Not Muslim Enough? The Malcolm X Zombie Rises Again

When those on the Left, who have historically been our loudest allies against racism and bigotry, begin to perpetuate it themselves, who remains to call it out?

David Vaaknin for The Washington Post via Getty Images

LONDON — Last week, an Israeli left-wing columnist, Rogel Alpher of “an apology to my terrorist killer” infamy, wrote a column about Lucy Aharish, the first Israeli-Arab female Muslim TV anchor.

Rather than celebrate her achievement in what is undoubtedly an extremely difficult climate to work in, for she is probably slandered by both Arab and Jewish extremes as a Trojan horse and a “Zionist shill” simultaneously, Mr. Alpher chose instead to reduce this pioneering peace ambassador to … her appearance and looks.

Yes, because Lucy Aharish has committed the grave crime of forming her own opinions, instead of mimicking the views of many of her fellow Arabs towards Israel, Rogel Alpher decided to minimize Lucy’s contribution to the public good by insisting that her “tragedy” is that she “talks like Jews and looks like them.” Worse, he goes on to explain how Lucy has “no choice but to be the Arab woman who has been neutralized.” In short, Lucy Aharish’s crime is that she is not Arab enough for Rogel Alpher.

But there will be no outcry against Rogel Alpher’s racism, mysogyny and cultural bigotry, for he is of the Left. This new and deeply sinister form of bigotry is thriving right under our noses undetected. It spreads unnoticed precisely because it is hidden in plain sight. Our awareness of the history of this struggle against racism blindsides us, in particular because it emanates from those who shout the loudest that they are on “our” side, that they speak for “us.”

This is the “racism of the anti-racists,” the new Orientalism. Increasingly today, it is the defenders of everything black and brown, every Oriental and exotic religious and spiritual practice, those who have taken to portraying their cultural sophistication by being able to pronounce Eastern culinary dishes with correctly accented syllables, who are guilty of the most patronizing and debilitating form of racism and bigotry.

It matters not that these anti-racist racists think they’re doing us a favor. Cruelty perpetuated by someone with a “good conscience” or a “strong moral compass” can often be the most unrelenting, uncritical and self-righteously determined cruelty imaginable. And as Christian theocracies of old would torment and torture their flock in order to purify them before receiving God’s eternal mercy, ISIS killers are known to hug their gay victims moments before stoning them to death, in order to celebrate sending them to heaven after their atonement.

Years ago C.S. Lewis noted in his provocative collection of essays, God in the Dock, “good men (not bad men) consistently” may act “as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse…a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive…with the approval of their own conscience.”

In this current climate of violence and reciprocal violence in Israel and Palestine, did Rogel Alpher not stop to think for one moment that publicly dismissing an Israeli-Arab woman as looking and talking like “Jews,” aside from why that should even be considered an insult, endangers her? For I have no doubt he is fully aware of how Hamas deals with “traitors.”

When those on the Left, who have historically been our loudest allies against racism and bigotry, begin to perpetuate it themselves, who remains to call it out? No wonder that this new racism is not only surviving, but has free reign to be every bit as vicious, every bit as intimidating, as traditional racism—which also happens to be rising.

The reality is, ideas have no color and truth belongs to no culture, but should be the pursuit of all. The biggest impediment to the successful integration of people in any minority community is when its mainstream “allies” fetishize those practices of theirs which may hinder their social mobility the most, and tell them not only to preserve them, but enforce them on others in the name of “keeping it real, man.”

Reforming Liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims in the West have been slandered by a “not Muslim enough” phenomenon too. Recently, at a Bath University conference in the United Kingdom a left-wing academic labeled ex-Muslims as “native informants” simply because they choose to scrutinize their own cultural heritage as diligently as the academic Left has historically scrutinized its own.

There has been, in fact, a clumsy revival of labels designed to entirely remove intellectual agency from any member of a minority community who dares to think differently, to break from the in-group, and to reject the tribal nature of Regressive-Left identity politics. Insults such as “House Muslim,” with its sly allusion to the N-word, “Uncle Tom,” “Coconut,” “Sell-Out,” and “Muslim Validator” are commonly hurled at liberal Muslims today who attempt to reconcile their multiple identities with liberal universalism, without simply being angry all the time.

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These terms are racist. They imply a lack of intellectual agency; that the brown person who thinks differently is incapable of thinking for himself or herself, but instead can only mimic the thoughts of a white person. In assuming that one’s racial identity predefines how one should and can think, those on the Regressive-Left who throw these terms around are engaging in nothing but racial profiling. They hurl these insults only to censor, silence, shame and shut down debate, simply because an audacious brown person is not saying what they want her to say.

Indeed, here is the real Good Muslim/Bad Muslim game. For these anti-racist racists seek to hold out the “good Muslim” as the angry, shouting, anti-establishment and belligerent type, a bit like their pet Rottweiler. To be calm, rational and skeptical is somehow inauthentic. As if reason and inquiry is not the domain of traditional Muslim culture. Only the most divisive, militant and aggressive can ever win in this downward spiral of a “Not X Enough” game.

Much of this abusive terminology is borrowed from the late and great Malcolm X. It was Malcolm X who first popularized the phrase “House Negro” to describe the African-American slaves who lived as butlers in mansions with their masters, while those working in the fields suffered under the whip. But that was a different time, and Malcolm X was a different man.

The Regressive-Left has a tendency to hijack much of Malcolm’s life and legacy to perpetuate the worst of its own racism and bigotry. Indeed, true to form, let us remember who it was exactly who came to kill Malcolm for repudiating all of his past racism, none other than the very community activists who claimed to be defending African-Americans.

“As true as we are standing here. They’ve tried it twice in the last two weeks,” said Malcolm in one of his final interviews before his assassination. In fact, Malcolm X retracted all his past race-baiting, describing his former self—the Malcolm that used racially divisive language —as a “zombie.”

“Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant, the one who wanted to help the Muslims and the whites get together, and I told her there wasn’t a ghost of a chance and she went away crying?”


“Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I’m sorry for now. I was a zombie then… the sickness and madness of those days, I’m glad to be free of them.”

And here it would be apt to ask of those on the Regressive-Left and their angry Muslim allies, was Malcolm X, too, Not Black Enough for you?