Empire of Liberty

“Freedom isn’t free.” Therefore, preserving freedom requires carving out freedom and space for oneself within the public discourse and public sphere of one’s society. If one does not carve out freedom and space for oneself within the public discourse and public sphere, one may end up losing both freedom and space. Although liberal discourse and the modern mind are highly claustrophobic, restrictive, and skeptical of any discourse or view that exceeds its confines, limitations, and red lines, engaging with the liberal mind and with modern discourse is necessary if there is any hope for change and reform in a society.

            As the African-American writer James Baldwin wrote, the liberal and modern mind are part of a historical process that it does not fully understand, and can only be freed once they are brought to understand this process. Once the modern mind is freed and liberated by understanding the confines and limitations of its own discourse, the rest of the world in turn becomes free and liberated. Thus, an analysis and critique of liberal discourse and modernity is not intended to castigate or harass anyone. Rather, an analysis and critique of liberal discourse and modernity is intended to shed light on a historical process which in turn prompts certain changes and reforms, and will perhaps preserve the freedoms and the space for everyone within the public sphere that liberal society claims it cherishes and values.

            Whether liberal or populist discourse is more dangerous for ethnic and religious minorities in Western societies is an ongoing debate. Perhaps the dangers were greater for Muslims and other religious minorities when neocons were storming mosques and arbitrarily arresting people for their political and religious views in the early 21st century, and in turn planting the seeds for an Orwellian state that replaces freedom of thought with censorship and fear. As Orwell himself said, the only free place in this type of political and social environment are the few cubic inches in your skull.

            When Trump announced that he would be considering the creation of a ‘Muslim Database’ in the United States during his presidential campaign, Trump’s approach towards ethnic and religious minorities such as Middle Easterners and Muslims was merely a brute and crude form of his neocon forerunners. As mentioned before, for Middle Easterners and Muslims, Trump was the enemy that stabbed from the front, whereas the liberals and modernists that preceded him were the enemy that stabbed from the back.

Aside from exclusion and shutting Middle Easterners and Muslims out of the public discourse and public sphere, the Western approach towards ethnic and religious minorities such as Middle Easterners and Muslims in their societies – who were initially brought for cheap labor and good food – is an approach that is now ambivalent and confused. Much of the ambivalence and confusion comes from the limits of assimilation and integration. Muslims cannot fully adopt the cultural and religious characteristics of Westerners because of what Bertrand Russell called “pure monotheism” or “strict monotheism.” Thus, Muslims in the West are largely living in a state which Hannah Arendt labeled as “voluntary separatism.” Although many in Western society fear that dialogue and engagement with ethnic and religious minorities will lead to “replacement,” the cost of self-implosion absent of dialogue and engagement is perhaps higher.

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