From courage to capitulation.
There is a strong parallel between the evolution of Sinéad O’Connor’s religious views and the degeneration of the modern political left in its attitude towards religion.
Sommaire en français Il existe un fort parallèle entre l’évolution des opinions religieuses de Sinéad O’Connor et la dégénérescence de la gauche politique moderne quant à son attitude à l’égard de la religion.
On the 3rd of October 1992, Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live and, at the end of her performance, scandalized both the show’s producers and its studio audience by tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II to protest child abuse in the Catholic Church. O’Connor was vilified by many, but her gesture proved to be completely justified by what we now know about sex abuse perpetrated by so many Catholic priests. Her protest was also an act of enormous courage. A quarter-century later, in September of 2018, journalist Niall O’Dowd asked Do we owe Sinéad O’Connor an apology for speaking the truth about church child abuse? and journalist Kerry O’Shea reported that Atheists think Sinead O’Connor is owed an apology, and then some.
Seven years after the SNL incident, O’Connor was ordained a priest in a Church in Lourdes, France, which had defected from the Catholic Church (which of course did not recognize the ordination). Then, in September of 2018, she announced her conversion to Islam, stating that it was “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey.” She subsequently announced that she won’t associate with white people, whom she apparently finds “disgusting.” Referring to non-Muslims as “white” is bizarre, and the intensity of her hostility was enough to attract criticism from some fellow Muslims, to their credit.
I consider these two events in O’Connor’s life to be a fitting metaphor for the degeneration of what is left of the political left. A critical approach to religion is a major and standard aspect of left-wing politics, inspired by Enlightenment principles. Karl Marx is probably the most famous name associated with left-wing criticism of religion, but he was certainly not alone in observing that belief in a fictional sky-cop and an afterlife—where rewards and punishments will be meted out—is one of the most effective scams used by the dominant classes to convince the poor and the persecuted to accept their lot. It should also not be forgotten that Marx, even as he denounced the “opiate of the masses” in that famous quote from the introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, also showed a great deal of compassion for the plight of the victims of this scam.
And yet, in the XXIst century, much of the political left, if it can still be called “left,” has abandoned that approach and has even embraced religion, or at least some religions, especially one in particular (guess which one!). The reasons for this are complex, and I have discussed them in previous blogs such as The Identitarian Left. Suffice it to say that, in the name of minority rights, the current left, or at least part of it, shows a total lack of discernment by classifying very different minorities as worthy of defense (while being selective about which minorities make the cut).
Thus, we have the ridiculous spectacle of so-called progressives (who in reality are reactionary and regressive) supporting the “right” of fundamentalist Muslim women to wear the hijab or even the niqab (which covers the entire face except for a narrow slit for the eyes) anywhere and everywhere, even during a formal citizenship ceremony! We see a campaign, held annually on February 1st, to promote the hijab, as if it were a symbol of freedom, when in reality it is a flag of political Islam and a symbol of the enslavement of women. As Djemila Benhabib observes, “Pro-hijab activists […] try to convince us that the hijab is just so TOTALLY cool! What courage does it take to wear a hijab under the protective dome of Western democracies[…]? The truth is, pro-hijab activists risk nothing. They are protected by laws from which they benefit greatly, but without ever contributing to their advancement.” Thus the need for the #NoHijabDay, #FreeFromHijab campaign to counter this pro-hijab folly.
We see a similar degeneration in the behaviour of Sinéad O’Connor. From being a courageous critic of religious obscurantism and misogyny (in the form of Catholic sexual abuse of children and women) by the Roman Catholic Church, O’Connor has become an apologist for the most misogynistic major religion on earth.
But arguably the worst aspect of O’Connor’s descent into obscurantism, besides her denigration of non-Muslims, is her reference to them as being “white.” The racialization of religious affiliation, which many on the so-called left also do regularly, is completely unacceptable. Race involves innate and immutable attributes of the individual, whereas a religion is an ideology and a belief system which the individual can adopt or reject at will. O’Connor’s conversion to Islam does not make her any less white, obviously! To conflate race and religion is to essentialize religious affiliation and rob believers—especially children born into a religion through no choice of their own—of their freedom of conscience. This ploy is especially harmful in the case of Islam because of that religion’s taboo on apostasy.
Two dirty tricks which are favourite strategies of Islamists and their de facto allies are:
- specious accusations of being right-wing or bigoted; and
- obfuscation, by conflating race and religion.
The first strategy is particularly ironic and hypocritical, given that political Islam is itself an extreme right-wing ideology. We have a duty to criticize it assiduously and with determination. The purpose of this trick is censorship: whenever anyone dares to criticize Islam or Islamism on social media for example, someone spews venom in an attempt to bully them into silence. In the long term this will not work, but in the short term it succeeds in poisoning the necessary debate about Islam.
The second dirty trick is even worse, because it essentializes religious belief as if it were immutable. “Once a Muslim, always a Muslim” could be the slogan of this strategy. Given the Islamic condemnation of apostasy—punishable by prison or even death in several countries—such conflation is a betrayal of those unfortunate enough to be born into that religion, a denial of their freedom of conscience. Anyone who confuses race with religion lacks the competence to discuss either.
Sinéad O’Connor is a tragic figure. Her comment about non-Muslim’s as “white” is an endorsement of Islamists’ dishonest strategy of racializing religion. But let us not forget her courageous denunciation of Pope John-Paul II back in the early 1990’s.
Next blog: Support