American Muslims and the Need To Be on the Right Side of Society

Daniel Haqiqatjou, of the Yaqeen Institute, brings to light an important topic challenging American Muslims: the pressure many feel to be on the “right side” of a whole cadre of subjects ranging from Darwinism and eurocentric science to homosexuality. Paraphrasing Marwa Elshakry1 from her Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950, Haqiqatjou says,

“…accepting Darwinism was due less to a careful intellectual assessment of the theory and more to Muslim intellectuals, politicians, and elites simply signaling their social and political alignment with modernization, secularization, and Europeanization. Likewise, the rejection of Darwinism by traditional Muslim scholars and their students was at times a marker of their general opposition to colonialism and its cultural and religious impact on Muslim society.”

What’s important to note here is that while Haqiqatjou’s article speaks to the question of will American Muslims adopt Darwinism wholesale or not, the phenomenon he outlines is even more critically important. The bigger question is not the embracing Darwinism “inevitable”, but more urgently, is the abandoning of an independent skepticism — regarding all that is western and its implied bias that that which is western is inately better — inevitable? Will Muslims, due to pressure from their society as well as a collapse of a relevantless leadership in the face of these challenges, relinquish the ability to think on their own? If this happens, the question not only becomes “how will Muslims thrive in the West”, but also how can they contrinute to it as Muslims, with any sort of Muslim genius, if intellectually Muslims cast themselves into the dustbin of bygone ideas?

You can read Haqiqatjou’s article here.


1. Elshakry, Marwa. Reading Darwin in Arabic: 1860-1950. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

4 Replies to “American Muslims and the Need To Be on the Right Side of Society”

  1. Not so long as Muslims have knee-jerk reactions to an oversimplified idea of “the West” as though it exists any more than “the East” does, and not so long as many obsessively seek to be its opposite of “the West” in everything (to the extent of making statements such as “we should embrace all our history of scholarly opinions as correct, otherwise we give leeway to ‘the progressives'”, engaging in conspiracy theories about the San Bernadino shootings, and refusing to recognize the Chicago imam’s abuses of children – all of which DH has prominently done) and end up being just as defined by it as those who blindly emulate it. Very disappointed to see his kind of thinking going mainstream among American conservative Muslims, because for me it is just a flipside of the same problem of lack of independent thought that you mention.

  2. Sarah – it seems perhaps (a) you misunderstood what I wrote and thus (b) projected your issues with Daniel on to what I’ve written here. My intention of what I wrote was not to extol or defend Daniel. I am unaware of any issues pertaining to child abuse. As to engaging in conspiracy theories, again, you’d have to take that up with Daniel. That has nothing to do with the merit of what he wrote. And as to so-called conservative Muslims being in opposition to the West, I addressed that in the quote from Elshakry:

    “…the rejection of Darwinism by traditional Muslim scholars and their students was at times a marker of their general opposition to colonialism and its cultural and religious impact on Muslim society”.

    It would seem that you have an ax to grind with Daniel. I cannot say if you’re right or wrong but you went astray to the core of what I wrote.

  3. Marc – thanks for responding. I understand the larger problem of lack of independent thinking and just going with what’s popular, and I sympathize with the need to not be constrained by current-day dichotomies of thought. But I think that the quoted writer himself exemplifies part of the problem you’re pointing out, which is why my agitation came out. I know you didn’t mean to extol or defend them, but to me using their words in an article about this problem is like quoting Rachel Dolezal in order to write an article about the problems of race in the US. Whether or not you agree, hope you’ll understand why my comment came off the way it did.

  4. @Sarah — I’m no conspiracy theorist, but conspiracies have factually existed throughout history, including recent US history (such as now-declassified documents on FBI’s COINTELPRO, or CIA’s Project MKULTRA.) Not everything is a conspiracy, but we need to be factual and realize that conspiracies are a part of history.

    So with regards to the San Bernardino shootings — there are still lots of unanswered questions which the media and police have swept aside, such as — how come multiple eyewitnesses saw “three tall, well-built men”, and how did a petite Pakistani woman handle heavy automatic weaponry with such ease? How come the couple had religious books just strewn out over their apartment and bed? For the media to barge in and take a look at? All this is just nonsense.

    There are billions of dollars worth of profit to be made off of dehumanization and sensationalism of Muslims. Funding for think-tanks government programs. You think people are afraid to kill a few innocents to keep a billion-dollar industry going? Our government has killed way more by going to war in Iraq so a few people at the top could get some oil money — that’s not a conspiracy, we now know it as a fact.

    Anyways, I’m not saying everything is a conspiracy, but when there’s plenty of motive and factual evidence, we have to look at what makes sense.

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