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There is an ideological fault line that divides the left from top to bottom. Nick Cohen, stands on one side of the split and, in an article for Standpoint, describes those who stand on the other:

  • “In human rights organisations, leftish political parties, liberal newspapers and, above all, in the universities, committed and morally earnest people would rather die than admit that radical Islam is a murderous and oppressive movement. The effect of their evasion is to promote the racism they say they oppose, while denying their supposed allies in "Muslim lands" and immigrant communities the same rights as they enjoy. Hypocrisy is too meagre a word to cover their behaviour.”

Cohen is an angry man. He has every right to be, such is the decadence of his opponents on this issue. Consider, for instance, the following statement (from a prominent leftwing academic):

  • “Attention to the plight of women in the Muslim world turns the gaze of potential critics away from the continuing inequality of women in the West.”

Whatever discrimination women still suffer in developed nations such as our own, it cannot be compared to what happens elsewhere in the world, where women and girls, in their millions, are exploited, enslaved, genitally mutilated, sold into forced marriages and murdered in so-called ‘honour’ killings. 

But, hey, never mind all that – the real issue is that there aren’t enough female bankers and the Sun still has page 3 girls!

There are two further excuses that are made for glossing over the threat posed by Islamic extremism: firstly, that even if it does exist, it is a consequence of Western imperialism; and, secondly, that any pre-occupation with the phenomenon is motivated by Islamophobia.

Cohen’s response is scathing:

  • “I have had this argument many times, and I always ask the question: ‘Who is doing the killing and where?’ There is no Western ‘imperialism’ in Iran, Nigeria, Bangladesh or the Yemen, I say. This normally slows people down, unless of course my opponents believe that the puppet-masters of Western imperialism secretly rule the world, in which case they are beyond argument.”

As for accusations of Islamophobia he has this to say:

  • “…only 15 per cent of all of the casualties caused by al-Qaeda between 2004 and 2008 were Westerners. The main target of Muslim extremism is Muslims… 
  • “In Mali, to take the latest example, the jihadist group Ansar Dine took control of the north of the country and sacked the libraries and mosques of Timbuktu — a truly ‘Islamophobic’ crime, although you will never hear it described as such.”

What can possibly explain the indulgence that so many secular leftists display towards reactionary religious fanaticism? Nick Cohen's theory is as follows:

  • “On the Left, radical Islam has taken the place once filled by socialism. As I said in my book What's Left?, when the dreams of Karl Marx died, many leftists concluded that any enemy of the West was better than none. It did not matter that the most violent enemies of the West were against everything leftists supported. They were also against America and that was all that mattered.”

This is surely part of the explanation, but there’s something else. The extreme left, once in the vanguard of modernism, is now a predominantly post-modern movement. The old idea of a universal socialist world order has been discarded, replaced by a radically self-centred leftism, in which the only revolution that matters is the revolution that matters to me, me, me.

As a political philosophy it is probably less dangerous than its modernist predecessor, but only because it is so pathetic.

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