S4: E56 Islam, Christ, and Liberty | Mustafa Akyol


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This episode was recorded on October 18th, 2021.

Mustafa Akyol joins me to discuss Muslim history and tradition. We touch on subjects like Jesus Christ from a Christian and Muslim perspective, the Virgin Mary's role in the Quran, separation of church and state as an ideology, the dangers of literalism when facing religious texts, and much more.

Mustafa Akyol is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, where he focuses on the intersection of public policy, Islam, and modernity. He's contributed as an opinion writer for the New York Times since 2013, covering politics and religion in the Muslim world.

Published by W. W. Norton, his 2011 book, "Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty," presents a strong argument for Islamic liberalism. The book was long-listed for the Lionel Gelber Prize for best nonfiction book. It was also praised by The Financial Times as "a forthright and elegant Muslim defense of freedom." His other books include "Reopening Muslim Minds" and "The Islamic Jesus."

Find Mustafa's most important book, "Reopening Muslim Minds," here


His book "The Islamic Jesus," discussed in this episode, is at


Find a free PDF of his book "Why, As a Muslim, I Defend Liberty" at


Or visit his page at the Cato Institute:



[00:00] Introduction

[02:47] Regarding the separation of church and state, what do Christians and Muslims have in common?

[10:36] What are some similarities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?

[11:05] "I see the world's history, and I see a Judeo-Christian/Islamic history because it's all Abrahamic monotheism starting at Judaism." Mustafa Akyol

[11:46] What the Three Abrahamic religions have in common—monotheism, rooting in the same tradition; and strange insistence on a book as the bedrock of culture

[12:45] Unique ideas of religious and societal tolerance through different ages in history

[21:10] The connection Jesus and Islam

[28:45] What is the totalitarian impulse?

[29:30] "I think it is an understatement of the severity of the totalitarian problem to attribute it merely to the religious." - Jordan Peterson

[31:27] Critiquing the inevitable flaws of the purely secular state. The benefits of a higher law on the unification of people and not deifying human rulers

[34:59] "There is another value in Sharia law—[it] was separate from the rulers, even above the rulers." - Mustafa Akyol

[39:35] Briefly touching on the ruling class in Saudi Arabia. A brief history of the Wahhabi's rise to power, and how a group of extreme thinkers gained more power than would have been naturally possible

[45:36] Bad Ideas from the West are, in fact, devastating

[48:45] A modern Muslim's take on religion, power, and the birth of Islam with the prophet Muhammad

[55:15] "The whole thorny moral problem of what to do when you are being oppressed is not something let's say as a species we have figured out." - JBP

[01:18:51] "The inherent problem with literalism in interpretation. The perspective of the reader creates so much of the truth in this model that they can then impose on the world around them." - JBP

[01:26:20] Regarding reason and Sharia law, one group has said that Sharia indicates what's inherently right and wrong in the world. Another group, that it only creates that difference through the imposition

[01:27:01] Mary's role in the Quran and Islamic tradition

[01:31:29] The influence of gnostic Christian gospels on Muhammad in Mustafa's opinion. The odd state of the Jewish Christians who were accepted by neither side

[01:35:16] Final questions on Jesus Christ from Christian and Muslim perspectives

[01:43:35] Wrapping up


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