First of all, let me start off by saying that this article is not a rant against the West or Western civilization. I am a product of the West. I love KFC, value my ‘human rights’ and sit eagerly every Saturday evening to watch Game of Thrones. This is a rant against a certain section of ‘liberals’, both from the West and the East, who have subconsciously evolved a whole new political and social ideology, Liberal Fascism and in the process, have undermined the very tenets of Liberalism.
I am a Libertarian at heart and do intrinsically value the individual’s right to choice and other related human rights. But I understand and accept that these rights are in no way ‘universal’ and it is not necessary that all the cultures and people in the world accept these ‘rights’, many of which are alien to them, as ‘universal’ rights. These are not rights that are stamped on a piece of paper and hung around our necks as soon as we are born. They are rights that over decades of negotiation, we reached a consensus on. Do I believe that people must be made aware of these rights? Yes I do. But what I don’t believe in is that these people must be forced to accept these rights. They must be allowed to choose whether they want these rights or not. A true Liberal, I believe, must accept another person’s right to choose, even if that choice entails taking a path that one considers to be wrong, as long as the person making the choice has made an informed decision. Take the case of the Burqa. Many ‘liberal’ activists (quite a few of my friends included) condemn the burqa and see it as a form of patriarchal dominance of women (which is mostly true). But what I also know is that quite a few women who do wear the burqa, make a conscious choice to do so, and for such women, the so called ‘liberal’ women who may be ready to walk on a beach in a bikini are pandering to a patriarchal fantasy (which again I believe to be true). It is also thus not a clear cut question of right and wrong.
Different social customs and phenomena evolve out of different social contexts. And for someone not within a particular social context, it becomes nearly impossible to call a particular social custom as right or wrong (in India, with its infinite number of communities and social customs, one experiences this on a daily basis). It is, I believe, for the people within a particular social context to take a call on whether they want to live the way they have or not. Thus, the Arab Spring is good but Operation Iraqi Freedom is bad. The same argument also goes for democracy. I agree that democracy is one of the better forms of government in the world today, but I also understand that my neighbour need not agree with me. All I can do is make the argument for democracy and let him choose, not force him to accept it.
But here is my biggest problem with these ‘liberals’. If you do not accept what they have to say or make an argument against a flawed assumption of theirs, you are branded an ‘apologist’ or a ‘fascist’. I have raised this point in the context of a debate I had recently with a friend of mine (a ‘liberal’) on Islam and Islamic terrorism. He made the logical fallacy of taking the doctrine of an extremist Islamic ideology and extending it to the entire religion. My argument was that the underlying doctrines of the Wahabbis (who unfortunately are the most well known sect of Islam thanks to Saudi Arabia) are radically different from how Islam is practiced across much of the world, where it is closer to the Sufi strain, and has none of the violent radicalism of the Wahabbis. And that many of the ills of Islam (Wahabbi), such as homophobia, are not unique to Islam but are prevalent across all cultures around the world. The end result? I am now an apologist and an Islamic fascist sympathizer. This is possibly one of the most illiberal arguments I have ever heard.
Liberalism has led to dictatorships, liberalism has led to the overthrow of democratic governments. But this form of liberalism is very different from what I think liberalism really should entail. It is a matter of choice and trying to understand another culture without trying to make judgment calls, especially when one is not from that culture. If however, people continue professing the form of liberalism as my friend does, then that ideology is not liberalism, it is liberal fascism.
(And yes, the picture above is taken from the cover page of Jonah Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism.)
(Shashank Reddy is a IInd year student in the National Law School of India University, Bangalore and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)