It is no secret that the Enlightenment shaped Western civilization as we know it today. Although philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment did not share a universal definition for the term, they shared a common goal of advocating individual sovereignty. “Sapere aude! [Dare to be wise!] Have courage to use your own understanding!” is what Immanuel Kant referred to as “the motto of the enlightenment.”
The Age of Enlightenment is responsible for the separation of church and state, for placing the individual above all else, and, ultimately, for free speech—both for those we align ourselves with and those whose ideas we despise. It is why we have the ability to lead our lives however we see fit today. It is what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees. It was what the political left had always stood for, at least until very recently.
The modern left has let go of Enlightenment values. They divorced individuals, and married minority groups they felt were systematically oppressed and needed representation. By doing so, though with good intentions, they betrayed individuals in general, but, most importantly, individuals who needed them most: dissenting individuals within the newlywed minority groups, the sub-groups, or the “minorities within the minorities,” as Maajid Nawaz refers to them.
Of all the ideologies the left has aligned itself with through minority representation, I find the strangest of all to be Islam. The left’s alliance with Islam is unique, not only because Islam is at odds with Enlightenment values, as most collectivist systems are, but mainly because Islam is at odds with rights the left pride themselves in protecting.
Ex-Muslims, LGBT Muslims, and independent, dissenting Muslim women have always had to fear for their lives, and they continue to do so today in Muslim-majority countries. It is extremely strange that the same left that used to defend human rights worldwide somehow decided to align itself with Islam, only to help further endanger the lives of dissenting individuals within the Muslim community, not only in Muslim-majority countries, but even here in the West.
Isn’t it a shame that Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) have to go through a rigorous screening process to admit potential members? Isn’t it a shame that we have to hold secret meetings here in the West? Isn’t it a shame that here in America, Nesreen Irsan had to run away from her family, as an adult, to lead her life the way she saw fit, only to have her Islamist father cold-bloodedly murder her husband and her best friend?
The message I am trying to convey here is not about waging war against Islam. It is rather about going back to the basics of Enlightenment values, and to set the individual above all else. It is about pushing back against granting Islam immunity from criticism.
We dissenting individuals deserve to be able to lead our lives however we see fit, as the Bill of Rights guarantees us here in the United States. We deserve to be able to come out to the public and have our voices heard without fear of consequences. All we ask of the left is to take a serious look in the mirror and to ask what they can do to help empower us as individuals, or at least stay out of our way, instead of hindering our progress as they currently do.