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A new player in the culture war: the Islamo-Right

Credit: Getty

November 23, 2021 - 2:37pm

Two reports have recently been published which paint contrasting pictures of Islamism’s place in the culture war. The first, Islamism and The Left, by Policy Exchange, describes the well-known convergence of radical Leftist and Muslim activism which has surged through causes such as Palestinian liberation and Black Lives Matter. As the report acknowledges, so-called Islamo-Leftism has a long history, but has found a new lease of life in identity politics where the Left’s fervent desire to ‘represent’ minorities naturally accommodates Muslims and, to some extent, their condemnation of western imperialism and colonialism.

But the second report, Islamogram, by The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, tells another story; namely, the growing connection between Islamic extremism and the online far Right, as signified through Islamified wojak memes and other adoptions of (non-Muslim) dissident, anti-liberal subcultures amongst millennial and Gen-Zs. Not only do they share memetic templates with these subcultures — where Islam is ‘based’ and Salafis or Taliban fighters are ‘chads’ — but they also share ideological ones. Especially following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the two have converged over their mutual antipathy towards globalism, liberalism and the moral ‘degeneracy’ of the West; despite their differences, they have begun to ally in their revolts against the modern world and its dominant progressive ideologies. 

This Islamo-Rightist allegiance might at first seem far more uncanny than the Islamo-Leftist one. Not only do white nationalists make putting an end to Muslim immigration their key policy, but many subsets of the far Right are vehemently anti-religion, expressing a particular contempt towards the Abrahamic faiths which they — as per Julius Evola — consider to be ‘decadent’ and inferior to ethno-nationalist paganism (or, in other cases, flat-out rationalist atheism). That the two communities actually interact with each other in the real world is therefore unlikely; it is an allegiance that remains limited to the depths of encrypted platforms such as Telegram. 

Islamo-Leftism, on the other hand, has long pronounced itself in the public square to a much larger – and louder — degree. And yet, the Islamo-Leftist allegiance is just as riddled with incongruences. Though Islamic revolutionary movements have historically found sympathy in Marxist uprisings against the liberal capitalist order and vice versa, the philosophical and theological fissures between the two run deep. Not only did Marx oppose religion himself, but his doctrine of historical materialism struggles to accommodate the concept of Divine revelation so integral to Islam as a faith. The same is true of the most recent mutations of Leftist thought which subvert all absolute moral truths, hierarchies and gender relations, with many these being of positive or even sacred value to Muslims. 

Neither the far Right or the far Left do sufficient justice to Islam or the experiences of Muslims. So, why are both allegiances on the rise? Ultimately, there is a serious lack of genuine representation — that is, of Muslim values and not just identities — in political institutions or the public square; a predicament shared by many Christians. Both the mainstream Left and Right have largely abandoned faith, meaning those holding socially conservative religious values either have to conceal them within the secular Left or resort to the furthest reaches of the Right. 

Since, thanks to the shifting of the Overton window, defending traditional values is effectively now considered a far Right position, those wishing to do so sometimes gravitate to the actual far Right. These environments only amplify conspiratorial suspicions towards the liberal order, intensifying an us-versus-them mindset and posing real risks of separatism and violence. Like many Christians, this leaves Muslims torn between either outsourcing their social justice efforts to secular ideologies like Marxism, or taking them to extremes in the style of the far Right, the hate-filled nature of which is also at odds with both their ethics and experiences. 

We must identify, as the reports do, the risks posed when Islam enters either extreme of the culture war; but we must also recognise what this reveals about the wider predicament for religious individuals in a world where authentic representation of their values is scarce. 


Esmé Partridge is an MPhil candidate at the University of Cambridge who works at the intersection of religion, politics and culture.

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Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

As my grandfather used to say: once we start letting them in, they’ll want to change things to their way.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Or, back to your grandfather’s way.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
2 years ago

‘Ultimately, there is a serious lack of genuine representation — that is, of Muslim values and not just identities â€” in political institutions or the public square…’
By definition these would be values different to those of non-Muslims. The question then naturally asks itself, ‘Why would we want greater representation of Muslim values when we are ourselves not Muslim?’ Perhaps the author will answer, ‘Because there are many Muslims living among us’. To which the obvious reply is, ‘What on Earth were we thinking when we allowed mass immigration from Muslim lands if this required us to not only take in large numbers of Muslims but also to adapt to their values?’

Last edited 2 years ago by Keith Merrick
David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Be careful, objecting to Muslim immigration on the grounds of Muslim values (meaning as a post-Enlightenment Westerner objecting to the illiberal nature of Islamic sharia) will get you labeled “far-right” in a lot of circles (cf. Geert Wilders, pro-gay rights, classically liberal on most issues, but his vociferous objection to Muslim immigration to the Netherlands renders him the moral equivalent of a Nazi among the bien pensant.)

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

I think you’ll find that it’s not objecting to Sharia, but the assumption that there are no moderate Muslims, or that they as a group are incompatible with liberal democracy will get you labelled as far-right.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Possibly not, but here again in we have the all-encompassing ‘we’ (which barely exists any more in the US and increasingly in the UK) and ‘they’ being deployed as if Westerners were homogeneous blocks of people with identical beliefs. This is a rather ‘woke’ heresy which now seems to ge affecting the Right!

Islamic social values are of course very conservative and not at all ‘radical’. The ‘woke’ Left pupport to support Muslims as some sort of diverse and colourful brown people with quaint clothing, ie almost entirely as an identity group and not as believers in er, Islam, who take those beliefs seriously! I have met some white converts and whatever else they may be they are authentic Muslims.

So that alliance of occasional convenience is going nowhere. I can easily see that some cultural conservatives who actually believe in community, the family, dare I say it ‘patriarchy’ rather than hypocritally just using these concepts to beat the Left, might well form some sort of alliance with Muslim social thought.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
M Harries
M Harries
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

^This. ‘Muslim’ values are derived from a) the Quran, which is replete with messages treating non-followers as persona non-grata and b) abject veneration of Mohamed who was a warlord,a slave owner and a paedophile.
Yes, many others in many countries and cultures over time were also having sex with pubescent girls, but none are put on some untouchable high pedestal of morality as is Mohamed.

Last edited 2 years ago by M Harries
James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

What is the point of this article? Utter tosh!
Immigration from the Third World, particularly Muslim countries, is fundamentally incompatible with (what used to be) liberal, Western values. Period.
It is no longer useful to refer to “left” and “right,” so let’s stop. Is it really helpful to refer to Antifa, when they are fascists. As Al Murray, might say, “The clue is in the name.” It truly is, but don’t be fooled by the false flag!

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

What is the point of this article?
I guess, for me, the point of this article is:
we must also recognise what this reveals about the wider predicament for religious individuals in a world where authentic representation of their values is scarce.
The culture wars make for strange bedfellows and in the case of the Islamo-Right, such a union will likely further alienate certain elements of society against both Islam and people who hold traditional, Western values.
I would like to object to the author’s assertion that “defending traditional values is effectively now considered a far Right position,” but sadly it’s true. Yet here in the US churches and other places of worship are filled each week with people of moderate beliefs and a respect for what can be grouped under the heading of traditional values.
Our society is fractured by the extremists. There are still plenty of people of good will out there. Would that they had a voice.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Nonsense, the point is: “Not only do they share memetic templates with these subcultures — where Islam is ‘based’ and Salafis or Taliban fighters are ‘chads’ — but they also share ideological ones.”

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

She also brings out this poor straw-man and gives him a good thrashing

“but many subsets of the far Right are vehemently anti-religion, expressing a particular contempt towards the Abrahamic faiths” “consider to be ‘decadent’ and inferior to ethno-nationalist paganism”

As far as the Far Right feeling this way – the only ones I know are the Norwegian ‘Black Metal, Death Metal’ followers. Chivers, being a total Metal Head, would be the perfect person to ask about this obscure bunch.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I also thought that was a bit of a stretch. I would consider the left far more anti-religion than the right. The left haven’t aligned themselves with the religion of Islam. They have adopted Muslim causes because they are potentially disruptive of western democracy. A case of my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

I disagree, David. Surely the point of the article is that due to a Cetcil wind, Dystor’s vectored us into a 360-tarson of slow air traffic. Now we’ll maintain this Borden hold until we get the Forta Magnus clearance from Melnics (Dean Martin as pilot Captain Vernon Demerest – Airplane 1970).

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

Ah yes, I think you may well be right.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I’m an atheist. And an American. I want to keep religion out of the public debate, period. America is a laughing stock in the world with our “thoughts and prayers” after each mass shooting, mass killing. Sleepy Joe Biden’s people issued such a statement after this latest horror, where, as is statistically overwhelming true, a black criminal killed many white people….Thoughts and prayers? Deal me out.
Know who doesn’t tweet thoughts and prayers? Anthony Jeselnik. American comedian. He absolutely mocks those who say “thoughts and prayers,” as he should. He takes some flak for mocking them immediately after a tragedy, but he does it anyway. Brave guy.
If you want to believe in fairy tales of any stripe, be my guest. Do what you like in private, sing your songs, practice your rituals–just leave me alone. I’m Libertarian.
I am against all religions. Guess what: wokeness is a religion, an extreme one, but a religion. One fundamental tenet of the religion is to worship COWs (Citizens of Wakanda, I refuse to use the term P….of Col….–my term is better.
Don’t confuse people of good will with the religious. Sometimes they are the same, often not.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“I would like to object to the author’s assertion that “defending traditional values is effectively now considered a far Right position,””

She qualified that by saying ‘ seen through the Overton Window’ The Overton Window being that which can be discussed politically, and shifts about – now it is Postmodernist Identity Politics.

Your Church going Moderates are viewed through the Overton Window as far Right……, the glass in the window is exceedingly distorting…..and the view through it is completely controlled by the MSM, Social Media, Entertainment industry, Radical Teachers, and captured Politicos…. Regular people cannot alter the view through it.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

If they called themselves ‘fascists’ then the clue really would be in the name. But they don’t. They call themselves anti-fascists.
A ‘false flag’ is an event, not a misleading name.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

With respect, I disagree.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

What a curious response. You wouldn’t like to, you know, explain why you disagree? Without saying why, the comment is pointless. ‘Oh’, is the only response I can think of.

Last edited 2 years ago by Keith Merrick
David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

My standard comment about Antifa has always been: You’re wearing black shirts and using street violence against your political opponents. Are you sure you’re the anti-fascists?
It’s a throwaway line that actually points to a deeper critique of what passes for the Left these days, with its combination of identity politics, contempt for the actual working class, and Mussolini-style union of corporate and state power, not to mention black-shirted street thugs.

Howard Ahmanson
Howard Ahmanson
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

As anti-matter is a form of matter, so Anti-fascism is a form of Fascism.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

False flag stems from the days when pirates, and others, flew flags of friendly nations to mislead other ships into coming close before attacking them. So it was a false identifier (name), not an event.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
2 years ago

You can’t get any further ‘Right’ than Islam. There are Islamic sites which promote anti-Jewish cartoons, many from ME newspapers, but many other reprints from Der Sturmer. For the Left, Muslims have positioned themselves as ‘victims’, so enjoy a leg up the identity politics ladder, but, more importantly, Islam offers the Left the last best hope of destroying capitalism. It’s of no account to them that the first people up against the wall when Islam takes over are Left wing movements, and that an Islamic regime is worse in every respect than capitalist democracies. It’s the Left’s hatred of the West, which out-competed the USSR, and thus destroyed the dreams of their juvenile ideology, which drives them.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago

Very interesting, with helpful links to reports of relevance to exploring and understanding the apparent convergence of outwardly competing trends in their approach to grievance. To say such trends are mutually exclusive – just because one may wish it to be so – is folly. And that’s not a soft brush: it’s facing facts to find more effective responses.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

Drivel from start to finish.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“”For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” (a short story by J. D. Salinger).” struck me for some reason, seeing your name, and writing on this cultural war…

But this all is ridiculous. Islam is Never Left, it is always Right. Islam is entirely Morality, Duty, and observance to ‘Traditional Values’ of ‘The Book’. It says there is no secular system which has moral authority (like Communism or Socialism) and even Law is from God, and only law which is in agreement with God’s law is legitimate.

Islam and The Left is merely = the enemy of my enemy is my friend – and as the Left is the internal, and real, enemy of the West thus they have some common goals and links, so the Left think, and the Islamic use.

“Ultimately, there is a serious lack of genuine representation — that is, of Muslim values and not just identities — in political institutions or the public square;”

This is an Excellent Point. The big oneAs the modern Left has been ‘Captured’ by Neo-Marxism, Postmodernism, Critical Theory, then all is Identity Politics, and Intersectionality. Thus the Stupid Left Sheep are led to think the Oppressed Muslims are needing protection from the Oppressor Right West – and therefore will be their Allies in the struggle against Capitalism and the White Patriarchy, even though Islam is the Patriarchy X50, and really is a Feudal Social Order, the opposite of Socialism.

The Left is Lemmings milling on the cliff edge, looking longingly at the rocks and sea below, and once they destroy all behind them they will leap……but some of Western Civilization still remains, and once they finish destroying that they will be free to finish their self-genocide mission ———–> splat

With the West destroyed the Global Elite with the Communists will be free to lock the world into their Nightmare Police State for ever.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Islam is Never Left, it is always Right. Islam is entirely Morality, Duty, and observance to ‘Traditional Values’ of ‘The Book’.

Ironically, your comment above is the equivalent of a leftie looking at white people and claiming there’s no white culture other than white supremacy.

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
2 years ago

You fail to mention the more logical alliance of moderate conservatism with moderate Islam. Many Moslems are small or even big businessmen, and many in Britain live in private accommodation rather than council houses; they are natural conservatives, who only turned to Labour because of the views and reputation of some conservatives. The first Moslem Chancellor in Britain was a Conservative, and the first Moslem PM will probably be a Conservative too. Remember too the alliance in pro-life circles (only partly conservative) between Christians and Moslems…

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

Prophet Muhammed himself was a wealthy trader and his example is considered one of the most important sources of guidance for faithful Muslims.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

This was interesting to read, and I think that the author is well-reflected judging by some of the points she makes in the text. It may be too early to spot trends here, but good to look for them.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Norm Haug
Norm Haug
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

That the “Left” and Islam are intersectional partners is a marriage of convenience. Each group treats the other as useful idiots and believe they will be able to control them if/when they defeat the West.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago
Reply to  Norm Haug

A marriage of convenience already happened in Iran between the two in the run up to 1979 revolution. It didn’t end well for the lefties as you can imagine.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Howard Ahmanson
Howard Ahmanson
2 years ago

The Islamist right has long been thought to be a more extreme version of the Christian one; phrased like “Christian Taliban” abound in American comment threads. Since the coming of Trump, when the Right began to focus more on identity politics and less on moral issues, there’s been reason for Muslims to lean left. (It contributes that abortion “rights” are the only moral issue in America still being fought.)

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
2 years ago

The Overton window has been manipulated into an impossible pretzel. Time to break it.
All one has to do is speak up.