Sunday, 27 December 2015


Muslims aren't actually this scary.

Look, I get it: Islam and Western values do not mix. I'm also of the opinion that Muslims – along with other non-Western peoples – should mostly reside in their countries of origin. Now, with that out of the way, can people please put an end to this fatuous fixation with the evils of Sharia? Apparently they can't, if this embarrassing story from Virginia – where schools were shut down following an Arabic calligraphy lesson – is any indication. If only these hysterical parents could devote half as much energy to resisting multiculturalism, feminism, and other manifestations of modern liberalism.

But of course, they can't, and that's where Muslim bashing comes in. I have argued before that anti-Muslim sentiment is little more than avoidance and misdirected anger. White Americans are clearly upset about their declining status, pessimistic about the US's future, and uneasy about changing demographics. Unfortunately, since white identity has been rendered so taboo, white conservatives can't take that extra step and unapologetically promote their group interests. Instead, they're stuck attacking safe targets like Muslims, who represent a tiny – and ultimately powerless – fraction of the unwelcome change that's bringing about their displacement.

What makes the Republican primary so interesting is that Donald Trump has taken that extra step and is blatantly appealing to white America's nationalistic impulses. Due to the chasm separating the Republican donor class from the party's rank-and-file – as documented by the otherwise odious David Frum – presidential candidates who aren't The Donald have to contend with quite the conundrum; they have to appeal to conservative white Americans' populist sentiments while remaining respectable enough to enjoy access to Sheldon Adelson's coffers.

Sure, demonize Islam all you want. Just give me my tax breaks and cheap Mexican workers.
This is what makes Muslims a godsend for the GOP establishment. The likes of Adelson – along with wealthy elites of all stripes – tend to be hostile towards white populism. They want more immigration, more cheap labor, and the maintenance of a status quo that's considerably enriched them; the last thing they want is social upheaval. However, so long as their power and prestige are assured, they're fine with tossing the white masses a nationalistic bone in the form of Islamophobia – at least in Adelson's case. That's why Republican politicians try to earn their patriotic pass by acting tough when it comes to Muslims, but do little to address middle white America's most pressing concerns: dwindling numbers, economic distress, and waning cultural influence. The prophet Muhammad and chauvinistic verses from the Quran have nothing to do with beleaguered white men killing themselves or low white birthrates.

Of course, I don't expect Republican elites to fight for white interests or embrace genuine populism anytime soon. However, due to the threat that Donald Trump poses to Conservatism Inc, GOP elites are cognizant of the need to mollify disgruntled white people. While they continue to shill for corporate America, they'll let the white masses eat Islamophobia by throwing some rhetorical scraps their way. We can only hope that white conservatives refuse to be placated by these empty appeals to a much needed nationalism.

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