While liberals in India have resorted to aggressive fear-mongering over the 2019 election results, a Muslim from Bangladesh has quite precisely described the reason for the fall of Liberalism. In an article published on the Dhaka Tribune, Shafiqur Rahman writes on ‘The rock that broke liberalism’.
According to Rahman, Islam is the foremost reason for the rise in right-wing populism in major democracies across the world. In his article, he quotes a Pakistani-American writer asking a very pertinent question: “If and when modern humanism and liberalism crashes and burns, will future historians look back and say that Islam was the rock on which it first and decisively broke?”
The writer and Rahman agree that there is a myriad of other very important factors that have contributed to the fall of liberalism but contend that Islam, too, has made a great contribution. He says further about the unnamed writer, “He argued that by obdurate refusal to accept the fundamental assumptions of post-enlightenment worldview, by obstinate resistance to assimilate with the mainstream when in the minority and by dogged persistence in recreating antediluvian theocracies when in majority, Muslims not only undermined the universal validity of the whole liberal project but also sowed deep doubts about the liberal project among its previously most faithful adherents.”
“Muslim recalcitrance has hastened the delivery of the contradictions that the liberal project was pregnant with from the beginning,” says Rahman hinting towards the refusal of Muslim to assimilate with the liberal world order.
Some of Rahman’s opinions resemble that of our resident liberal thought-leaders but that’s understandable as he is a Muslim himself from a country that is quite a fundamentalist in nature. Despite displaying remarkable clarity, Rahman states, “Right-wing majoritarians everywhere are scapegoating Muslims as the principal other,” ignoring his own words previously that the Muslims themselves have refused to assimilate.
The most valuable insight from Rahman in the article comes when he says, “Stubborn defence of group identity by Muslims of the world has made upholding group identity respectable for all groups, majority or minority, powerful or weak.” He adds, “If Muslims can be unabashedly assertive about the sanctity of their religious identity and traditions, other groups can be unapologetic about their respective identities too.”
He offers another great insight when he proclaims, “Muslims cheering the probable demise of liberal world order is the height of folly.” He is correct when he says Muslims ought not to cheer for the destruction of the liberal world order. It’s hard to imagine White Nationalists treating Muslims kindly if they storm to power in wake of the rise of right-wing populism.
In the end, Rahman declares, “Abandoning universalism and embracing identitarianism is hollowing out liberalism from within. Either the principles of liberalism apply for all groups or none at all.”
It’s true that Islam has had a profound impact on the collapse of the liberal world order. While Fukuyama’s prophetic declaration of ‘End of History’ was always destined to reveal itself as infantile delusion, Muslims have precipitated the fall of liberalism greatly.
Liberalism isn’t really conducive for a cohesive social order either. It felicitates chaos while society prefers to orient itself towards order. While liberalism has succeeded in ruining much of the structures of traditional society, Muslims are one community that has refused to embrace it, thus, giving the community a competitive edge wherever they manage to secure their significant numbers.
The perceived threat posed by them has motivated other communities in the country to band together under a larger cohesive identity as well and focus on their traditions, culture and heritage with renewed vigour, consequently, leading to the demise of the liberal world order. Thus, the author is indeed accurate in his assessment of Islam’s contribution to the fall of liberalism. But he is inaccurate in his assessment that right-wing political parties are painting Muslims as the ‘principal other’, its Muslims themselves who prefer to see themselves as a separate community entirely.