The failure of Liberalism and the Muslim world

Photo by Vignesh Babu

A common discourse is being identified and widely spread among some self-proclaimed liberals that actively participate on the debate about Islam and the reform of the Muslim world. They usually take a position where they utterly defend the rights of any individual to pursue any given ideology for the sake of freedom of choice, yet they aggressively disprove any attempt of constructive criticism from other actors, that aim to point out fundamental problems that are at the basis of a given ideology that is in conflict with human rights and moral progress. In the particular case of Islam, their speech is typically formulated towards cultural determinism. They defend a right for an ideology based on religious scriptures that clearly promote anti-human rights actions for the sake of satisfying their orientalist fetish. They justify the position against an attempt of Muslim reform in the name of “cultural authenticity” and anticolonialism. But what these liberals are really doing by holding native communities to lesser standards is disempowering them. Muslims are automatically self-segregated into “Muslim areas” and, in the name of liberalism, collective rights are prioritized over individual autonomy within minorities. Such liberals are more like “fellow-travelers” of Islamism that believe are doing a favor to Muslims, but what they are doing is killing any reform attempt. The minorities within the Muslim communities that seek reform have their aspirations murdered. These “fellow-travelers” are making it very difficult for well-intentioned participants of the Islam debate to speak freely and honestly about this important and sensitive topic. These political and social actors are disrupting any true attempt to address the real problems of Islamism that are at the root of religious terrorism, because they assume that all Muslims think on a certain way and anyone that deviates from that ideological framework  is considered not a ‘real’ Muslim and, therefore, his voice is disregarded. For that reason reformist Muslims are disempowered and shut down from the mainstream discourse.

The first stage towards the empowerment of minorities within the Muslim world is, by no doubt, the emancipation of reformist voices so that communities start to take responsibility upon themselves and overcome the victimhood mindset.

It is a fact that religious terrorist groups born from the desire to impose any given interpretation of the Islam on society are flourishing in the midst of a complex geopolitical problem in the Middle East. The jihad (the use of force to spread Islamism) has been felt on the Western countries for a while now, and more recently with a focus on Europe, as seen by the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels. But the root of the problem is not being addressed by the main actors of the political discourse for the sake of liberalism. Meanwhile they try to pass the hot potato (look at the refugee crisis in Europe for example) to their neighbor, they keep ignoring the importance of religious indoctrination based on ideological dogmas that frame people’s mind – and more importantly young minds – as the reason at the basis of the problem. A reform of Islam by Muslim actors that are willing to review the more conservative interpretations of their doctrine is imperative if we want to see the Muslim world advance towards a more humanistic and secular mindset. It is a pre-requisite before democratic and human-right values are accepted by them and it is our responsibility to take part on the discourse and empower the Muslim minorities that seek to implement those values in their communities.

Further readings


Islam and the Future of Tolerance” by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

Blog post:

Can liberalism be saved from itself?” by Sam Harris