The student wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and a colorful assortment of pins and patches on his camouflage backpack calling for equality now and claiming that The future is female. The young man, by way of verbal admission and the myriad of political statements he proudly wore, was a political progressive. And indeed, a representative of a swelling population of leftists who embrace progressive principles yet see Islam as inimical to liberal values and in conflict with American identity.
The left is saturated with pundits and self-styled public intellectuals who disseminate discourses that Islam is monolithic; that Muslims must choose between liberal principles and their faith, and, echoing the college student I encountered at in March, a religion that is in need of reform.
A diverse and eclectic litany of prominent Islamophobes occupies the left. These liberal Islamophobes, like Bill Maher and Sam Harris, weaponize atheism as an ideology that not only discredits the spiritual dimensions of Islam but also demonizes it in line with longstanding orientalist, political terms. For these new atheists, Islam is illegitimate because it is a religion, but unlike other religions, is distinctly threatening because it is inherently at odds with liberal values.
Echoing Samuel P Huntington and the intellectual father of modern Islamophobia, Bernard Lewis, Harris writes: While the other major world religions have been fertile sources of intolerance, it is clear that the doctrine of Islam poses unique problems for the emergence of a global civilization.