Jordan Peterson slammed for suggesting Sunni, Shia Muslims should fix 'sectarian divide' by becoming pen pals

Jordan Peterson slammed for suggesting Sunni, Shia Muslims should fix 'sectarian divide' by becoming pen pals
3 min read
14 July, 2022
Jordan Peterson has suggested sectarian differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims could be healed by becoming pen pals.
Jordan Peterson delivered a message to Muslim followers this week [Getty]

Dr. Jordan Peterson has been slammed for suggesting Sunni and Shia Muslims mend differences by becoming pen pals.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel, the Canadian academic and self-help writer touched on Muslim issues, an area Peterson is not usually associated with, and offered advice on how to fix sectarian and religious divides.

Speaking to the camera, sometimes waving his finger, Peterson delivered a message to Muslims suggesting they need to reach out to Christians and Jews.

"Muslims, reach across the sectarian divide. Shiites, find a Sunni pen pal, communicate with someone on the other side," he tells the camera.

"Sunnis, do the same and then, maybe, tentatively, reach out to a Christian, or heaven forbid, a Jew."

In the six-and-a-half minute video, Peterson welcomed his new Muslim followers.

But his comments on sectarian differences, while considered well-meaning, were slammed as ill-informed, condescending, and crass by some.

He invited a Muslim to build an "electronic system to bring people from the Sunni and Shiite community together" and that he would promote it.

On Twitter, Muslims shared their views on Peterson's ideas of Muslim relations.

"Jordan Peterson advises Shia & Sunni Muslims to become pen pals to end sectarianism," wrote Libyan-American writer Hend Amry.

"He also asks them (me?) to consider reaching out 'tentatively' to a Christian FOR THE FIRST TIME. Then he really dares to say what no one has dared before: Muslims should even reach out to A JOO."

Academic and writer Tallha Abdulrazaq said the comments were way off the mark.

"What gibberish is Jordan Peterson talking about? 'Reach across the sectarian divide' between Sunnis & Shia. Maybe have a Christian or even *gasp* a Jewish friend! It's not only patronising, but it feeds into certain negative narratives about Muslims," he wrote.

Al Jazeera's Mehdi Hasan described it as "a patronizing, ignorant, & nauseating 'Message to Muslims' from the ridiculous Jordan Peterson".

British Muslim academic Imran Hussein wrote:"If u haven't already please do read the Quran. As u are now directly addressing Muslims it will (as in the words of Thomas Cleary) provide u a superior vantage point, from where you'll beable to see through the false stereotypes held both by Muslims & non-muslims."

Peterson said he made the video due to the growing following his books, such as best-seller 12 Rules of Life, lectures and videos have had among Muslims.

Using biblical language, he said Muslims should view "woke culture" as the real enemy.

The academic spoke with controversial Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf about Islam and Christianity late December.

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The message also appeared to ignore the demographics of the region - where Muslims, Christians, and Jews have lived together for centuries - and the inter-faith dialogue active in the region.

It comes on the back of the so-called Abraham Accords, which Peterson mentions, which saw Israel normalise relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, although this is commonly thought to be due to a common strategic vision for the region rather than an ecumenical effort.

Sectarian and religious differences in the region have often been linked to politics, such as the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and a battle between Iran and a Saudi-led coalition for influence in the region.

Some powers have been accused of using sectarian differences to deepen their power in some countries.

The New Arab has approached Dr. Peterson for comment on the criticisms.