Shadi Hamid argues that the “deplorable” rhetoric against white Trump voters is counterproductive and perhaps dangerous. Progressives fail to comprehend his ecumenical streak, but it’s easy to explain: being a Sunni Muslim, he knows what a majority backlash can look like when a vengeful minority is on the ascendant.
Sunnis comprise 80% of the world’s Muslims, and they are the majority in much of the Middle East. Only Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite. The West’s strategy has long been to neutralize sect supremacy by putting the minority sect in charge of Muslim nations: Sunnis or Kurds in Iraq, Alawites in Syria, and so on. (It’s curious that the Left doesn’t champion Assad’s regime, since it’s the perfect example of a Secular Minority Government.)
Sunnis are the minority in Iraq, but they’re not the minority in the region and certainly not globally. So one can see how Sunnis being ruled by non-Sunnis in Iraq is a shitty situation for them. Nationally, Iraqi Sunnis are a dominated minority. From a regional or global perspective, however, they’re also a dominated majority. Being both a dominated majority and a dominated minority can’t be good for the psyche.
In Syria, Sunnis comprise 75% of the population and are ruled by secularizing Alawites, who comprise 13% of the population. Here, Sunnis are clearly a dominated majority.
Sunni jihadism and ISIS can thus be understood, to some extent, as a majority backlash against minority ascendancy and rule. The backlash was always bubbling beneath the surface in Syria, but it began in earnest with the placement of non-Sunnis into power in post-invasion Iraq. King Adbdullah II of Jordan understood this from the very beginning. Here’s his infamous “Shia crescent” interview from 2004:
If pro-Iran parties or politicians dominate the new Iraqi government, he said, a new “crescent” of dominant Shiite movements or governments stretching from Iran into Iraq, Syria and Lebanon could emerge, alter the traditional balance of power between the two main Islamic sects and pose new challenges to U.S. interests and allies.
Abdullah, a prominent Sunni leader, said the creation of a new Shiite crescent would particularly destabilize Gulf countries with Shiite populations. “Even Saudi Arabia is not immune from this. It would be a major problem. And then that would propel the possibility of a Shiite-Sunni conflict even more, as you’re taking it out of the borders of Iraq,” the king said.
The Middle East is often discussed, as King Abdullah discusses it above, in terms of Sunni versus Shiite Muslims, with syncretic sects caught in the crossfire. However, Sunnis far outnumber Shiites, so the recent Middle East conflagration is better understood as a case of majority backlash. Sunnis were sick and tired of being told what to do by minorities who continued to concentrate their power.
Shadi Hamid recognizes the American parallel. Rightly, he recognizes the potential hornet’s nest the Left is stirring every time it gleefully sounds the death-knell of the white Christian American. In all likelihood, they won’t go quietly into that good night if the Left continues to treat domestic politics as a zero-sum game between Whites and Everyone Else. Majorities aren’t generally fans of minority rule, as the Middle East has violently proven.