Across the democratic world — the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and India — identity politics is reshaping electoral contests as cultural nationalists push back against perceived excesses of social progressives. Because of the lazy abandon with which they have been used as tools for silencing dissent and stifling policy debate, charges of Islamophobia and homophobia have lost some of their stigma. The intellectual, cultural and political elites have underestimated people's ability to cut through the sophistry of the discourse to the underlying double standards and hypocrisy. Yet liberals refuse to accept any responsibility for the perverse consequence of the rise of the populist right.

On May 18, the proudly Pentecostal Christian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was unexpectedly returned to power in Australia. On May 23, the proudly Hindu Narendra Modi was returned to power in India with an increased majority that exceeded most expectations. After the elections, while Australian Labor Party parliamentarians acknowledged that a swing against them in crucial faith-based communities had contributed to their defeat, Modi noted that "secularism" had lost electoral appeal.

A human interest story about one individual can crystallize growing disquiet about the direction of society and politics. In India the long march to today's political dominance by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was boosted in 1985 with the landmark Shah Bano case.