Freedom of Religion

Prof. Daniel Philpott (Notre Dame) Guest-Blogging on Religious Freedom in Islam

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I'm delighted to report that Prof. Daniel Philpott, of the Notre Dame Department of Political Science, will be guest-blogging this coming week about his new book, Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today. Here's the publisher's summary of the book:

Since at least the attacks of September 11, 2001, one of the most pressing political questions of the age has been whether Islam is hostile to religious freedom. Daniel Philpott examines conditions on the ground in forty-seven Muslim-majority countries today and offers an honest, clear-eyed answer to this urgent question.

It is not, however, a simple answer. From a satellite view, the Muslim world looks unfree. But, Philpott shows, the truth is much more complex. Some one-fourth of Muslim-majority countries are in fact religiously free. Of the other countries, about forty percent are governed not by Islamists but by a hostile secularism imported from the West, while the other sixty percent are Islamist.

The picture that emerges is both honest and hopeful. Yes, most Muslim-majority countries are lacking in religious freedom. But, Philpott argues, the Islamic tradition carries within it "seeds of freedom," and he offers guidance for how to cultivate those seeds in order to expand religious freedom in the Muslim world and the world at large.

It is an urgent project. Religious freedom promotes goods like democracy and the advancement of women that are lacking in the Muslim-majority world and reduces ills like civil war, terrorism, and violence. Further, religious freedom is simply a matter of justice—not an exclusively Western value, but rather a universal right rooted in human nature. Its realization is critical to the aspirations of religious minorities and dissenters in Muslim countries, to Muslims living in non-Muslim countries or under secular dictatorships, and to relations between the West and the Muslim world.

And here are some reviews:

"Is Islam hostile to religious freedom? On the surface the answer would seem obvious—yes. But in this thoughtful and thorough book Dan Philpot provides data, rigor, and analysis to present a picture that is nuanced and complex. Some of his conclusions are surprising, all are deeply insightful." —Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS

"In this book, Daniel Philpott explores various views about 'Religious Freedom in Islam' and offers practical recommendations for expanding freedom of religion and belief in the Muslim World. He forcefully argues against the notion that the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are incapable of religious freedom while at the same time pointing out the dearth of religious freedom in many majority Muslim countries. This book is an outstanding contribution to the literature dealing with the challenge to pluralism and tolerance by extremists." —Farahnaz Ispahani, author of Purifying the Land of the Pure: A History of Pakistan's Religious Minorities

"Here is an informed, honest and nuanced study on the freedom deficit in the contemporary world of Islam. Unlike the Islamophobes who have an agenda against the faith, and the apologists who do not acknowledge the troubles within it, Philpott examines the tensions between Islamic law and religious freedom while not neglecting secular aspects of the problem. His comparisons to the Catholic tradition are particularly insightful, as the case for freedom can be similar in different traditions." —Mustafa Akyol, Senior Fellow on Islam and Modernity at the Cato Institute

I much look forward to Prof. Philpott's posts.

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  1. Sorry, but including a comment for CNN’s serial plagiarist is not helpful.

  2. Why are blasphemy laws spreading across Europe if it isn’t at the instigation of the adherents of Islam? Islam, as it is currently practiced, does not tolerate dissent from its orthodoxy. And it is willing to fine, imprison, and/or murder to enforce it.

  3. This will be interesting. My opinion right now that Muslim elites are at best barely tolerant of other religions. Even relatively reasonable countries like Indonesia are barely tolerant of other religions, and most of them don’t have to worry about it because word opinion of them is so intolerant that no one except Muslims wants to go there.

    As for individual Muslims, the ones in the US seem as tolerant as any native. I take that as a sign that the intolerant mobs in intolerant countries are likely just whipped up by government provocateurs, and the same thing could happen in any theocracy.

    Going to be interesting to see what I learn here. Thanks for this.

    1. “As for individual Muslims, the ones in the US seem as tolerant as any native.”

      That’s an interesting observation; I wonder if you could provide the basis for your opinion.

      Mine is quite different. I offer as an example the controversy over US Islamic taxi drivers refusing to carry passengers possessing alcoholic beverages, or with dogs. Is that a matter of intolerance of someone’s religious views when they are in conflict with one’s own? I think so.

  4. Should be interesting.

  5. Experts inform me that the question is which bits of the Koran they’re going to emphasize – the “can’t we all just get along” parts written in Mecca, or the “smite the infidel” parts written in Medina.

    That may be impacted not only by pure theological analysis but by sociological factors, etc., etc.

  6. Hm, leftist, libertarian [who actually uses “Islamophobe” seriously] and former Pakistani government official are chosen to blurb the book.

    1. Why is he a *former* official?

      1. She. Was kicked out of the assmbly because of dual nationality.

        From wikipedia

    2. What is the appropriate term for someone who is prejudiced against Muslims?

      1. IDK, maybe prejudiced against Muslims.

        Its not a pseudo scientific term used mainly to smear.

        1. Well, lucky you, you are saved the time of reading Prof. Philpott’s posts since you know he is a “leftist libertarian” and anything he says is wrong. You can stick to reading things you know you will agree with.

          1. He was referencing these Amazon blurbs:

            “Is Islam hostile to religious freedom? On the surface the answer would seem obvious – yes. But in this thoughtful and thorough book Dan Philpot provides data, rigor, and analysis to present a picture that is nuanced and complex. Some of his conclusions are surprising, all are deeply insightful.” –Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS

            “In this book, Daniel Philpott explores various views about ‘Religious Freedom in Islam’ and offers practical recommendations for expanding freedom of religion and belief in the Muslim World. He forcefully argues against the notion that the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are incapable of religious freedom while at the same time pointing out the dearth of religious freedom in many majority Muslim countries. This book is an outstanding contribution to the literature dealing with the challenge to pluralism and tolerance by extremists.” –Farahnaz Ispahani, author of Purifying the Land of the Pure: A History of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities

            1. “Here is an informed, honest and nuanced study on the freedom deficit in the contemporary world of Islam. Unlike the Islamophobes who have an agenda against the faith, and the apologists who do not acknowledge the troubles within it, Philpott examines the tensions between Islamic law and religious freedom while not neglecting secular aspects of the problem. His comparisons to the Catholic tradition are particularly insightful, as the case for freedom can be similar in different traditions.” –Mustafa Akyol, Senior Fellow on Islam and Modernity at the Cato Institute

              1. So I guess he must be criticizing Prof. Volokh for including those particular blurbs? I don’t really understand his comment, other than an attempt to discredit the book and its author, without having read it.

      2. What would Quran verse 9:113 make muslims? Polytheophobes? Christophobes (since their ‘Allah’ thinks Christians are polytheists who deserve hellfire)?

        1. It is not for the Prophet and those who have believed to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they were relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of Hellfire.

          Yeah, Christians never condemn anyone to hellfire for their faith.

          1. But no more. Christianity has evolved. Islam has apparently devolved.

            1. The large number of Christians who don’t believe in evolution would probably disagree with you.

            2. But no more.

              That’s completely untrue. Christians in America invoke hellfire in their foes all the time. They did about Bill Clinton with a glee, as I recall.

              1. The key point here is, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.”

                Which is to say, God can deal out Hellfire himself, on his own schedule. It’s not our job to do it for Him.

                1. Then maybe the mad scientists above should have picked a different quote.

                  Not that you can’t find a bunch of vengeance-taking in the followers of Christ. Or the Old Testament, for that matter.

      3. The left tends to call people “phobes” on the principle that you can convince somebody to like something they dislike by suggesting that they’re afraid of it. Like you tell somebody who dislikes homosexuals that they’re “homophobic”, and they’ll yell, “I ain’t afraid of nothing!”, and smooch somebody of the same sex.

        Yeah, doesn’t work, but I actually have met lefties who thought they could stampede a guy into liking gays by suggesting that they were afraid of something.

        The “mis” prefix, as in “misanthrope”, for instance, would probably be more appropriate, as it doesn’t denote fear, just dislike.

  7. Saudi money has been funding narrow and obscurantist Islamic “education” all over the world, giving that side of Islamic history more weight than it would otherwise have. It’s as if the Westboro Baptist Church had struck oil and built schools worldwide teaching from their own textbooks.

    For a story of how the open and knowledge-seeking side and the bigoted side have been in conflict for centuries in just one country, I recommend “The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu”.

    1. The Saudi’s quit that funding after 9-11. Unfortunately, a lot of damage was done before that, and one of the Gulf emirates has taken their place with funding (I don’t remember which one).

      1. While the Saudis used to fund Islamists as a government the primary financiers now are just private citizens. Many funnel the money through Qatar.

  8. Concise statement of the publisher’s summary of the book:

    Are most Muslim-majority countries are lacking in religious freedom?

    Short answer: yes.

    Long answer: yes, but…”the Islamic tradition carries within it “seeds of freedom.”

    I have feeling that those seeds won’t be planted, cultivated, spread, cared for, to the extent that they flip the answer to “no.” I don’t think the crop will survive one season, even if the seeds are ever planted.

    1. Christiandom took from the late Roman empire to nearly our own Revolution to accept religious tolerance. If we did it I don’t see why Muslims can’t, especially when so many individuals already do.

      1. There’s a big difference. Christian doctrine is “love thy neighbor.” Islam doctrine is “death to the infidel.”

        1. Christians don’t do a great job living up to that doctrine, and there are lots and lots of Muslims that do a bad job living up to theirs.

          Or maybe you’re just a bigot making stuff up to rationalize hating on a subgroup.

          Tell me, are you of the ‘Islam is actually a political system and doesn’t deserve Constitutional rights’ set?

          1. What have I made up, Sarcastr0?

            As far as Christians not living up to that doctrine – I’ll try to keep that in mind as I note all of the Christian/Catholic hospitals, schools (elementary through university), charities, and so on; and note the lack of such Islamic institutions.

            You’re position is very weak if you have to counter statements by calling others bigots, and trying to put words in their mouths.

    2. Even if those seeds were cultivated, it seems likely that sooner or later the fundamentals will rule out. Islam could gain some legitimacy and a great deal of power and be spread even further, only to revert to its true teachings under the right catalysts and pressures.

  9. “Some one-fourth of Muslim-majority countries are in fact religiously free.”

    You understand that’s actually an indictment, not a defense, right? Also, that 25%, is based on a very dubious definition of religious freedom. For example, Philpott declares Indonesia to religiously free bit, among other things, Indonesia: prohibits atheism; mandates mono-theism; recognizes only the right to practice one of only six recognized religions; and bans interfaith marriages. If that constitutes “religious freedom”, then he has a very odd view of the subject.

    Similarly, Philpott declares the fact that only 60% of Muslim-majority countries are run by strict Islamists advances his argument. It does the opposite. It’s like a Catholic declaring that the fact that 40% of priests weren’t buggering alter boys was a reason for optimism.

  10. Let’s just say ALL religions are stupid.

    k?

  11. Very interesting!

    Surely, the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have the same essential human nature as everyone else and are not “incapable of religious freedom.” And I have no doubt that Islamic tradition may carry “seeds of freedom” and that tradition in any event can be reformed.

    Unfortunately, the Koran itself and the teachings of Mohammed (peace be upon him) are not the same thing as Muslim people and tradition.

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