Home Deliberation A Response to Jordan Peterson’s ‘Message to Muslims’

A Response to Jordan Peterson’s ‘Message to Muslims’

Howbeit, a few harangues in, I saw the profound thinker Peterson was, as he juggled deftly between recondite subjects that demanded a certain depth of understanding. Yet, one of the most impressive attributes the man exhibits is the ability to say, “I do not know. This reflects his aversion to mendacity, lest it gets in the way of a fruitful discussion in the search for objective truth. 

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Very few in modern history have dared to successfully broach upon the topic of coadunation amidst Abrahamic faiths; and fewer yet have been recognized to do so. The more I roved the innards of YouTube discourses on the topic, the more I realised that attaining concordia discords within these faiths on a theological plane is an Augean task. Desultory as my search was, I still landed on the doorstep of one Dr Jordan Peterson — a Canadian clinical psychologist who in recent times shot to fame for his disputatious views on controversial topics concerning the left wing. The New York Times calls him “Custodian of the Patriarchy,” while The Guardian cleped him “dangerous.”

The professor came into limelight when he confronted Channel 4 news anchor Cathy Newman’s trenchant questions about his then-released best-seller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The interview was lauded widely among the right wing and right-leaning groups, for it served a great refresher in fem-centric nations that preached half-baked, lofty ideologies; and more so because Peterson blazed through the volley of questions that any speaker hadn’t dared to. After his ascension to fame, Peterson has appeared to indefatigably command a large audience consisting primarily of “lost, aberrant men” in need of a spiritual awakening. 

Prima facie, Dr Peterson appeared to me as an active provocateur who I’d associate with the likes of far-right conservatives like Steven Crowder. Howbeit, a few harangues in, I saw the profound thinker Peterson was, as he juggled deftly between recondite subjects that demanded a certain depth of understanding. Yet, one of the most impressive attributes the man exhibits is the ability to say, “I do not know”. This reflects his aversion to mendacity, lest it gets in the way of a fruitful discussion in the search for objective truth. 

Dr Jordan Peterson: ‘Anti-Islam shirt’ behind fellowship U-turn – BBC News

As one of the many Muslims who enjoys listening to Peterson, I adverted to the latest clip he released, entitled “Message to Muslims”. I’m no “Jordanetic” or a close acolyte, but I — like many Muslims — was looking forward to a prudent conclusion out of his meanderings with at least three eminent Islamic scholars — Mohammed Hijab, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, and Mustafa Akyol. After watching the clip, what shocked me more was how the Muslim viewers regarded Peterson’s message with such deference, as though it were the presidential address and the hilt of Islam’s future lay in the hands of the doctor’s promulgation. Alas, time and again, we disremember that Peterson is fallible like every human, and more importantly, someone who thinks of himself to be so.

Where It All Started

Dr Peterson has always been utterly vocal about his antipodean stances on leftist ideologies. His tenacity at poking at the left-wing hornet’s nest every now and then is as effective as the determination of the LGBTQAI+ brigade is in claiming the entire alphabet for themselves — ever growing. The noetic thought process he employs to refute against decadent ideas resonates with a lot of Muslims, awarding him the huge Muslim following in the first place. 

The painfully brusque 7-minute address starts with Peterson expressing gratification over the Muslim following he’s amassed over the years. He then segues to mentioning “The Abraham Accords,” to make it seem apodictic that there is absolute peace in the Middle East. The Abraham Accords was Trump’s gift to Israel that purportedly “normalised” relations between Israel and two Arab countries — United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — even though the latter have never waged a war against Israel. 

However, the doctor falls short of realising how dangerous it is to so facilely hinge onto a veritable political agenda i.e., Abraham Accords, as justification for the purported peace the Middle East has attained. If there was any peace attained at all, then it was reserved to the four beneficiaries of this coalition

As I continue watching in growing puzzlement, I take note of the doctor’s distinguishing tone against the one he adapts in his other video entitled “Why Should You Go to Church?” But it is what he says next that would elicit the furore in the Muslim world. 

Let Bygones Be Bygones

The man who once said, “fix the world by cleaning up your room” comes up with another laconism: “It is time for those in the Muslim world to stop fighting among yourselves, you Shiites and Sunnis….” 

This statement received the brunt of the flak from not just Muslims but also Christians. Personally, I have never viewed Peterson as a patroniser, but in this video, he comes off as a bit of an ultracrepidarian. One might wonder why the doctor takes on such a condescending tenor and lecture Muslims on fixing their homes. But what most critiques miss is that Peterson has been equally cognizant of the blood feuds amongst other religious denominations — for instance, the clashes between the Protestants and Catholics. Here’s an excerpt from his discussion with Mohammed Hijab: 

“There’s no reason to throw stones at the Muslim world when we can perfectly well look to our own history. And I do think what we should do is look to our own history.” 

Although I’d argue that the above could have been a retort to score a point against Hijab, it is crucial to take note of it when critiquing Peterson’s integrity. 

While I wholeheartedly concur with Peterson when he asks of Muslims to put an end to the factional feuds, I fail to understand its pertinence in today’s context. The Shias and Sunnis had existed peacefully for over 12 centuries, until the oil-hungry USA decided to fabricate a schism between the two with its invasion on Iraq not two decades ago. Moreover, the Shia-Sunni conflict has long been entombed and we are way past it; prodding at it will only risk exacerbating the relations that are binding the parties together today. 

But for reasons beyond my comprehension, Peterson seems to have a fettering obsession with unity of groups — and for all the right reasons in this case. However, what really is the gravity of preaching the coalescence of the scattered sects when you do not dare cast a glance at the misdoings of your own Zionist kin?

He then continues to drawl: “And also time to stop regarding the Christians, and even more specifically the Jews as your enemies…not least because you have the enemies located in the wrong place.” 

This is perhaps where the ire for him clambers to an unprecedented level, and rightfully so. If you were to analyse this tone-deaf statement about the apparent “antagonism” between Muslims and other people of the book[1] (that Peterson claims exists) outside of history and futile attempts at decontextualizing it, it’s hard to gather substance to his point. And that’s simply because his analyses are unfounded. 

Now, I do not believe Peterson exclaims that out of spite, for what kind of indurate person would you have to be to turn a blind eye to a genocide on children and innocent civilians. But I honestly do believe Peterson has been knocking on the wrong door. 

On the contrary, it is out of character and crass for him to ask of Muslims to endure the brutality of the Zionist forces against Palestinians. Here’s an excerpt from another of his discourse on Israel and Palestine:

“And that ties into the problem of virtual signalling because it is also very convenient for people to develop a sense of their own advanced morality to take on the problems of some distant state and wave their bloody banners and their protests in favour of their hypothesis and proposition that they’re on the side of the moral right…”

This could very well be a swing at the left wing, but in this context, Peterson frowns upon people (i.e., Muslims) who “take on the problems of some distant state” (i.e., Palestine) “and wave their bloody banners….” In a way, this is asking of Palestinians to relinquish their homeland to the bloodthirsty Zionists spreading mischief on the borderlines of occupied Palestine since the Nakba, and shake hands with their malefactors. 

“The best place to find Satan is within,” continues Peterson. “So, your best bet in the spiritual warfare front is to make of yourself and your Muslim practice something so admirable that the light shining from your well-constituted psyches…is so intense that people convert to your faith from sheer admiration.”

At this conjecture, I’d point out to Peterson that Jihad — exerting effort to change oneself — is already a tenet in Islam that entails the incessant battle against Satan. 

Secondly, Islam embodies Assama’at — the idea of God being independent. Hence, it is apparent that the immaculacy of Islam is independent of its followers and its scripture is irrefragable — morally and scientifically so. 

Thirdly, the fact that Islam consistently remains the fastest flourishing faith speaks volumes on how a Muslim must conduct in the modern world. So really, Peterson’s injunctions crumble onto themselves from the sheer weight of his ignorance on Islamic history. 

“And you are all threatened in a very real sense by the system of vengeful, Luciferian ideas that currently confront all that is transcendent and valuable on the sexual front, on the familial front, on the conceptual front, on the psychological and sociological front, and in final analysis, on the theological front[2]. So, how about we all quit squabbling over trinkets and details, and face the real problem.”

Peterson needs reminding that these “trinkets” constitute the homeland, heritage, and lives of the Palestinians on the familial, psychological, and sociological front. If his intellect really thinks that they are no more than trinkets, I ask him to forsake and denounce the cowardly and depraved acts of the wretched Zionists. 

According to him, the real problems are the steep leftist ideologies and idealogues that are trundling onto hellish depths with their degenerative western ideas guaranteed to plummet the societies into decadence. 

While I agree with that, I, an Indian Muslim refuse to carry his message or be the recipient of it until he denounces the marauders killing Palestinians every day, the Chinese committing genocide against the Uyghurs, and the Hindutva outfits carrying out their inhumane acts on Indian Muslims. It’s hard for an intellectual of his stature to be biassed on a topic so sensitive. Yet, Peterson in this particular address, appears to have no second thoughts on his message to Muslims. 

The video progresses with him saying, “Muslims, reach across the sectarian divide. Shiites, find a Sunni pen pal. Communicate with someone on the other side. Sunnis, do the same. And then, maybe reach out, tentatively, heaven forbid, to a Jew!” This sentence puts me in an immense consternation. Firstly, Muslims meet people from all walks of life on a daily basis who they deal with in their business and trade, as do people of other faiths.

Secondly, I can’t help but point out this theme of resurrecting buried evils that has been rampant throughout the talk, making me think if that’s what his new employer (Dailywire) wants him to do. If you’re wanting to dig into Peterson’s ulterior motives (if any), then that’s a good place to start. 

Thirdly, Peterson is asking of Muslims to shake the bloody hands of their own oppressors. If such lofty, far-fetched ideas are what build bridges, I’d rather not risk burning them after they’re built. 

My Message to Muslims

Leafing through the responses to this video, one particular response stood out to me. Amidst the furore, Gabriel Al Romaani raises an important question: “why do we need the validation from people who aren’t within the purview of Islam to validate what the Quran preaches?” A long-time question that’s always been at the back of my mind: “Why look for a Dr Peterson instead of being one whilst still holding the treasure trove (Al-Furqān) with us?” Romaani further says that Muslims lack representation — and found it in not just Peterson, but Khabib Nurmagomedov and more recently, Andrew Tate! And when the tables turn, there comes a slew of disappointed Islamic scholars censuring them for their views.

We ought to look within ourselves and hold strong to the scripture to represent Islam for the light it holds and not fall mercy to the likes of capricious, confused individuals to lead Islam.  

My Message to Peterson

I regard Dr Jordan Peterson as a brother caught on the wrong side of a civil war. I’m grateful that he’s one of the few who has come forward to attempt to bind the Abrahamic faiths together with all sincerity. According to him, we cannot extricate ourselves from two quagmires that stand in the way of unification of the Abrahamic religions — First, is that “we do not know what to do with our bloody, war-stricken history,” and two, “how to unite two evangelising religions while preserving our respective traditions.” While I understand the complexity of that, I still place my faith, as a Muslim, for him to turn to the truth and rise above superficial agendas of Islamophobes.


[1] Peterson constantly stresses on referring to the followers of the Abrahamic faith as “People of the Book”. Take note that Peterson is not a fan of literalism, which is conspicuous when he says it’s hard to distinguish between ordinary men and the power the prophets bequeathed from God. 

[2] Peterson doesn’t buy the propositional idea about the existence of God. He says that the existence of God is proven rationally but hasn’t been derived rationally. I.e., he believes that the existence of God can only be possible if you take certain things for given. He says that Richard Dawkins uses the same strategy to push into the idea of Atheism.

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