Alongside colonialism, imperialism, and nation-building, “cancel culture” is the latest of toxic Western ideas to be foisted upon the Middle East. This past week, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad was the latest victim of the West’s cancel culture, as she was disinvited from a book event by Canada’s Toronto District School Board. This may sound trivial, but it’s a big deal.
Murad is a member of Iraq’s Yazidi ethno-religious minority. She was kidnapped at age 19 by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014. ISIS, at the ascendancy of its power, pillaged, executed, and sexually exploited locals with reckless abandon. In just her village, some 600 innocents – including her mother and six of her brothers – were summarily executed. Murad was taken to be one of 7,000 Yazidi women and girls enslaved.
Her first attempt at freedom resulted in gang rape by the savage jihadists. Her powerful story of successful escape and survival lent a voice to the world’s voiceless victims of human trafficking and exploitation – and led her to become the first UN goodwill ambassador on the issue. Murad was also awarded the Sakharov Prize and the Clinton Global Citizen Award, among other prestigious distinctions.
The rise of cancel culture sweeping Western politics accelerates to the fore, a leading issue at the center of an increasing sociopolitical divide about the freedom and limits of self-expression. To break down the term for those in Israel and abroad: if you are (or ever were) afoul of an ever-shifting cultural sensitivity toward acceptable expression or behavior, you will be canceled from the public sphere.
Cancel culture is affecting pop culture icons and historical legends, dead or alive: African American comedian Dave Chappelle was canceled for a Netflix monologue containing a deemed slight of the transgender community.
A statue of American founding father president Thomas Jefferson was recently toppled, after 187 years in New York’s City Hall, for his past ownership of slaves. And in the most infamous case, former president Donald Trump was banished from social media for perceived incitement and general animus.