Illiberalism and Islam
Routledge Handbook of Illiberalism, 2020
15 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2020 Last revised: 1 Sep 2020
Date Written: May 28, 2020
This chapter analyzes the role of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim discourse in North American and European ‘illiberal’ parties, movements, and ideologies. Its first aim is to situate those deployments in a longer history. Occidental engagements with Islam and Muslims, including anti-Islamic tropes, long predate the emergence of liberalism, let along illiberalism. It should not be a surprise that liberalism as it emerged in the nineteenth century partook of such ideas. Contra some theorists, however, I argue that there is no strong evidence that anti-Islam was constitutive of liberal theory or early practice. Rather, it was in the second half of the twentieth century, as mass migration from Africa and Asia to Europe and North America came to be viewed through a fraught geopolitical lens, that various conflicts emerged over ‘assimilation’ and ‘integration.’ These precipitated today’s perceived (if not actual) juxtapositions between Islam and liberalism. It is out of these disjunctions that the current anti-Islamic discourse of illiberal political formations emerges. Such illiberal deployment of Islam hence reflect an extension and modification of liberal political discourse. Ironically, at the extreme, they are transformed into justifications of mass murder and violent ethnic cleansing. The history of anti-Islamic conceptions in illiberalism hence illuminates the unintended and paradoxical trajectory of political ideas.
Keywords: Islam, illiberalism, populism
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