In the wake of the bloodshed in Orlando, some conservatives are making the particularly vile claim that the left “chose Islam over gays,” as Breitbart put it, and therefore is somehow to blame for the loss of 49 lives on Saturday night.
This sort of rhetorical jab is why, in the hours after any mass shooting or domestic terror attack, many of us secretly hope that the perpetrator will turn out to be a Christian right-wing extremist rather than a Muslim like Omar Mateen. It makes no difference whatsoever to the victims or their relatives, but we dread the inevitable outpouring of bigotry against all Muslims that follows if the shooter is Muslim, and understand that violence by Christian or Jewish or Hindu (or whatever) extremists isn’t counted against those communities in the same way. Nobody ever feels the need to ask whether their local preacher condemns violence in the name of Christianity. It’s just assumed.
But we should stop feeling a sense of dread at news that a terrorist has a foreign-sounding name and acknowledge that Islamic terrorism is right-wing terrorism. To the extent we’re under attack, it’s not by moderate or liberal Muslims. There’s no such thing as “liberal Islamism,” as liberal Muslims don’t dream of dominating other groups. (In the United States, Muslims are more likely to identify as liberals than the population as a whole.)
The details differ, but the defining characteristic of all right-wing religionists is an abiding contempt for religious pluralism. They deny the legitimacy of other faiths. All conservative religious traditions are hostile toward gays and lesbians and those who reject traditional gender roles. Most embrace religious nationalism and reject multiculturalism. There are some exceptions, but most oppose abortion. They all want to return to an idealized vision of an earlier, simpler time. When you get down to brass tacks, they’re all right-wingers.
Thankfully, the vast majority of conservative religionists aren’t violent. That’s as true of Islamists as any other group. Writing in The Guardian, the Pakistani scholar and author Ali Eteraz argues, “It is a great fallacy to think that jihadists and Islamists are one and the same.” But, he writes, the Muslim right is an “ideological movement” that’s grounded in an inherently conservative “individualist revolution” within the Islamic world.