The Jordan Peterson and Hamza Yusuf Discussion: A Review

Recently, Jordan Peterson had a discussion with Hamza Yusuf, a discussion which has been widely applauded on social media as the meeting of two “intellectual heavyweights.”

My assessment: The discussion was redundant because both agreed on virtually everything. Specifically, Yusuf could have proposed more than a watered-down, “spiritual” Islam as a solution for mankind, by perhaps summoning Islam’s unique socio-economic and political dimensions as a counter-model against secular modernity.

In the present article, we will not methodically analyze the said discussion, nor even Hamza Yusuf himself, though he has been briefly covered elsewhere on MuslimSkeptic.

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Instead, let’s look at Jordan Peterson himself, described as “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now” by the New York Times, and how he’s problematic.

Of course, in order to be fair, we will have to highlight the positives first: Jordan Peterson was a relatively obscure psychology professor at the University of Toronto when, in 2016, he began his crusade against the Canadian government’s “Bill C-16,” a law which would pressurize individuals to use “gender-neutral pronouns” for transgender people, in order to avoid “discrimination” based on “sexual identity or expression,” otherwise they’d be criminalized for “hate speech.”

Peterson argued that these restrictions not only violated freedom of speech, but also the basic facts of biology.

Since then, Peterson has continued his struggle against what he considers to be political correctness, feminism, social justice warriors (SJWs) and their “culture war” in college campuses, pushing for what he calls “postmodern neo-Marxism.”

All of this led to growing popularity, not only among those who are against Leftist politics, but also among the more apolitical confused Western youth, who were inspired by his motivational speeches, seeing him as a sort of “self-help guru” and fatherly figure.

He seems to have somehow helped thousands of young men out of crippling depression, so this should be acknowledged.

RELATED: Jordan Peterson and Muslim Anti-Intellectualism

Nonetheless, he is problematic for what we could call his “moderate radicalism”: He only appears radical because his audience is the postmodern West, where saying that there are only two genders has become some revolutionary act of resistance. Yet, this is “moderate radicalism” because, ultimately, Peterson doesn’t go too far.

Instead, he openly endorses the very roots of postmodernism: So-called “classical liberalism” and psychoanalysis.

“Classical Liberalism,” or the Delusions of Liberal Conservatism

Jordan Peterson has often been described as a liberal, or a self-styled “classical liberal,” for instance:

“Classical liberalism” is basically liberal conservatism (think of mainstream Republicans in the US), identified with modern figures such as the British philosophers Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) and “Sir” Roger Scruton (1944-2020) and going back to the Irish ideologue Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

Burke criticized the 1789 French Revolution but endorsed the American Revolution (1765-1784), despite both revolutions being based on the same premises of modernity (individualism, liberty, democratic governance, etc.). Burke’s inconsistency would become a mark of this liberal conservative ideology, as we shall see.

For regular MuslimSkeptic readers, we don’t have to expand on why Burke’s is a self-defeating position: You can’t adopt philosophical liberalism, with its dogmas of individualism, rationalism, scientific progress, etc., and hope that your society would conserve anything in the long-run. Such a “conservativism” that conserves nothing is pure delusion.

The foundations of this ideology contain the very seeds that would grow into the full-blown woke identity politics we find today.

RELATED: Islam-Hater Douglas Murray Wants Right-Wingers to Abandon All Religion

In fact, Slavoj Žižek, the famed Marxist writer who had a well-publicized debate with Jordan Peterson in 2019, says the same in the preface to the 2020-collective book Myth and Mayhem: A Leftist Critique of Jordan Peterson:

While I admit (and analyse in my books) the so-called ‘totalitarian’ excesses of political correctness and some transgender orientations which bear witness to a weird will to legalize, prohibit and regulate, I see in this tendency no trace of ‘radical Left’ but, on the contrary, a version of liberalism gone astray in its effort to protect and guarantee freedoms. Liberalism was always an inconsistent project ridden with antagonisms and tensions.

Following influential American economist Jeremy Rifkin, Žižek also attacks Peterson for using the expression “cultural Marxism,” while in fact a better terminology would be “cultural capitalism,” as it is capitalism and its perpetual tendency towards commodification, consumerism, and atomization which produces the liberal self Peterson criticizes.

In his book First As Tragedy, Then As Farce, we read on p. 52:

Insofar as this post-’68 spirit of capitalism forms a specific economic, social and cultural unity, that very unity justifies the name “postmodernism:’ This is why; although many justified criticisms were made of postmodernism as a new form of ideology. (…)

At the level of consumption, this new spirit is that of so-called “cultural capitalism” : we primarily buy commodities neither on account of their utility nor as status symbols; we buy them to get the experience provided by them, we consume them in order to render our lives pleasurable and meaningful.

Žižek released this book years before Peterson even got famous for talking about “postmodern neo-Marxism” and “cultural Marxism.” Yet Žižek’s work seems to be a better diagnosis of the situation than what the Canadian clinical psychologist proposes.

In fact, Peterson doesn’t and can’t propose such a critique of capitalism for the obvious reason that capitalism is linked with a liberal anthropology. They both share the mission of mutating man into an atomized individual with no traditional bonds (such as religion or patriarchal family) so that man becomes a mere consumerist, easily exploitable by Big Business and Big Tech.

RELATED: Who Are Liberals Exactly?

So it’s unsurprising that Peterson, “the classical liberal,” also favors free-market neoliberal capitalism. He waxes lyrical about it quite often, as during an April 2022 conference on Bitcoin:

Don’t be defensive about the ethics of your capitalistic enterprise, on the contrary you should be on the offensive, proudly proclaiming that people should … make free choices about what they value.”

He added, “One of the fundamental axioms of a free market system is that the only way to properly compute the horizon of the future is by sampling and perhaps summing the free choice of a multitude of free agents.”
Peterson rounded back to capitalism to finish off, saying, “Here’s two justifications for free markets and capitalism. It gives warlike people something to do that isn’t destructive.”

RELATED: Are Cryptocurrencies Halal? Understanding Bitcoin, Blockchain, and the Sharia

Didn’t it occur to Peterson that what he criticizes of the SJWs is found as well in liberal-capitalism? Isn’t he aware of all the literature on “woke capitalism“?

When you reduce man’s performative individualism to an ill-defined and seemingly infinite notion of free choice and free market, why wouldn’t that eventually lead to, say, transgenderism? Is it not consistent with, perhaps even required by, individual free choice to discard “biological determinism” and choose your own gender?

Laissez-faire liberal capitalism for society quite naturally reduces to laissez-faire individualism, which includes the worst of SJWism, LGBTQ+ movement, feminism, and identity politics. And, of course, all this expressive individualism is weaponized by woke capitalism.

RELATED: Disney Commits to Pushing LGBT: What Muslim Parents Should Know

Not only does Peterson’s “classical liberalism” preclude him from attacking the capitalist beast, but it also makes him by nature secular or apolitical.

In the book Myth and Mayhem: A Leftist Critique of Jordan Peterson mentioned earlier in the context of Žižek, Matthew McManus writes in chapter 1:

If the problem with contemporary society is purely the beliefs of its members, what one needs to do is morally insist that individuals change their belief systems and adopt another. If however the problem isn’t just with individual belief systems, but with the material processes and institutions underpinning liberal capitalist societies then the problems become much bigger and the solutions would have to be more radical and transformational. But this is of course precisely what Peterson doesn’t want, because he has a generally high opinion of liberal capitalist societies. So the problem must lie with the individuals who make up those societies, and of course their belief systems. The consequence of this is to raise issues up to such an idealized level that they can only be dealt with individually, and thus become depoliticized.

Because Peterson is liberal, he’s an individualist, and because he’s an individualist, he’ll propose “solutions” on an individual level: Motivational speaking, self-help or personal development, call it whatever you want. It’s all about helping individuals but never a wider, even holistic project, which could help the society as a whole. Muslims would propose Sharia as both an individual and a societal solution, and this is why the secular mind hates Sharia but can tolerate Peterson. Sharia would actually disrupt the oppressive secular system.

Pankaj Mishra, a well-known Indian essayist worth reading, noted the same in his 2020-book Bland Fanatics: Liberals, Race, and Empire, chapter 9:

As with Peterson, this populariser of archaic myths, who believed that ‘Marxist philosophy had overtaken the university in America’, was remarkably in tune with contemporary prejudices. ‘Follow your own bliss,’ he urged an audience that, during an era of neoconservative upsurge, was ready to be reassured that some profound ancient wisdom lay behind Ayn Rand’s paeans to unfettered individualism.

Similar to hack “gurus” such as Sadhguru, Peterson is inoffensive to the secular world. Even more, as a liberal he’s in fact a particularly useful tool for the neoliberal world order because he redirects the angry and desperate members of the population from revolt to less disruptive directions involving individual ethics and personal psychology. Instead of seeing their problems as a product of an evil, oppressive liberal secular system, Peterson fans think that the path to a better life is about cleaning your room.

This is also probably why Peterson has not been deplatformed. Peterson, in his own way, defuses the revolutionary politics against the elite of our times and transforms discontent into calls for reforming the individual self. Reforming society is simply “Marxist authoritarianism” as far as Peterson is concerned.

Because of all of this, Peterson becomes an apologist for modernism despite his attacks on postmodernism.

Of course, Hamza Yusuf, with his apolitical (or anti-political) beliefs, is similar to Peterson in this regard.

RELATED: Hamza Yusuf and Bin Bayyah Denounce Pope… 33 Years Ago

Psychoanalysis: Symbolically Secularizing Religion

Liberalism is just one feature of Peterson’s modernist agenda. Perhaps even more important is his psychoanalysis.

In his 1999 book Maps of Meaning, he acknowledges in the preface the influence of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) in particular.

But what does he like in Jung as compared to, let’s say, Freud? He writes on p. 411:

I have never met someone, however, who actually understood what Jung was talking about and who was simultaneously able to provide valid criticism of his ideas. Often, Jung’s notions are confused with Freud’s—insofar as Freud’s are understood. Freud himself certainly did not make this error. It was in fact Freud’s apprehension of Jung’s profound and irreconcilable differences in thought that led to their professional and private alienation. Jung’s ideas are not primarily Freudian. He places little emphasis on sexuality or on the role of past trauma in determining present mental state. He rejected the idea of the Oedipus complex (actually, he reinterpreted that complex in a much more compelling and complete manner). He viewed religion not as mere neurotic defense against anxiety, but as a profoundly important means of adaptation.

So Peterson finds Jung more relevant than Freud because Jung doesn’t give as much importance to sexuality in order to explain human behavior, and also because Jung apparently gives religion its rightful place. This might appear reassuring to Muslims. After all, it means that, for Peterson, the main reason for preferring Jung to Freud is the former’s emphasis on religion.

Yet, if Jung’s position about religion isn’t as dismissive as that of Freud’s, it’s still problematic, and we get a clue as to why from Peterson himself, on p. 92:

Carl Jung attempted to account for the apparent universality of world interpretation with the hypothesis of the “collective unconscious.” Jung believed that religious or mythological symbols sprung from a universal source, whose final point of origin was biological (and heritable). His “collective unconscious” was composed of “complexes,” which he defined as heritable propensities for behavior or for classification.

We now get the issue: Despite Jung being more “spiritual” than Freud, his interpretation of religion is as materialistic, that is, religious symbols (which are equated with mythological symbols) are something found in the “collective unconscious” of mankind, some “universal source” which is ultimately, as Peterson himself puts it, “biological” in nature.

The same way Žižek correctly identified Peterson’s liberal and individualist flaws through his Marxism, an ideology which is obviously flawed, Frithjof Schuon (‘Isa Nur-ud-Din), despite his problematic kufr Perennialism, aptly identified the flaws with these “spiritual psychologies,” such as that of Jung, which is more of a “psychologization of the spiritual.”

We read in The Essential Frithjof Schuon, edited by Iranian-American Perennialist Seyyed Hossein Nasr, on p. 219:

In a quite general way, that which calls for suspicion and for implacable vigilance is the reducing of the spiritual to the psychic, a practice which by now has become a commonplace to the point of characterizing Western interpretations of the traditional doctrines. This so-called ‘psychology of spirituality’ or this ‘psychoanalysis of the sacred’ is the breach through which the mortal poison of modern relativism infiltrates into the still-living Oriental traditions. According to Jung the figurative emergence of certain contents of the ‘collective unconscious’ is accompanied empirically, as its psychic com plement, by a noumenal sensation of eternity and infinitude. This is the way to ruin insidiously all transcendence and all intellection for, according to this theory, it is the collective unconscious, or sub- conscious, which is at the origin of ‘individuated’ consciousness, human intelligence having two components, namely the reflexions of the subconscious on the one hand and the experience of the external world on the other; but since experience is not in itself intelligence, on this showing intelligence will have the subconscious for its substance, so that one has to try and define the subconscious on the basis of its own ramification. This is the classical contradiction of all subjectivist and relativist philosophy.

So Jungian psychoanalysis, despite looking good on paper, is in fact even worse than Freudian psychoanalysis. While Freudians are more open enemies of religion, the Jungians, because they appear to talk of “spirituality,” will demolish religion from the inside, by brainwashing naive believers who get excited because a psychologist in the secular West drops words like “soul” or whatever. It’s a more perfidious threat, and it’s thus no wonder that Jung is so influential in the “New Age” pseudo-spirituality movement, so much so that he’s considered its spiritual father.

Such critique of Jungian psychoanalysis is in fact quite widespread among Perennialists. You could read the same lines in René Guénon or Titus Burckhardt. Hamza Yusuf himself has clearly read these authors (after all, the “anarchist Swedish painter” he referred to in that interview is none other than Ivan Aguéli). Perhaps Yusuf could have told Peterson to stop using Jungian psychoanalysis to degrade Biblical stories.

This is what we read in the foreword of Peterson’s bestselling 2018 self-help book, 12 Rules for Life, written by Dr. Norman Doidge, a Canadian psychoanalyst:

He was a master at helping students become more reflective, and take themselves and their futures seriously. He taught them to respect many of the greatest books ever written. He gave vivid examples from clinical practice, was (appropriately) self-revealing, even of his own vulnerabilities, and made fascinating links between evolution, the brain and religious stories. In a world where students are taught to see evolution and religion as simply opposed (by thinkers like Richard Dawkins), Jordan showed his students how evolution, of all things, helps to explain the profound psychological appeal and wisdom of many ancient stories, from Gilgamesh to the life of the Buddha, Egyptian mythology and the Bible. He showed, for instance, how stories about journeying voluntarily into the unknown—the hero’s quest—mirror universal tasks for which the brain evolved.

And this is the problem: By using Jung and other “existential psychologists” such as Ludwig Binswanger, Peterson transforms metaphysical religious symbols into materialistic psychological realities. In order to refute neo-Darwinian evolutionists like Dawkins he does the reverse, but remains in their evolutionary paradigm.

RELATED: Is Human Evolution Compatible with Islam? Refuting Jalajel’s Heresy

Of course, reducing universal metaphysics to individual psychoanalysis has two main problems: First, it puts all religions on the same level, as they’re all supposedly parts of the same “collective unconscious” of one single humanity. So Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American spirituality, etc., are ultimately all the same, their essence is the same even if their modes of expression might differ because of “cultural adaptation.”

What one thus gets from this is the Perennialist-like “unity of religions,” or the “interfaith dialogue” accelerated by neoliberal globalization. Perhaps this is why Peterson only reluctantly ascribes himself to Christianity, since someone who believes that “Truth” is found in all religions couldn’t coherently limit himself to just one.

Second, this reduction also serves Peterson’s liberal agenda we detailed previously. To transform the universal spiritual into the individual psychological has the result of amplifying the individual’s ego. If you think that all these religious stories are not about divine commandments but about you, so you can basically live a “better life” (as if paradise could be found on earth), all that religious narrative becomes secularized into some “personal development” program.

According to this distortion, religion is not revelation for man so that he can know His Creator and submit to His laws. Rather, religion is a diluted “symbol” so man could know himself and can, thus, more comfortably live in a capitalist society. In this way, “spirituality” wielded by liberal capitalism blocks men from revolting against their oppression and, instead, entrenches them in their submission to liberal modernity to an even greater extent.

It’s nothing short of a Dajjalic parody or reversal.


To reiterate:

  • Jordan Peterson embraces liberalism and free-market capitalism, yet these ideologies have given rise to everything Peterson is supposed to be against.
  • Peterson endorses psychoanalysis, more so, its Jungian variety. Jungian psychoanalysis distorts religion and makes it, not something to adhere to in order to transcend one’s self in submission to the Divine, but something that one uses for the purposes of self-empowerment. This also fits in with the neoliberal agenda to create a “unity of religions.”

These are some of the things that make Peterson problematic as far as Islam is concerned. Ultimately, he is a crusader for modernism, which is nothing less than a precursor for the very postmodernism he bashes.

We hope that Peterson can update his “moderate radicalism” by considering Islam more seriously. Only Islam can elevate a mere “critique of modernity” into a holistic counter-model, a prescription from the Almighty Himself.

REACTION: [WATCH] Reacting to the Jordan Peterson – Mohammed Hijab Interview

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I don’t usually comment here in the But I have to hand it to you, this is an exceptional article.

Truth seeker

Jordan Peterson is controlled opposition. Plain and simple. We all know what happens to REAL DEALS. Imposters are always left to confuse and misguide simpletons.


Very informative and thorough.


I’m still to this day, genuinely, unable to fathom the meaning of many terms I’ve read, and read about, thousands of times.

Libralism, postmodern, neo-anything, conservatism, and any fancy combination thereof I hear and read about.

I’m almost certain there is, to use Western terms, a logical fallacy somewhere that I can use to reject any and all of those terms. As a Muslim, they are foreign to me.

But then, maybe someone can enlighten

Karim Adel

Sapience institute on youtube

Karim Adel

great piece MashAllah, Jazkom Allah Khayr, Maybe we will hear Soon more about Syed Hussein Nasr and his perennialists ilk are up to.


an in depth expose of the underlying factors influencing JP incoherent “thought”


What a brilliant piece of article.


Took me a few days to finish.
But it was worth it.
Jazak Allah khyer brother.

To the ‘overwhelmed’, u can just read the Summary.

Ercan Er

You are going overboard here, brother. Hamza Yusuf did not watered down anything, he simply directed to conversation that Islam has a solution even thought he did not openly talk about it. Unlike what you think you have to talk as how your audience can understand. Hamza Yusuf talked exactly like this. And I believe he covered the important points. The discussion had a friendly atmosphere, exposing people the truth they can not comprehend because of their situation is no different than themstupi

Ercan Er

Jordan Peterson is still totally ignorant about Islam. We cannot enforce the truth upon him and his audience. And I think Hamza Yusuf made a great impact on them as a dai, at least hand this to him. Also unlike what you offer here discussion was directed by Jordan Peterson, and he did not ask about the truths you like to see Hamza Yusuf talk about.
Just have mercy bro, mercy is the first gift of a real iman.