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Daniel Haqiqatjou. Photo: screenshot YouTube/The Thinking Muslim

American Muslim scholar says Liberalism is a dangerous religion, “distinct from Islam”

Born in Houston, Texas, Daniel Haqiqatjou is a scholar of Islam. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy.

According to his Facebook page, Haqiqatjou completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou also studies traditional Islamic sciences part-time. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity. He is also a contributor to the Muslim Debate Initiative.

In a YouTube video published by “The Thinking Muslim” YouTube channel (published on September 21, 2017), Daniel Haqiqatjou defines liberalism and explains why it is just like a religion. The following are excepts from the video:

For the past month or so I’ve been lecturing at a couple of different venues on the topic of liberalism and I’ve been sharing my thoughts on liberalism trying to educate the Muslim community on liberalism, and really the dangers of liberalism and how we can critique it. And I think it’s important that we critique it, and also do so from a way that’s intellectually compelling, but also true to our principles as Muslims. So having that in mind, I think is really important, and when I present on this topic the way that I start is by saying that when we look at the Muslim world today, and we look at the conviction or lack thereof in the Muslim community, a lot of that can be attributed to liberalism and the way that I justify this in terms of the Quran is that a Allah says that he hasn’t made any man with two hearts within him, meaning that you can’t be faithful to two separate faiths, two religions [دين] at the same time.

I do consider liberalism as a ‘deen [دين], as a complete religion and faith even though it’s not considered to be such but we can we can understand it in that way.

The other thing that is important to clarify is that I write a lot about liberalism and I critique and sometimes people have the mistaken understanding that I’m critiquing political liberalism in the sense of like the Democratic Party in the US and they think I just have a bone to pick with Democrats. In reality, I’m critiquing philosophical liberalism and the way to think about philosophical liberalism is as an umbrella that within that umbrella there are other ideologies, smaller ideologies that are considered liberal in their intellectual orientation even though they might not be considered as such.

So as far as political liberalism is concerned, Democrats and Republicans, but they’re essentially liberals in the philosophical sense. You also have other ideologies like capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism even, these are all under the umbrella of philosophical liberalism.

So what is philosophical liberalism, and why do I consider it to be a religion? So just like any religion, philosophical liberalism has values beliefs about what is right or wrong, specifically anything that is seen as maximizing human freedom, maximizing human liberty that’s considered to be good and anything that detracts from human liberty human freedom that seen as an evil and a negative and that’s what it boils down to and when you look at all of these different Western political movements and trace their intellectual history, they all are liberal in the sense that they’re all trying to achieve and bring about this human liberty and freedom. Everything from socialism, communism, fascism even, and even political liberalism that we see in the modern context in America as well as in Europe. So again like Donald Trump or Republicans would be considered philosophical liberals and you can see that in their language, you can see that. They’ll talk about, they’ll use the vocabulary of liberalism, they’ll talk about freedom and maximizing individual rights. So these different ideologies will have different ways that they propose to maximize liberty and freedom and equality and human rights but they’re all aiming for the the same goal and the same end. That’s how I define philosophical liberalism.

So how is that [Liberalism] a Deen [دين]? How is that [Liberalism] a religion? Well, like I said, you have the values and the beliefs that liberalism has just like any other religion. You also have, you have books. So just like the Quran, you have the Bible, liberals also have their defining foundational texts. You have the canon, the liberal canon. So things like the Declaration of Independence, the universe all Declaration of Human Rights, that the United Nations put out in the twentieth century. You have things like the U.S. Constitution and the Magna Carta. These are seen as foundational liberal documents and they’re treated almost with this sacredness that believers treat their holy texts. So there are a lot of parallels that you can make there that I would argue.

And you know they also have figures, prophets you could even say. If you want to continue the analogy you have figures like John Milton, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, David Hume to a certain extent. They have all these figures historically who are writing about liberalism and then you also have a God.

So what’s the God of liberalism? If liberalism is a religion, what would be considered the God of that? I think that really the God of liberalism is the human self. You yourself and you when you look at liberal language and liberal philosophy this is an underlying theme is that ultimately it all goes back to the self. So even things like when it comes to sexuality and sexual norms, we often hear liberal say that as long as two individuals consent to a specific action then it’s morally right or that’s all that’s required for an action, a sexual activity to me morally acceptable and permissible is if the two parties consent. So what does that mean is? That as long as you yourself agree and agree to a certain activity or an action then it’s OK just by that. So that’s you know again you’d decide, you’re the one who decides what is acceptable or not as opposed to God or something else.

And then also things like the Golden Rule. So the Golden Rule is something that’s found in different forms throughout liberal philosophy classically and even in the present day. What is the golden rule is treat others as you wish to be treated. So if you think about it this treat others as you wish to be treated, so your own moral orientation, your own interests, and what you view as right and wrong and beneficial, you yourself, then that is the criterion for what is in fact proper or correct action. So again it’s very self centered. it’s very self-oriented [نفسي]. And then you can see the same kind of idea as the Golden Rule and this is something academics have pointed out. You can see the same thing in with concepts categorical imperative, you can see the same thing with the veil of ignorance. So you can see within liberal philosophy these different manifestations of the Golden Rule and it’s coming from liberal ideology…

I think that we need to be able to critique liberalism. We need to be able to speak intelligently and about it and be able to not only say that liberalism is something distinct from Islam, because that’s something that is easy to note, and if you haven’t read the recent essays by Dr. Sherman Jackson, he had a few essays on this topic of Islam and liberalism… The point that he makes is that yes Islam and liberalism are separate intellectual traditions and there are definitely conflicts. There are points of overlap, but overall there are these conflicts. I think that yes that’s the first step is noting that these are distinct traditions, and being very aware of that.

I think we also should be able to critique. We should also be able to put our perspective and say: well where does Islam and liberalism conflict and how big are those conflicts? Are they really dangerous? I argue that they are dangerous and they are problematic and we should be able to critique that and there are different ways to do that.

The good news is that academics and the academics sphere there have been a lot of critiques of liberalism.. in the academics sphere liberalism has been critiqued you know from top to bottom and been refuted in so many ways. But those critics haven’t reach the mainstream, those critics haven’t come into the public discourse and so people are not really aware of what those critics are. So I think we need to catch up. We need to bring in that material and give it wider reception so that people are aware of these problems and, Allah Willing, that is something that I tried to do.

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