By Yasmine Mohammed
At the age of six, I bolted out the front doors of my elementary school and ran to give my first-grade teacher a goodbye hug. As I skipped towards my mother, my bubbly mood was snatched away by her stern voice and admonishing stare.
“Did you just hug your teacher?” my mother asked.
“Yah, I love Mrs. Roth!”
“You do not hug non-Muslims! That is disgusting,” she said.
She then marched me over to the principal’s office to demand that Mrs. Roth never touch her child again. I sat in the chair listening to them, confused and embarrassed. I didn’t understand what I did wrong.
The next day, as all the children filed out of class, some would wrap their arms around Mrs. Roth’s middle, but her arms remained at her sides. The children asked why she wasn’t hugging them back, but she didn’t expose me. She just told them that she couldn’t anymore. It was a new rule. I hung my head and avoided her gaze as I sheepishly walked out of the classroom. Such a positive, loving, comforting aspect of my day was not only snatched from me, but from all the children in the class — and from my teacher.
That was the first time that I learned that I was an ‘other’. That I was a Muslim, that I lived among non-Muslims and that I could never get too comfortable around the non-believers. Unlike my Egyptian-born mother, I was born in Canada. I didn’t accept that ‘non-believers’ were evil and deserved Allah’s wrath. I didn’t want to strike off their heads or their fingertips, as Allah commands.
‘Non-believers’ were nice to me. They were my friends. My teachers weren’t Muslim, but they were kind and loving. What I was being taught at home contradicted the reality I was witnessing.
But my mother and her husband (she was his second concurrent wife) were far-right, conservative Muslims. They forced me to abide by their beliefs. Fearing both the wrath of my mother and the wrath of Allah, I did as I was told.
When I was 19, I had to wear a niqab (burka) and was forced into an arranged marriage. He was an Egyptian man who entered Canada from Afghanistan using a fake Saudi Arabian passport. Pre-9/11, those red flags weren’t enough for authorities to keep him out. He was even offered refugee status.
Years later, after I had had given birth to a daughter, I was contacted by the Canadian CIA (CSIS) and I learned that my husband, Essam Marzouk, was an Al Qaeda operative serving as Osama bin Laden’s point of contact. Soon after, I escaped from him, my family, and eventually left the religion into which I was born.
I ran away from the religious far-right world in which I was raised, and I made my way left towards values that I embraced like gender equality, free speech and LGBT rights.
All these values felt correct to me. They fit with me. I finally felt comfortable. I no longer had a constant internal struggle between left and right brewing inside of me.
Now, try to imagine the shock, betrayal and sadness I feel seeing fellow liberals celebrating right-wing, conservative aspects of Islam. On February 1, I was so upset over World Hijab Day that I spent the day in bed with a migraine. Hijab Day? Would it make sense to have Wings Day to celebrate the garment that women in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ are forced to wear? Is there a Mormon underwear day? What about a chastity belt day? I risked my life, and my daughter’s life, to escape from the darkness into the light — only to find the light celebrating and fetishising darkness.
When you celebrate the hijab by plastering it all over catwalks, and the Women’s March, Playboy, Elle, Vogue and Nike, you are celebrating a symbol of a far-right ideology, whether you know it or not. Muslims come from hundreds of different countries with hundreds of different cultures and hundreds of different traditional clothing styles.
The hijab is not worn by non-Muslim Egyptians, Iraqis, Indonesians, Pakistanis or Somalis. It is worn by conservative Muslims from those countries. If I want to celebrate Italians, I will not make a Pope Hat Day or a Nun’s Habit Day. These are religious symbols. The hijab confuses Americans. They seem to think that it is a ‘cultural’ clothing — no. It is religious. As religious as a kippah or an Amish bonnet.
Americans also seem to have trouble distinguishing Muslims as people from Islam as a religion. For liberals, celebrating and honouring people is to be applauded, celebrating and honouring religions is not. We do not celebrate and honour conservative Christianity or Orthodox Judaism. Why do we celebrate fundamentalist Islam?
When Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour drew criticism earlier this year for supporting Sharia, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders jumped to her support. Sharia, a barbaric and socially right-wing conservative set of laws, was defended by the most progressive political leader in the United States. That moment illustrated the absolute absurdity of this confusion.
Sanders supporting Sarsour made as much sense as him jumping to support disgraced Christian personality Josh Duggar or devout Mormon Mitt Romney. But it’s indicative of a broader problem among my fellow liberals. Their hearts may be in the right place, but their brains are not. ‘Intersectionalism’ has caused their brains to misfire. Many reflexively defend conservative theocrats like Sarsour because she has brown skin and a scarf on her head. But a person’s values cannot be identified by their skin color.
As a Sharia supporter who has expressed her to desire to inflict violence on women she disagrees with, Sarsour is much more right-wing than either Duggar or Romney. The left is engaging in the kind of bigotry it is supposed to oppose – judging people based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.
Liberal Americans come in every hue of skin and from every religious background. But we must choose our allies based on their ideas and not their identities. If liberals want to include Muslims, by all means, please do, but first ensure that those Muslims are actually liberals. Sarsour is not. She represents the minority of devout hijab-wearing conservative Muslim women in America.
How can a person who claims to be a liberal also support Sharia? Islamic law demands death for gays and lesbians, for people who leave Islam, forbids women from traveling without a male guardian’s permission. You want to know what life is like under Sharia? Look to Saudi Arabia and Iran, two of the most illiberal counties imaginable.
In the left’s zeal to support minorities, it inadvertently supports conservative religious values, but only those of one faith. Our alliances should be rooted in shared goals and values for society.
Too often, left-wing Americans make their decisions based on just doing the opposite of the right-wing. Right wing loves Christianity? We oppose it! Right wing hates Islam? We love it! This shallow reactive behaviour lacks any critical thought. As George Orwell said: “The truth becomes untruth if uttered by your enemy.” As opposed to just reacting, all Americans should take a step back and think about each situation critically. Sometimes the lunacy is glaring.
Can we imagine a liberal march that uses Mormon underwear as an icon? Or a nun’s habit? Of course not. But the Women’s March made a point of using the hijab as one of its images. That’s an example of glaring lunacy.
Walking from the religious right to the political left, I gave up the idea of judging people based on their identities. I was shocked to find that attitude thriving just as strongly on the American left as on the Islamic right. As much as I love liberal values, risking my life to live by them, I cannot abide by the identity politics that has possessed my fellow liberals.
Today, I fight back tears of joy as I watch my six-year-old daughter run to hug her teacher in the mornings. I escaped from the hate on the right and I will never join the hate on the left. My daughter will never hear words of hate from me, and she will never utter words of hate to her children. The cycle of hate ends here.
Yasmine Mohammed is a Canadian citizen of an Arab background. She has written a memoir about her journey out of Islam, ‘Some of my best friends are Jewish, and other confessions of an ex-Muslim’.
She endured decades of physical and mental torture. She was forced into a marriage with a member of Al Qaeda, after he was bailed out of prison by Osama bin Laden himself. She wore a niqab, and lived in a home/prison with paper covering all the windows. Yet, somehow, with nothing but a high school diploma and a baby in tow, she got out.
Find Yasmine on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
18 thoughts on “Unholy Alliance: Why do left-wing Americans support right-wing Muslims?”
You are an independent thinker. Try not to minimize your intelligence by identifying with any particular tribe, liberals, conservatives or…..
Bravo Yasmine Mohammed ! Excellent article.
Its a temporary alliance and the left merely sees LGBT-people, polytheists and women affected by Islam as acceptable collateral damage.
Nothing more nothing less.
Fantastic article and I feel for the troubles you have had with the modern left. The modern Progressives, the most extreme far left… aren’t really Progressive anymore… they are the Regressives. The Regressive Left (or the illiberal left, control left, or Social Justice Warriors) are a highly destructive to the left wing and to the world with the use of identity politics.
I am a left wing, Liberal man, and have been horrified by all the same things you take issue with. The term Regressive Left was created by an inspiring Muslim man named Maajid Namaz who experienced the EXACT same frustrations with the far left when he started trying to do his part to modernize Islam.
Hi Steve. Do you mean Maajid Nawaz?I don’t think he created the term ‘regressive left’ but he does use it a lot
I feel the same way….
The “Liberals” you describe are hypocrites because they are mislabeled. They do that on purpose. They’re really Neo-Marxists. The idea is to label the “other” and separate it from themselves. Then they can use violence to counteract non-violence. If the guy wearing a Trump hat is labeled a “Nazi” then it’s easy to hit him in the face with a bike lock. Most “liberals” don’t even understand that what they’re supporting.
Yasmine, you’re a libertarian, even if you don’t know it yet. Most people are. I’m glad someone is pointing out that the left has become so far left, they’re spinning in circles.
First of all, what do you mean by Linda S. supports Sharia? Has she called for its establishment? If I remember correctly, she simply praised it in a tweet or two. I have not come across her calling for the establishment Sharia anywhere. Also, why is it a surprise for her Linda S., a Muslim, to praise her religion? It is her religion after all.
As for this “As a Sharia supporter who has expressed her to desire to inflict violence on women she disagrees with.”
Did she? She simply tweeted that Qana and Ayaan deserve “an ass whooping” for what they’ve said about Islam. Is that really a massive, serious and real threat? Seeing that Qana has incited prejudice against and insulted Muslims and Ayaan having insulted Muslims many times, what do you expect Linda to say? It’s obvious that she does not get this “criticism of Islam” thing, which she probably regards as hatred, so of course she’s going to disagree with, be offended by and react negatively to them.
Linda Sarsour said ayan should have her genitals removed which is a disgusting thing to say.
No. Sarsour actually tweeted that she wished she could take Ayaan’s and Bridgette’s vaginas away from them…… if that isn’t wishing violence upon them; then I don’t know what is. she’s a dishonest and malicious person. No two ways about it.
I think a many factors play into this.
1. “My enemies enemy is my friend”. Many elements of the left view Islam as the religion of Brown people. They see attacks on Islam mainly coming from whites as some sort of racism or bigotry.
2. The left wing in the West especially the self proclaimed progressives are blinded by their own Identity politics.
One of my open-minded Muslim friends told me that Islam is a total system. It has three elements.
Religion – Some peaceful teaching
Politics – Activists and bargaining to establish their ideology
Military- Ruthless approach to kill and conversion
According to him, the mix of those elements is varied to a country to country. I think Islam is a cult and because of this nature, people can be confused. Deep-pocketed countries are funding this ideology/cult. In a democracy, politicians try to attract the voters instead of fight for the correct ideology. This can be seen in both right and left. Now, the Trojan horse in western land. Foods for thought!!
Left wing Americans need to revisit their consensus and should be cleared whom they support. Sharia loving activists are wolfs covered with sheepskin.
thank you for expressing the crushing emotional pain that is caused by these illiberal Muslims.I think there may be a unlining reason for this unholy alliance between the far left and fundamentalist Muslims.They hate Jews, the left because they fear the involvement of Jews in banking, and they would like control of the banks, so they can state control peoples finances and how they direct their lives.and the Muslims hate Jews for historical reasons and the Jewish presence in Israel stops the ultra-conservative Hamas from having complete power in the region.???
Thank you!! You simply ask what millions of thinking conservatives are asking as we shake our heads in disbelief! (To wit, many of us political “conservatives” are new conservatives. many of us fled the left, second-wave feminism, and popular liberalism as it all metamorphosed so horribly over the years! For many of us it began when the left abandoned Israel.)
Please keep speaking out! I appreciate the courage it takes you (under threat from religious Muslims)! White Westerners who say the same things are branded instantly by all government (Motion 103!), citizens, and the media as “Nazis”, “far right”, “supremacists”, and “fascists” if we say what you’re saying. At the very least the media is forced to listen to you because you have the acceptable “identity” for them to process in their indoctrinated brains.
We’re living through some very uncertain times in the West. Liberal Westerners seem quite intent on apologizing away the gains and values of a thousand years. Please keep writing and speaking.
Excellent piece, Yasmine. How your mom reacted to you hugging your teachers brought back memories of how my parents treated people who weren’t Christians. One of my few friends growing up who happened to be my best friend didn’t go to church and my parents didn’t want me around him much because he wasn’t a Christian. They probably wouldn’t have allowed me to see him on rare occasions, period, if his live-in grandma wasn’t Catholic. It’s sad that many parents who take their religion seriously seclude their kids from the outside world. Also, like you I’m disgusted by progressives defending Islam and people who hold appalling views even though I identify as a liberal who supports things such as universal healthcare, progressive taxation, and an estate tax.
This is a wonderful essay. You have much to say to the world.We need a new left as stated in the book, What’s Left? by Cohen. I hope you have a chance to read it. Also, Wilhelm Reich’s book, The Mass Psychology of Fascism is really good, showing that, If people repress their basic drives, they create authoritarian societies.The way forward has to be based on potical reform and inner development.l Deprogramming is a life-long process.
I deeply admire and respect your moral courage, Yasmine. Keep writing and advocating!