Enes Kanter Freedom struggles against hypocritical elites
It’s generally believed that the richer and more famous you are, the more power and influence you yield. Enes Kanter Freedom has proven that premise false.
For years, the NBA star has been desperately trying to draw attention to human rights abuses committed in China as well as his motherland of Turkey under the Islamist Erdogan regime. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has banned him from Turkey and is reportedly harassing his family.
Freedom himself identifies with the heterodox Gulenist movement of Turkey, an admittedly concerning and peculiar sect of Islam tied to the personality of Fethullah Gulen, who has been the subject of a number of investigations during his exile in Pennsylvania. That being said, Gulenist adherents in no way deserve the persecution they have endured at the hands of the Turkish government, which includes Erdogan’s official designation of them as a “terror” organization.
Last month, Freedom called out another Democrat, this time a Silicon Valley billionaire and part-owner of the Golden State Warriors, for dismissing human rights abuses in China. While the Celtics player may not be likely be characterized as a conservative, he is, to be sure, pro-freedom, pro-Western, and anti-Islamist (at least of the highly problematic Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and Shia Khomeinist varieties). The persecution of heterodox sects of Islam, from the Ahmadiya to the Ismailis to the Gulenists, reveals the deep-seated oppressive forces that dominate the global Islamist establishment and its autocratic facilitators that heroes such as Freedom have the courage to expose.
The answer could be found in plain view during a Lakers/Celtics post-game press conference in which LeBron James was confronted about his hypocritical ties to China that Freedom had criticized.
“He’s definitely not someone I would give my energy to,” James responded. “He’s trying to use my name to create an opportunity for himself. I definitely won’t comment too much on that.”
James’s patronization is telling. Self-serving hypocrites like him reveal the collective narcissism of the elites, already presumed to be on the right side of politics because they are towing the cultural party line. The narcissism is rancid when placed at the feet of the crimes against humanity they excuse from Xingang to Turkey.
In attacking the messenger, not the message, James is openly signaling that certain human rights issues do not garner followings based on celebrity status and that being famous doesn’t automatically lend credence to a cause being promoted. This is because the relationship by which people align themselves on popular cultural issues is a superficial one; they are not interested in the actual underlying ideology or principles at stake but in whether they can serve their narrow commercial and political interests by conforming to a view that has the presumption of a moral high ground. Virtue-signaling to movements that appear to be righteous allows them to gain cover for protecting and advancing their financial status.
This is why James does not have to address Nike’s use of Uyghur Muslims as slave labor or Turkey’s imprisonment of more journalists than any other nation. The only crimes against humanity that popular leftist culture rallies against are those not in conflict with their own interests. Picking up the issues of Uyghur slave labor will never become a cause celebre because corporate and Hollywood elites make millions off the Chinese economy and are motivated, above all, by self-preservation on the shoulders of genocidal tyrants.
Big corporations such as the NBA, the NFL, Apple, and Coca-Cola move where the market seems to give them the greatest benefit. They don’t have to support the interests of the black community; they can merely pay homage to the underlying ideology, and the masses will fail to detect the lack of evidence pointing to a heartfelt conviction.
Across the globe, dissident Muslim voices are marginalized by the bullying mobs of the red-green axis. This axis is a marriage of convenience between the dedicated liberals and illiberal Islamists, who have been successful in exploiting identity politics to further their goals. Enes Kanter Freedom, on the other hand, will have to continue to jump through hoops to get his honorable message out.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, and a former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander. Karys Rhea is a writer and researcher living in Brooklyn.