For months, protesters have arrived in droves to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which members of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes have declared threatens their water supply. Then-president Obama eventually backed down, halting the construction and earning praise from a host of activist groups. But President Trump recently signed an executive order demanding renewal of the project, sparking widespread ire from the Left.
In the last months of the 2016 campaign, Standing Rock became an emotionally charged social issue, thanks to a large and motivated progressive social media presence. The cause won the sympathy of a vast array of groups, from the old Occupy Wall Street coalition to the colloquially coined “Social Justice Warriors” to self-proclaimed environmentalists and celebrities. Even veterans self-deployed at the tail-end of the controversy.
In ironic ways, Standing Rock united America. Positioned as a moral issue that merged land rights with environmental activism, Standing Rock captured the collective imagination of America’s varied activist groups.
Islamists Piggyback on the Left’s ‘Direct Action’
Since they are far better organized and more comfortable with “direct action” than conservatives are, Islamists seized the opportunity Standing Rock presented to elevate their platform. Once Standing Rock gained national attention, various chapters and supporters of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations joined the battle.
CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad, a man notorious for using language that reveals the group’s radical interests, exploited Standing Rock to advance his own group’s interests, hoping to draw similarities for activists between the Native American and Palestinian causes. “American Muslims will continue to stand in solidarity with Native Americans by respecting their culture, heritage and lands,” he said. “We urge President-elect Trump to abide by this decision when he takes office.”
Despite the all-too-cooing rhetoric of respect, Islamist public relations operators like Awad are less concerned about Native American culture, heritage, and lands and more focused upon leveraging a political victory towards the Islamist agenda, which includes the Palestinian cause. Awad’s career history is a testament to his capacity for embracing hidden agendas: prior to founding CAIR in 1994, he handled media relations for current Hamas political director Mousa Abu Marzouk’s Islamic Association for Palestine.
Starting with defining CAIR as a “civil rights” group in the mold of the mobbed-up Italian-American Civil Rights League, Awad revealed his own understanding of the art of political persuasion in America, a tactic fellow Islamists have continued to exercise in the West. “If you want to persuade people to make a deal with you,” wrote professors Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg in the New York Times recently, “You have focus on what they value, not what you do.”
To Islamists, pervasively cleaving themselves to the Native American cause could unite protesters against each other’s perceived oppressor. Indeed, Islamists rallied around Standing Rock in solidarity with the Water Protectors, in a move regarded as part of a larger national 2016 strategy. That strategy sought alliances with socialist leftist groups such as Black Lives Matter. At Standing Rock, Awad and other Islamist activists made certain the Palestinian flag and the keffiyeh scarf were popular accessories, and distributed “Pray for Aleppo” signs.
The Islamist strategy of hiding pernicious causes behind supposedly benign banners mirrors Van Jones’ inflated concept of a “Love Army,” in which every other sentence he spews is ironically rich with division. At the most recent Muslim Public Affairs Council conference, Jones said, “American Muslims have been chosen to save a great nation and a great religion at the same time.”
Maybe Jones is unaware that this great religion allowed for race-based slavery and handsomely profited from the Arab slave trade. In fact, racist attitudes from Eastern and Arab Muslims against African Muslims are a problem at least as severe as racism in modern America.
Alliances as a Form of Entrenchment
Other lessons in civil disobedience and coalition building to advance the Islamist cause include leveraging allies via the weaponizing “privileged white hippies” who will gleefully stand in solidarity on the front lines; overwhelming the opposition with numbers and noise; and, most importantly, defiantly seeking arrest with a desire stronger than Muslims from socially conservative backgrounds might have. For both Standing Rock activists and Islamists, such shocking drivel demonstrates the hypocrisy behind their cries of racism. Islamists strategically harvest the political clout of the very group they seek eventually to demonize.
MPower Change, a newly-formed Muslim political group, also tried to take advantage of Standing Rock. As may be evident from its name, MPower Change presents Islamists in the context of progressive rhetoric. The group, run by Brooklyn-based anti-Israel and pro-sharia activist Linda Sarsour, produced a video of support, which linked the elemental spirituality of Standing Rock with passages from the Quran in an attempt to marry Native Americans and mainstream Muslims through a shared progressive value system.
But this shared progressive value system is really about labeling those they both hate. Leftist activists and Islamists hurl labels at opponents in a manner reminiscent of a game of darts—with a tactic that truly cheapens words, Leftists adhere to the notion that the more they can toss at their target, the better the chance that a derogatory slur will stick.
Despite Sunni groups like MPower Change entering the self-righteous fray, it is primarily Islam’s mystical Sufi sect that most resembles Native American philosophy. Both connect man to the divine through nature. For all its mystical interpretations, Sufism is rejected by most mainstream Muslims, especially Sunnis, a rejection reciprocated by most Sufis today who reject Islamism’s totalitarianism as a ungodly violation of free will.
Of course, an authentic discussion of Islam as a comparative system of belief and law isn’t what Islamists seek. Indeed, they bristle at being challenged about foundational texts and the rather common beliefs of Muslims around the world that correspond with mainstream Islamic doctrine.
As many have aptly pointed out, it is necessary to ignore the obvious rhetorical contradictions in the patchwork of alliances between the far-left and Islamists. But despite conflicts on every social value progressives claim to cherish, the alliance with Islamists or orthodox anti-progressive Muslims is quite real.
How Binary Narratives Damage Thinking
What unites these two seemingly antithetical movements is their shared desire to accumulate power and to topple a shared enemy. Leftists and Islamists bolster each other’s causes politically in coalition against what the Ayatollah Khomeini once referred to (in another context) as the “Great Satan” and the “Little Satan”—or in simpler terms, what conservatives understand to be the America of the Founding and the Jewish state, respectively.
This same rhetoric was channeled by New York University and New York Police Department Chaplain Khalid Latif during an Islamic Center of New York University live-streamed prayer for Syria held upon the news that Aleppo had fallen to the Syrian army. Latif spoke of oppression, sacred spaces, prayers, and activism. But he also labeled the opposition as being defined by greed, racism, hatred, bigotry, and tyranny—words wholly befitting a radical left Standing Rock activist. His words echoed the frequent and baseless criticisms the Left hurls at Republicans, not at Bashar al-Assad.
But such is the subversive nature of binary thinking, which does not aim to capture the shades of complexity within the American social or political landscape but instead seeks to gather multiple opposition groups under one banner, irrespective of gaping disparities between the causes.
Binary thinking is not capable of being truthful because it is a form of reductionism, which lends itself neatly to the purposes of propaganda.
In short, it is mere rhetoric, reliant upon one’s capacity to believe that one’s particular cause is guided by a higher moral compass, an acceptance that inevitably and eventually results in dehumanizing the opposition. The reigning narrative launched against America today is designed to undermine its very history, potential, and legitimacy on the global stage. To achieve that, one must culturally and politically annihilate one’s enemies. Since both Islamists and leftists lost the political war in 2016, they are moving to a new front.