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Muslims critical of Islam

Meanwhile, even as Islamist extremism has become the face of Islam, many young Muslims are rebelling against the orthodoxy. Whether it is student protests on the streets of Tehran, feminist activism even in Saudi Arabia, or outspokenness on social media and the web, Muslims are increasingly rejecting the draconian tenets ascribed to their faith.

Among other things, they are increasingly speaking out for civil liberties, against the subservient status of women, and in denunciation of the draconian penal code known as sharia. Understandably, the news is filled with accounts of Muslim youth in Western countries journeying to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to fight with the Islamic State. What is not as commonly reported is that the ideology and horrors of the Islamic State disquiet a vast majority of Muslims in the Arab world and elsewhere.

Thomas L. Friedman elaborates on this in a column in the New York Times (December 7, 2014) titled “How ISIS Drives Muslims From Islam.” The article notes a rising voice among Muslims on the Web and social media against the so-called Islamic values. These values are inconsistent with the needs of the modern Muslim state, they argue. To illustrate the strength of this voice, Friedman points to the popularity of a Twitter hashtag which translates from Arabic as “why we reject implementing Shariah.” The hashtag was used 5,000 times in 24 hours, Friedman wrote.

There are also websites for Muslims who reject the religion entirely and even profess atheism. Significantly, Friedman did not discuss this trend as reflecting adoption of Western values, as is the conventional practice. The dissenting Muslims most likely do not see it as such. It is a continuation of the triumph of the Enlightenment over rival political ideologies.


  • 1 The case of Africa has been chronicled by Afrobarometer since 1999. (See
  • 2 Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 15.
  • 3 Edward M. Said, “The Clash of Ignorance,” in Jason Dittmer and Jo Sharp (eds.), Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (New York: Routledge, 2014), 191-194.
  • 4 Ali A. Mazrui, “Islamic and Western Values,” Foreign Affairs, 76, 5 (1997), 118-132.
  • 5 Mazrui, “Islamic and Western Values,” 118.
  • 6 David Cannadine, The Undivided Past: History Beyond Our Differences (London: Allen Lane, 2013).
  • 7 Fukuyama, Identity, 100
  • 8 Fukuyama, Identity, x.
  • 9 Pew Research Center, July 1, 2020.
  • 10 Scott Douglas Jacobsen, “West Coast Christian Accord,” Canadian, October 21, 2018. west-jacobsen/.
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