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The leaked Supreme Court opinion draft on Roe v. Wade created an upheaval in an increasingly polarized and intense American political and social discourse. Understandably, the commentary that followed was highly emotional and incorporated yet again the necessary dose of American denialism. The Republicans were Taliban, the opinion draft was essentially sharia law, and the land of the free no longer resembled itself.
To be clear, the Taliban analogies are not necessarily racist or Islamophobic by any measure. Globally, most Muslims are not actually fond of the Talibs. They have not voted for them, year after year, to Congress or the Oval Office. These comparisons are, however, fascinating examples of American exceptionalism among even the most liberal and woke.
The Daily Show host Trevor Noah said this during his comedy segment:
“And isn’t it amazing, after all these years of the right screaming about the threats of sharia law, turns out they were just jealous?”
And here is where we delve into problematic rhetoric. On the topic of abortion in particular, sharia is by far more flexible and willing to look into the context on a case-by-case basis before a final ruling, and there are no punishments threatening the woman. Sharia law remains a synonym for extremism, despite Muslims explaining for more than two decades that it is not that simple. The ease with which Islam becomes a reference point for all that is inherently backward each time conservatives in America inflict another regression of civil liberties is telling, even when the intentions are not to “otherize” Muslims.
When people of Muslim majority countries learn about Evangelicals and conservative lawmakers, other comparisons are made. “They are like our Islamist parties,” for example, in that once they obtain power using democratic and legal means mostly, their first targets are often women and minorities.
A few years back I coined the name “Asaeb Ahl Al-Hick” for white nationalist militias, a play on the infamous, ultra-fanatic, Iraqi state-sponsored militia Asaeb Ahl Al Haq. The difference is Muslims find the similarities as evidence that all faiths, beliefs and ideologies carry fundamental, extreme ideals, and there are followers who strive to make those ideals a reality and fact for others. It is proof we are far more alike than our supposed differences.
In America, the rhetoric is the opposite. It expresses utter shock and disbelief that America, in all its greatness and glory, has adopted alien concepts that do not reflect the exceptionalism and liberty this country is defined by. American fundamentalism is just that. It is not comparable to any other because its trajectory is very specific to America only. For five decades, lobbyists and pro-life advocates have pushed to overturn Roe vs. Wade; not sharia law enthusiasts. The American political system allowed for the Supreme Court to become right-leaning; not governing rules inspired by the Taliban.
There are few things as American as the puritans who fundamentally built the United States. A fair comparison would be between them and today’s conservatives, and that should warrant concern. After all, Justice Samuel Alito invoked puritan Sir Matthew Hale, not Mullah Omar, in his opinion draft.