M. Junaid Levesque-Alam writes:
In their spirited assault on Islam, conservatives have seized upon one notion with particular delight: the Abrahamic faith embraced by a quarter of humanity is a “cult.”
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey popularized the claim in July when a constituent asked about the “threat that’s invading our country from Muslims”; Ramsey wondered aloud whether Islam “is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult” and later asserted that “far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion.” Soon after, some of Ramsey’s constituents set ablaze a planned mosque site near Nashville and fired shots when parishioners tried to inspect the damage.
Farther south, in Florida, Pastor Terry Jones proclaimed that Islam is not just a cult but a Satanic creation — hence his planned bonfire of Qur’ans. He is not alone among Floridians. Congressional candidate and retired Army officer Allen West announced earlier this year that Islam is “not a religion” but a “vicious enemy” intent on “infiltrating” America. Another candidate in the sunshine state, Ron McNeil, described Islam as a malicious plot to “destroy our way of life.”
And in upstate New York this August, teenagers who viewed the local mosque as a “cult house” terrorized mosque-goers by blasting a shotgun and sideswiping a parishioner.
What accounts for this renewed alacrity in attacking Islam?
Muslim paratroopers did not suffuse the skies with crescent-shaped parachutes and descend on America. Nor did Muslim terrorists unfurl prayer rugs camouflaged as conifers and seize the highways. The bleating about the Muslim “cult” was provoked by nothing more than a proposed Muslim YMCA, one which is to be headed by a State Department-sponsored Sufi imam and located no closer to Ground Zero than sundry pubs, food stands, pornography stores, and strip clubs.
To repeat the facts, however, is to miss the point. The “Islam is a cult” mantra is not an epithet: it is the axiom of a belief system that outmatches any religion in America in influence and irrationality.
Within this belief system, facts cannot weaken the pull of the idea that “whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad,’” and reason cannot compete with the coveted “habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects.”
This belief system is nationalism (distinct from patriotism), and the quoted descriptions are two symptoms of the disease as identified by George Orwell in his matchless 1945 essay on the subject.
Read the rest of Levesque-Alam’s post here.