Islamic Fundamentalism And The American Right-Wing: A Love Story

If you’ve listened to Glenn Beck anytime in the past year or two (and who hasn’t?), you’ve no doubt heard him talk about the sinister alliance between three groups, American progressives, labor unions and Muslim extremists.  According to Beck, they want to collapse the current society and bring about a worldwide Islamic caliphate – a new world order dominated by Islam.

It might seem like a strange theory since these very dissimilar groups have very little in common. It’s like suggesting that the Tea Party, the Hare Krishnas, and the Shriners Club are working together to overthrow the government.

Surprisingly, I don’t believe Glenn Beck has ever offered a logical reason why American progressives and labor unions would possibly want to establish an Islamic world government.  Apparently, Beck just finds it convenient to demonize all Muslims and then link anyone he doesn’t like to these scary Muslims. This is, after all, the same tactic he uses when he compares the Democratic Party to Nazi Germany and likens President Obama to Adolph Hitler.

However, it seems to me the views of progressives and labor unions are in stark contrast to the views of most Muslims and especially to fundamentalist Muslims in particular. In fact, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the Muslim faith has far more in common with the beliefs of conservative Americans than with progressives.

Let’s compare and contrast some of the views of progressives and conservatives to Muslims.

  • Separation of Church and State. Many Muslim countries have governments based on religious law. Similarly, most U.S. conservatives also believe government should reflect religious doctrine like the Ten Commandments.  Progressives, however, believe government and religion should both be respected, but kept separate.


  • Women’s rights.  In many Muslim cultures, women have fewer rights than men and are expected to obey their husbands.  Many conservatives also believe that men should be dominant and women should obey their husbands.  Progressives tend to believe women should be equal to men both at home and in society.


  • Abortion. Fundamentalist Muslims believe it should be outlawed. So do most conservative Republicans.  Progressives believe it should be a woman’s choice.


  • Homosexuality.  Considered evil and punishable by death in some Muslim countries. Also considered evil by most conservatives who oppose equal rights for gays.  Progressives generally support gay rights including gay marriage and service in the military.


  • Multiculturalism.  Muslim extremists do not tolerate other cultures and religions very well.  American Conservatives also oppose “multiculturalism”.  Progressives are more likely to embrace the influence of different cultures.


  • Fundamentalist Muslims believe it’s important to spread their faith throughout the world. Many Christian conservatives also believe it’s their duty to convert everyone to their faith.  Progressives believe everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs


  • Death penalty.  Employed in most Muslim countries for serious crimes. Also gleefully supported by most American Conservatives. However, many progressives are more inclined to oppose the death penalty


  • In many Muslim countries, religious doctrine is taught in public schools. Many conservatives also support teaching religious beliefs in school, even to the exclusion of accepted scientific facts. Progressives, however, believe religion should be a private matter and not taught in public schools

Broadly speaking, I think these are accurate comparisons of the views of Muslims to conservatives and progressives.

While none of this is intended to suggest that American conservatives see eye to eye with the Muslim world, it’s clear that conservatives have more in common with Islam than progressives do.  I struggle to find any issue at all where progressives have much, if anything, in common with Islam.

Neither progressives nor conservatives are likely to conspire with Islamic extremists to bring about some new world order. My point is to show how laughable it is for someone like Glenn Beck to suggest there is a secret conspiracy between American progressives and Islamic extremists when progressives seem to have far greater philosophical differences with the Islamic world than conservatives do.

Yet that won’t stop Beck from portraying anything Muslim as scary or evil, and when progressives rise to the defense of Muslims, they will still be demonized as conspiring with Islam to conquer the world.

Maybe that’s the biggest similarity between American conservatives and Muslim extremists. They both tend to demonize the people they oppose. It’s never enough to simply disagree with someone; they need to generate fear and hatred for them.  It’s not enough to say they are wrong or misguided.  Rather, the targets of their criticism have to be portrayed as evil, “un-American,” or “a Great Satan”.

In that respect, Muslim extremists and hard core conservatives really do have a lot in common.