A Turkish friend of mine argues, sometimes, that Americans just can't understand that the same Islam we encounter as a persecuted minority in our country is a very different animal in her homeland where it is the majority. For her, and she is far more anti-Islam than any American conservative I know, Ataturk's mistake lay in not finishing the job. The Turkey she grew up in, as a member of the educated and secular elite, has been washed away by the current regime.
This failure of imagination creates a kind of contradiction in the contemporary progressive movement. They have come to see themselves as the heroes of a story about America in which the forces of oppression of minorities have been resisted by a few brave people of good will. As heirs to these few brave people of good will, they inherit a project of moving America away from irrational prejudice against those who are different, and toward a future in which all are treated as genuine equals. This is what they mean when they speak of 'the arc of history,' citing Dr. King, and for many of them it is not a poetic metaphor. It's an article of faith that history really is moving this way, and they are really its heroes.
So, the contradiction my friend is trying to draw: On the one hand, Muslims (here) are a minority exposed to at least sometimes irrational prejudices. On the other hand, Muslims in places like Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and so forth are the major violators of minority rights. To support Islam is, my friend believes, to lay the groundwork for future violations here too as Muslims become stronger and more numerous. Thus, in defending minorities they strengthen the chief enemy of minorities, because it is -- here, for now -- also a minority.
I would like to believe that this is an overstatement, although she has drawn out the contradiction nicely. Certainly I am ready to support any Muslims who are interested in reforming their faith so that this future conflict might be avoided. There are a few different ways in which this might happen, and none of them are at all easy. I'm not under any illusions about how difficult that will be. The theology and history are all against them, as well as what have so far been the best minds of the whole history of their faith. Their task must appear as impossible to us as the task of winning freedom of conscience must have appeared in Christian nations before the 30 Years War. Yet that happened, of course.
In any case, here's another author who makes a very similar argument. She is an atheist, pro-choice, and apparently feminist. She's trying to frame roughly the same point.
It's a good point.