Ali A. Rizvi has made a very interesting observation …
When it comes to Islam then there are indeed two quite popular stances that are often adopted.
On the one hand we have the rabidly hostile xenophobic anti-Muslim position and that is indeed well illustrated by folks such as Mr Trump. It consists of a belief that all Muslims are untrustworthy and so need to be treated differently than normal human beings. It is generally found within individuals who embrace the extreme right-wing nationalist mode of thinking.
On the other hand we also have some on the left who are not themselves Muslim, but are very vocally opposed and hostile towards anybody who might dare to criticise Islam, and this is perhaps indeed well illustrated by folks such as Glenn Greenwald. The flaw is that they appear to assume that criticism of an idea (Islam) is the same as criticism of Muslims (people), and so they deem it to be no different than the Trumpisms we have recently been basking in, and that confusion is for many quite daft.
So what is the New Center?
There are many who are not religious and so they reject all religious claims, usually due to the lack of any evidence, and Islam is not some magical belief that is immune to this.
The scope of non-belief includes the rejection of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and of course Islam, not simply because of the bad things that some do in the name of a specific belief, but rather because none of it is actually true at all. They are ideas, and so when such ideas rejected by non-believers, it is not the rejection of any individual who embraces that idea.
How does that work?
OK, think of it another way. If you tag somebody as Muslim, then what you are saying is that they might or might not embrace some variation of Islam to some degree, but that is only one tiny aspect of that individuals humanity. There exists an almost infinite number of other tags that can also be attached to humans, for example a tag that describes their culture (Hispanic, American, French, Nigerian, etc…), or perhaps a label that describes their vocation (Doctor, Student, Taxi driver, etc…), or some expression of their interests (Football fan, Stamp collector, Writer, etc…), or their specific thoughts on politics (Socialist, Conservative, Liberal, etc…), and on and on and on. So why would anybody latch on to just one tag, “Muslim”, and then use just that as the sole means for making a decision about anybody, and yet that is precisely the mistake being made.
Islam is a term used by 1.6 Billion humans and describes a vastly complex and extremely diverse set of ideas, and each of those individuals will only embrace a very small subset of those with varying degrees of confidence. Nobody could accept the lot, basically because much of it conflicts and is mutually exclusive.
The rejection and criticism of Islam is not a rejection of 1.6 billion humans, because what we are rejecting is simply one very small part of them, a belief, an idea, and this is distinctly separate from them.
Think of it this way – smoking is utterly vile, abhorrent, and is also quite lethal. That is not simply an opinion, it is a fact. About 1.1 billion humans smoke, and if we accept that it is indeed both lethal and quite disgusting, then we reject it, but by doing that are we also rejecting those 1.1 billion humans? Not at all, you can quite happily be friends with people who smoke, and you might indeed attempt to persuade them to stop, but if they ignore your plea, persist, and step outside for a few minutes for a quick smoke, then you simply roll your eyes and so be it.
Decent Human Beings
Regardless of their belief or non-belief, most humans are decent honourable people who wish no harm to anybody. Empathy for others is generally the default attribute of our humanity, and if faced with somebody in need, we tend not to pause, but reach out. Inheriting specific religious ideas due to an accident of birth does not generally change that, and so the word “Muslim” is not some magical exception to this.
Yes, OK, those who deeply embrace some truly bad ideas and then potentially prone to manifesting bad behaviour, and so that is perhaps why criticism of such bad ideas matters. A refusal to criticise is to basically pander to these bad ideas, and not only give them a free pass, but it enables them to continue.
The New Center
Do I feel comfortable with the pronouncements of Mr Trump? No, his “speeches” are quite frankly absurd nonsense, and the vast majority of sensible people recognise that.
What about those on the left who criticise those who criticise Islam? Terms such as “Islamophobia” are bandied about, and when you look into it, you often find that a claim of racism and a bias against all Muslims is not factual. An example is Sam Harris – much that has been claimed as his position is not actually his position at all.
It also produces some truly whacky and weird outcomes. When the Goldsmiths Islamic society recently took a stance against an Islamic Critic (an Iranian human rights feminist LGBT ex-muslim activist) then they received full public and written backing from the Goldsmiths LGBT society, and by doing that the LGBT society were talking a stance against an LGBT activist and supporting Homophobic mysognistic idiots. Clearly the LGBT Society felt that anybody who dared to criticise Islam was some sort of Islamophobic racist, and so by trying to pander to the idea that criticising belief, especially Islam, was wrong, they ended up finding themselves supporting the Homophobic religious nuts and opposing the the one voice that actually stood with them.
That last story, if nothing else, clearly illustrates the problem with the pro-Islamic left, and also neatly illustrates why the New Middle is a far better more rational place to be. Many have been there for some time, and so what is encouraging about Ali’s comment is the observation that many others are finding it as well.