This article deals with the criticisms advanced by two leading Muslim thinkers, Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897) and Namik Kemal (1840-1888), of the free-thinking French intellectual Ernest Renan (1823-1892). All three men wrote in 1883—a moment of rapid colonial expansion—on the places of Islam and science in modern political culture. The article challenges the prevailing theory that Islamic concepts of governance could not be reconciled with reformist thought by reevaluating the insights and legacy of Kemal, the most influential Ottoman political activist of his time.