus actually only prescribed these rules for a short period of time, and they are no longer in effect; but I don't get the impression that this fact is commonly known. It seems like the a substantial number of modern American Christians still believe that the Bible is asking them to put homosexuals to death, or at least they use it as justification for all sorts of other policies, like denying same sex marriage. Leviticus 20:13 is frequently quoted in American society as though it still applies. The point is that many religious texts command their followers to perform actions which would conflict with human laws or customs, and often we don't go to the extreme of following through with these things that are impractical for modern living. Either way, people with religious beliefs run a full spectrum of the degree of their belief, their character, the degree to which they allow religion to rule their actions, etc. These people are not interchangeable. There might be some hyper-religious individuals you can't stand, some moderate religious individuals that are your friends, some extremists of any religion that commit crimes, and deeply law-abiding individuals of each religion.

Extremists are not representative of general population
Muslim terrorists are not representative of the Muslim population as a whole in the same way that Christian terrorists are not representative of the Christian population as a whole. Muslim terrorist networks recruit and indoctrinate vulnerable Arab youth in the same ways that the KKK and other hate groups recruit and indoctrinate vulnerable white American youth. Many American hate groups use Christian scripture to justify committing hate crimes and terrorist acts, and this is remarkably indistinguishable from how Jihadist groups operate. However, what we Americans DON'T do is assume that members of the KKK are representative of all Christians.

Muslims in American society
Muslim Americans might be better citizens than we portray them to be. Muslim Americans have somewhat above average educational attainment compared to all U.S. adults. According to TheDailyBeast, homicide rates are lower in Muslim countries than in Christian countries, which it conjectures is not explained by more authoritarian government regimes. Islamophobic intolerance severely spiked after 9/11, due to the American public's belief that Islamist extremism is the most common ideological motivation behind terrorism facing the United States. On the contrary, Islamist extremism doesn't account for very much terrorism in the United States, and it is radically outnumbered by right-wing extremism.
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Creeping normality
There is also the threat that normalizing violence and prejudice against minority groups like American Muslims can lead to more widespread violence or genocidal acts, due to creeping normality. This was the strategy that Adolf Hitler took to eventually implement genocidal programs targeting a number of different groups. Some people are on watchful guard to prevent it from happening again.

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    "Defending a group is not promotion of their belief system" To some extent, it is. If your criticize someone for criticizing a belief system, then you are expressing support for that belief system. "their religious choice is nearly as inflexible as their birth characteristics" People can change their religion. They might not want to, but that doesn't mean it deserves the same status as inherent characteristics. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 3:04
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    @Accumulation, Re "If your criticize someone for criticizing a belief system, then you are expressing support for that belief system": that's not necessarily so -- the "someone" critic may have their own relevant demerits that warrant critique, or the form of "someone"'s critique might be logically invalid, or the data "someone"'s critique draws upon might be erroneous or exaggerated. Any of which can be important faults no matter what the topic, or the counter critic's beliefs.
    – agc
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 5:07

Your question touches sensitive topics.

There are in both worlds (muslim countries and western countries) more religious conservative and more liberal political parties. In the west, conservative people are mostly represented by anti-immigration parties (Donald Trump in the US, FN in France, UKIP in the UK, AFD in Germany, ...). In the muslim world, conservatives are more represented by islamist parties (PJD in Morrocco, FIS in Algeria, Ennhada in Tunisia, AKP in Turkey, ...)

The goal of all these parties is not to have their views spread globally, but by country (they want to win elections, after all). Hence a anti-immigration party in the west wins from quoting the critic of Islam coming from liberals of the muslim world (Ayan harsi ali, Maajid Nawaz , ... ).

Reciprocally, Islamists tend reproduce the critics of the west from its liberals. For instance, on the source of terrorism, various health, education and economic issues, ...

This can explain why a liberal from one world may be the fiercest critic of conservatives in his world, but ally himself to conservatives of the other world. Here is someone who was surprised by the situation.

The situation is different when it comes to authors, NGOs, ... They have a more global view and just want their message passed.


They're generally defending Muslims and this means that they are defending the right of Muslims to practise the precepts of their faith. That doesn't seem complicated.

That a variety of particular political/theological ideologies are placed under the rubric of Islamism is unfortunate as it confuses the issue.

The KKK which at the height of their popularity in the USA had seven million male members and half a million female members in the 1920s and are often associated iconically with a burning cross, the most iconic visual symbol of Christianity didn't mean that commentators confused them with Christianity per se. They weren't called Christianists or Christianisms.

Nor, were the imperialisms which broke out of the Western peninsula of the Eurasian land mass and virtually had the entire world under their dominion confused with Christianity. No-one called them Christianisms either.


It seems that in democracy, all "minority" voices gang up against one majority voice.

The left protects persecuted minorities. So, in Indonesia, for example, the left hates Islam.

However, most Islamic countries do not have liberal freedom of speech. So the left isn't heard.

In the US, Muslims are a minority, so the left seems to favour them.

The dominant power is christians, that are often almost as oppressive as their islamic counterpart. Christianity after all prohibits sex outside marriage like Islam.


One good answer seems to be that in some places, Muslims fit the traditional role of an oppressed minority that leftists support. Clearly this is why the New York Times produces investigative journalism about the Uighurs / Uyghurs in China.


Because it doesn't discriminate against (in their context) less common religions. Why does it focus on Islam? Because the right focuses on Islam. Why does the Right focus on Islam? Because of 9/11, immigration into Europe, and Judeo-Christian ties to Israel. The root cause or crux of that could be considered to be Judeo-Christian ties to Israel since that caused 9/11 and that caused immigration into Europe.

I consider myself socially liberal, but I can't reconcile the doctrines of Islam with my liberalism

You're misinterpreting what calling for tolerance necessarily implies. The left isn't promoting the practice of Islam, only calling for its tolerance and against unwarranted or overbroad prejudice against it. The same as how free speech doesn't have exceptions for disagreement.


I can guess that it's for the same reason why the right tend to be more libertarian.

Before right wingers hate sex outside marriage and drugs.

Now they are tolerant of drugs almost as much as white and many right wing people complaints about marriage too.


If left is whatever is not right, then it make sense that muslims and the left are natural ally in US politic.

Muslims usually are right wing on social issue and left wing on economic issue.

Muslims are the opposite of libertarian.

So as the right move toward libertarianism we would expect muslims to ally with the left.

They just have more similar opinion.


In general, from my own observations, I see leftists (as you define them) and others not recognizing that there is a difference between Muslims and radical Islamic groups. There is a stark difference between the two groups.

Within the Muslim religion there are many differences just as there are within all religions. To stereotype Muslims is unfair and demeaning. People should try to understand the major sects of the religion and their differences. It is important because many countries are theocracies controlled by members of one sect or another. The first step in understanding the politics of the middle east should be to study which countries are Sunni and which are Shiite for example.

Radical Islamist are Muslims with extreme views of the role of Islam in the world. Generally anyone who disagrees with their views is the enemy and should be killed. Radical Isalmists are a very small, but dangerous sect.

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    I see leftists [...] not recognizing that there is a difference between Muslims and radical Islamic groups I see the opposite?
    – Federico
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 8:43
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    In my opinion you can't even stereotype the "major sects" like Sunni and Shia. There are quite a lot of different interpretations and levels of radicality among members of these. Even if you oppose the more radical sub-sects like Wahabism (the Sunni sub-sect ISIS claims to be a part of) you might stereotype people who don't deserve it.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 12:27

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