The subject of religious discrimination often dominates national and international political discourse. Outrage has bubbled to the surface again in recent weeks, with President Xi of China facing worldwide condemnation for his regime’s persecution of Christians and Muslims.
In China, an atheist state, there has been a severe crackdown on religion. Larger “unofficial” churches have been demolished, and smaller Christian congregations are forced to provide authorities with live CCTV footage. Meanwhile, in the western province of Xinjiang, up to one million Uighur Muslims have reportedly been detained in “re-education” camps, where they are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese and renounce their faith, while facing physical and psychological torture.
All forms of religious discrimination, oppression, or persecution are undeniably abhorrent. While it is morally necessary to vocally criticize the Chinese government, many other instances of religious persecution and discrimination are not denounced to the same extent. In some cases, condemnation never comes at all.
While there are multiple reasons for such inconsistency, when it comes to American politics and the fight against religious discrimination or persecution, the battle is often fought by those who see prejudice through the lens of intersectionality. This is a form of identity politics which arranges the population into various victim groups, enforcing a hierarchy of victims and victimizers. The top of this hierarchy is reserved for the “wealthy, white male,” seen as the ultimate perennial victimizer. This ideology acts as the foundation for the progressive and radical Left, especially when it comes to discussions regarding inequality and prejudice.
The logic of intersectionality can explain the differences in the strength of condemnation. The level of outrage is measured based upon the groups the victimizers and victims belong to. As a wealthy superpower, China are safely criticized for their continued persecution of Muslims. However, disapproval of Muslim countries for similar or worse human rights abuses (often against their own Muslim citizens) is frequently lacking. Since these countries are Islamic nations, and Muslims are viewed as victims through the lens of intersectionality, criticism is often limited (or even non-existent) as it may be interpreted as criticism of Islam itself. The result is that terrible crimes against Muslims under Islamic regimes continue to occur in countries like Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, with no sign of respite.
For Christians, a similar logic applies. Intersectionality judges victimhood using a metric of “privilege,” with white Europeans being the most privileged and therefore the least victimized. With the development of western civilization and Christianity so inextricably linked, Christians share the “top spot” on the intersectional hierarchy. The result is that Christians are not seen as victims, despite Open Doors USA reporting that 215 million Christians experience high levels of persecution under communist, Islamic, or religious nationalist regimes. The majority of these instances receive very little media coverage or political condemnation.
It is undeniably vital that politicians attempt to combat the rampant oppression of Muslims and Christians in China. However, we must acknowledge the dangers of intersectionality when it comes to objectively fighting all forms of religious discrimination. For discrimination to be fought effectively, we need to reject the illogical ideology of intersectionality, which cherry-picks instances based upon a hierarchy of victimhood, and combat discrimination on all fronts – both home and abroad. We should not discriminate discrimination.