The Decline of Islamism, and the Rise of the Muslim-American Far Left and Far Right

Nov. 28 2022

Born in St. Louis, Umar Lee (né Brett Darren Lee) converted to Islam at the age of seventeen, and was quickly drawn to its stringent Salafist form, and to Islamist political radicalism. He subsequently broke with extremism, although he remains a committed Muslim. In conversation with Dexter Van Zile, Lee discusses his own experiences—including a recent visit to Israel—and his observations about Islam in the U.S.

Islamism is no longer popular. Back in the day, it was very popular. . . . I attribute that to reality—the failure of the Arab Spring, the disaster of what happened in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Islamist politics has become so unpopular in the Muslim world that historians in 100 years are going to write that there was a 40-year period—from the mid-to-late seventies until the late 2010s—of Islamist political revival that faded away after the Arab Spring. In the U.S. we don’t see people talk about Islamist politics.

Conversion had some negative consequences [for me]—a period of extremism and Islamist politics—but it also kept me out of trouble and away from a criminal lifestyle. You have to remember that a very high percentage of guys who grew up where I did ended up addicted to drugs, or alcoholics. Many didn’t live to see forty and quite a few didn’t make it to twenty-one. For all of the problematic aspects of the Muslim experience in America, there is a track record of conversion keeping some men off the streets and clean.

On the subject of how American Muslims fit into contemporary political divides, Lee comments:

What you’re increasingly seeing in the Muslim community in America is a gender divide. You’re seeing that progressive politics [are] very popular, especially with women, especially young women. We know after 9/11 there was [a] leftward shift in the American Muslim community. . . . But you’re [now] seeing an insurgency led by men, particularly younger men, that are rejecting this progressive shift. They’re rejecting it in very harsh terms and going very far to the right. What you’re seeing in the Muslim community is—especially the young people—the left, and now this segment of the far right, are really taking up all the oxygen and moderate politics is very unpopular.

Unfortunately, there is more uniformity when it comes to attitudes toward the Jewish state:

By far, the least popular thing you can do [in the Muslim community] is support Israel. I could get on video and drink liquor [or] smoke weed and people would say, “Hey everybody, no one’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.” I could be in a [pornographic film] and people would say, “Hey, well, . . . ” But support Israel? That is the worst thing that you can do.

When it comes to Israel, everyone is still unhinged. It doesn’t matter what segment of the communities they’re in. There are very few rational people. And even the rational people I talk to, [who] agree with me in private, won’t say anything in public.

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Read more at Focus on Western Islamism

More about: American Muslims, Anti-Semitism, Islamism, U.S. Politics

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy