Freedom of Religion

Religious Freedom In Islam?

Why we should dare to ask the question.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

[An excerpt from Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today:]

In June 2009, Barack Obama, early in his first term as President of the United States, delivered a most unusual speech in Cairo, Egypt. Instead of directing his words to the citizens of a country, a parliament, or an international organization, President Obama spoke to the members of a world religion. "I've come to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," he announced. It was perhaps the first time in history that a US president had chosen an entire religion as his audience. A host of the speech was Al-Azhar, one of Islam's oldest and most prestigious universities, and a patron who could help Obama project his message to Muslims—all Muslims, everywhere.

Why did President Obama direct his speech to such an unusual set of hearers? The previous year, Obama had campaigned for president on a promise to end the United States' wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of his charges against these wars was that Muslims around the world perceived them as being waged against Islam.

In fairness, Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had made great efforts to communicate that the United States was fighting terrorists and a rogue dictator and not Islam, which Bush had called a "religion of peace." Still, Obama saw a need for a realignment in the relationship between the United States and Muslims—all Muslims, everywhere. "We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world," he began his speech, and he elicited applause when he declared, "America is not—and never will be—at war with Islam."

The president proposed that the United States and the Muslim world could reduce tensions together by addressing several issues ranging from violent extremism to women's rights to nuclear proliferation—to religious freedom. Obama's inclusion of this last principle—religious freedom—was, to close observers of US foreign policy, noteworthy and far from inevitable. Just over a decade earlier, in 1998, the US Congress had passed the International Religious Freedom Act, mandating that the US government promote religious freedom around the world. Although religious freedom was a signature feature of America's heritage, the bill's architects reasoned, overseas it had become one of the most widely violated human rights, and the United States had not responded adequately. George W. Bush's administration spoke warmly and consistently of the principle, though it sometimes subordinated it to the fight against terrorism.

It was unclear, though, whether President Obama would take up the cause, one that critics portrayed as asserting Western superiority over Islam and fomenting a clash of civilizations—exactly what Obama was proposing to leave behind. In his Cairo speech, though, he spoke of religious freedom warmly and forcefully, stressing that the principle is particularly dear to the United States: "[F]reedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion."

The United States hosts 1,200 mosques, he pointed out, including one in every state. Religious freedom's relevance is not confined to America's borders, he went on to argue, praising Islam for its tradition of tolerance but also taking to task Muslims who are intolerant of religious minorities, Muslims who practice violence against other Muslims whom they deem heterodox, and certain Western countries who discriminate against their Muslim citizens. "Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together," he added.

President Obama was right: Religious freedom is a universal principle, rooted in human dignity, that is critical to peace between Western countries and the Muslim world as well as within the Muslim world. This is the premise of this book, which asks: Is Islam hospitable to religious freedom? Such a question could be asked of any religion—or country, or civilization—but for three reasons, it is urgent to ask it of Islam.

First, a fiery public debate over the character of Islam has been raging in the West at least as far back as the attacks of September 11, 2001, and its outcome matters a great deal for relations between Western countries and the Muslim world. I will argue that religious freedom is not only a good criterion for assessing this debate, but also, when applied, this principle may well simmer it and redirect it toward more constructive relations between the West and the Muslim world.

Second, religious freedom is a "force multiplier" that expands important goods that are now lacking in the Muslim world but whose increase could greatly benefit Muslim countries and their relations with the West. Among these goods are stable democracy, civil and human rights, economic development, the advancement of women, reconciliation among people of different faiths, and the reduction of terrorism, civil war, and international war.

Third, religious freedom is a matter of intrinsic justice. It is a human right that enjoys a prominent place in international conventions and safeguards the dignity of persons and communities. Justice is most at stake for religious minorities living amid Muslim majorities, Muslims who dissent from the orthodoxy of surrounding Muslim populations, Muslim minorities within non-Muslim-majority countries, and predominantly Muslim populations ruled by secular dictatorships, which Western governments sometimes support.

Is there religious freedom in Islam? I will consider this question from different angles. Roughly the first half of the book looks at those countries—about 47—where Muslims are in a majority.

This is a fair test. If countries in which Muslims have the popular power to dominate others prove to be religiously free, then the case for religious freedom in Islam accrues strength.

My answer will be nuanced, thus offering a calming balance and constructive sobriety to today's public debate. From a satellite view, the landscape favors skeptics of religious freedom In Islam. Of 47 Muslim-majority states, only 11, fewer than one-fourth, have high levels of religious freedom according to the standards of the Pew Research Center. Sociologists Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke, in their book of 2011, The Price of Freedom Denied, report that 62% of Muslim-majority countries manifest a moderate to high degree of persecution, compared with 28% of Christian-majority countries and 60% of all other countries. They cite an even sharper comparison showing that 78% of Muslim-majority countries contain high levels of government restrictions on religion, in comparison with 43% of all other countries and 10% of Christian countries.

Shall we conclude, then, that Islam is inhospitable to religious freedom? No. Such a judgment is too simple and obscures both the presence of religious freedom in the Muslim world and the reasons for its absence. Zooming in from a satellite view to a close-up perspective that shows the history and circumstances of Muslim countries, Islam comes to look more diverse. If there is a relative dearth of religious freedom in the Muslim world, Islamic doctrine is not necessarily the cause of it.

We will discover, for instance, that some 42% of the Muslim-majority states that have low levels of religious freedom are (or have been until very recently) governed by regimes that harshly impose on their populations not a radical form of Islam but rather an aggressive form of secularism inspired by sectors of the West. We will also discover that 11, or 23% of, Muslim-majority countries are religiously free not despite Islamic teachings but because of their particular understanding of Islamic teachings. Here, Islamic beliefs undergird tolerance for Christian and other minorities and for Muslims outside the Islamic mainstream. It is also true that 58% of the countries with low levels of religious freedom are "Islamist," meaning governed by a strongly conservative form of sharia, but even these have modern origins and are too simply deemed the real and true Islam. We will discover, too, Muslim movements, parties, and intellectuals who espouse and advocate for religious freedom as well as places and times in which Muslim communities have accorded high levels of protection for religious minorities.

Skeptics and optimists of religious freedom in Islam, then, are both right and both wrong. Taken as a whole, at the present moment, the Muslim-majority world is less free and more violent than the rest of the world taken as a whole. Yet, both the reality and the potential for greater religious freedom can be found in the Muslim world as well. Finding a more satisfying synthesis than either side of the public debate provides—rooted in a fair and even view of Islam, identifying sources of potential for the expansion of religious freedom, pointing to a more constructive Western approach to Islam—is the aim of the book.

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126 responses to “Religious Freedom In Islam?

  1. Looking forward to more of this. The statistics on religious freedom are interesting. Dividing it into Christian countries having such high levels of religious freedom made me wonder why — first thought was that the Protestant schism gave Christians a lot more experience learning religious tolerance, but Islam had a great schism right at the start, with Shiites and Sunnis having had well over twice as long as Christians to fail to learn tolerance. I don’t know enough about Islam or even Protestants and Catholics to know how the two schisms compare.

    1. The statistics are interesting, but I think it would be very useful, and more accurate IMO, if they were weighted by the population of the respective countries.

      Indonesia has one hundred times the population of Qatar. Should we count them equally?

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      2. bernard11: “Should we count them equally?”

        I’d think it depends on whether the unit of analysis is worldwide Muslims or Muslim nations. Indonesia and Qatar are in different regions and have different geographies, different ethnic groups, different histories, different political environments, and so forth. It makes sense to consider them separately, to help determine what percentage of Muslim nations have joined the religious freedom club (and what the likelihood is that they will).

    2. the Shia and Sunni schism is over who gets to be the head honcho and inherit all the loot from their Bandit King, Mohammed.
      The Protestant and Catholic schism is due to the invention of the printing press so that layman can read the Bible in English instead of relying on a (corrupt/able) theocratic institution’s reliance on Latin in order to retain power.. since Jesus and Christianity in general is actually anti-theocratic and preaches personal autonomy and relationship with God, and does not proscribe rituals.

      The Reformation came about due to the printing press and learning what Jesus actually said. A similar Reformation is implausible with Islam, as they can read the horrible doctrine and still embrace it – it’s only a matter of who is the King of the Loot.

      1. This is risible. First, your description of the Protestant schism presumes that one side was in fact telling lies in order to decide who was going to keep all the loot. It was the Catholics, in your view. Second, the most popular Christian sects re filled with rituals. Lutherans still practice Christian rituals despite the Ninety-Five Theses. There would hardly be any Lutherans without the rituals, since such things are necessary to the viability of any religion. Without church services you have no church. There will never be a popular, long-term religion that does not have rituals.

        1. He’s right and you didn’t even contradict him.

      2. What about the Roman church and Orthodox church split?

  2. Ok, just a question on Islam (admitting my lack of knowledge on the precepts of the faith), do the teachings of Islam actually support the concept religious freedom? Is this question asked or answered in the works cited above? That would seem to be at least as relevant as a Pew poll if the issue is: does Islam support religious freedom.

    1. Some argue that the teachings do support religious freedom. I’m not as sure as you that it matters. For reasons that should be apparent, the world’s most popular religions will be proselytizing, and proselytism requires intolerance. The archaic doctrine is mostly irrelevant.

      You’re not going to convert billions of people without getting your hands a little dirty.

      1. The archaic doctrine is mostly irrelevant? What doctrine is that? How about we define it first before excusing it away.

        1. Source material. So for Islam it would be the Quran and sunnah.

          1. And hadith.

            1. My understanding is that the hadith is part of the sunnah, but maybe this is semantic.

              1. I doubt the Bible is irrelevant to Christianity, or the Quran to Islam. Any devoted Muslim or Christian would likely find that to be among the more preposterous claims they’ve ever heard.

                I understand the argument, though. The fundamental teachings seem to be of waxing and waning importance to the actual practice and history of what falls under those labels.

                1. “I doubt the Bible is irrelevant to Christianity, or the Quran to Islam. Any devoted Muslim or Christian would likely find that to be among the more preposterous claims they’ve ever heard.”

                  As far as preposterous claims are concerned, devoted Muslims and Christians are experts, so I guess I have to concede the point.

                  From my own experience, the Bible was irrelevant to my becoming a Christian. I became a Christian before I could read. And my later confirmation into a church had literally nothing to do with prayerful reflection on the subject-matter of the Bible.

                  1. The point of your anecdote is taken. I just suspect that over the long term averages, the “source code” if you will defines the idea and determines its impact and long term trajectory.

                  2. NtoJ: “And my later confirmation into a church had literally nothing to do with prayerful reflection on the subject-matter of the Bible.”

                    Who can read the heart of man? My membership in a Southern Baptist church required adult baptism (I was about 11). It didn’t actually require a nominal Bible test, but it was preceded by years of Sunday school — most of which revolved around particular accounts from the Bible and doing things like memorizing the books of the Bible (the titles, not all the text) — and years of church services (where, among other things, the pastor hawked his latest book as well as presenting the meaning and implications of Biblical accounts). I had to have a conversation with the pastor and then a full-body-immersion baptism in a large, glass tank in front of my parents and other members of the congregation. My proud parents later gave me a Bible complete with concordance and chain-references.This was in an evangelical, but not fundamentalist, church.

                    Was it a heartfelt, Bible-based, reflective, religious experience? I thought it was, and the Bible certainly played a major role, even though ultimately it didn’t take.

                    1. Did it not take because you settled on Hinduism?

                    2. I’m a garden-variety secular, married to a Jew who almost believes in G*d.

          2. Wonderfully helpful exchange here that provides absolutely no clarification with respect to what Islam actually teaches regarding tolerating other faiths. Isn’t the title of this article “Religious Freedom in Islam”?

            1. Allegedly Islam’s source code supports religious freedom in non-adherents, and is not a proselytizing religion. See here for example. I’m sure there are plenty of passages to the contrary about murdering infidels.

              The reason the source material isn’t important is because we already know that Islam (as practiced) is a proselytizing religion. We know that from the fact that there are over 1 billion adherents. If there are 1 billion adherents you wouldn’t need to know anything about the source code to surmise that it’s a proselytizing religion.

              1. Don’t quite understand these persistent references to “source code.” Seems like your way to undermine idea of religion in general. And, just to be clear, I never referred to any specific “source material.” As for whether it proselytizes, this is relevant how?

                1. M.L. mentioned “source code” first. I was just responding to his use. But the reference to source material is because you asked the question about “the teachings of Islam”. Proselytizing is relevant because proselytizing religions will not be capable of absolute religious tolerance, due to that being antithetical to proselytizing.

                  1. I guess it depends on your definition of “proselytize.” If it means using undo pressure to convert, it should be condemned. If this is the sense you mean, then that is quite a condemnation of Islam but I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “absolute religious tolerance.”

                  2. I don’t really understand why you think a proselytizing religion cannot be tolerant of other religions (at least as long as no one’s life or limb is in jeopardy (e.g. suttee). The 11th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (*definitely* a proselytizing faith) states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

                    I think the rubber really hits the road when it’s not “what you believe” but “what you DO” (e.g. the clash between the practice of suttee and the practice of hanging men who burn widows alive). Laws of general applicability may spring from religious beliefs (such as the worth of human beings), but are not generally imposed because the Bible says (in one translation) “Thou shalt not kill.”

                    1. I’ll be clearer: A popular proselytizing religion cannot be tolerant of other religions to obtain its popularity. Bahai is a good example of a proselytizing religion, that is also (currently) practicing religious tolerance, and which will never command a significant percentage of the world’s believers.

                      I think soft proselytizing religions can be tolerant of other religions, but Christianity and Islam didn’t become the two most popular religions in the world by being soft proselytizing religions. The softening of Christian proselytism is one of several reasons that its growth rate has slowed relative to Islam’s.

                    2. Accepting a definition of “proselytism” in the negative sense of using some kind of pressure to induce someone to convert (I myself had ascribed a more neutral definition but I’ll admit my prospective may have been too narrow), I think Pope Francis might somewhat agree with your views on proselytism. But your worldview overlooks evangelism and the Pope would contend, at least, that the Catholic Church evangelizes; it does not proselytize. But the topic here is Islam. Does Islam evangelize?

                    3. Of course. I think it proselytizes, too.

    2. I believe the answer is yes in parts, no in parts. Take any position justified in the bible and you are likely to find the opposite elsewhere in that same bible.

      1. The issue isn’t Christianity. The question raised in the article concerns Islam.

        1. The issue is what a sacred text says. The examples of other religious texts being …. malleable …. is entirely relevant.

          I suppose I could have used the US Constitution. Would that make you happier?

          1. Again, try to focus, the issue is what Islam actually teaches or requires of its adherents/followers. And as to sacred texts, I suppose the content of those teachings may not be a complete answer (but still relevant) because how the faith is actually taught and communicated also bears on the attitudes of its followers. Do you actually have any understanding of what any faith teaches, let alone Islam? But the question as to what that faith teaches still remains. Why are you so afraid to address it?

            1. Who’a afraid of what? A strange way to object to an answer.

              1. Thought it was pretty clear but the comment was in response to your avoidance of the question I raised as to what the Islam actually teaches with respect to the interaction or tolerance of other beliefs. I guess I could write in all caps but I don’t think I can be any clearer.

          2. When it comes to the Bible, the New testament overrides the old anywhere they conflict. Is there a similar doctrine in regards to the Koran? Serious question.

            1. The Quran references the Torah, and the Torah is treated as a general authority in Islam, but I am pretty sure any purported conflict would be resolved in favor of the Quran.

            2. the New testament overrides the old anywhere they conflict.

              For Christians.

              I know you know that, and meant no harm, but it wouldn’t hurt to mention it.

              1. For anybody else the New testament is purely academic, so, yeah.

            3. Brett — Yes there is actually, it is sometimes called “abrogation.”
              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naskh_(tafsir)

              Unfortunately, whereas the OT and NT might be described as moving from a harsher set of edicts and events to a more grace-based doctrine, the life of Mohammed followed a reverse pattern. Thus statements like “there is no compulsion in religion” were followed up with much more ghastly directives.

            4. yes, the later parts of the Quran override the older parts, thus it goes from ‘peaceful’ to violent instead of vice versa.

      2. that’s from your own misunderstanding of the Bible, because you’re likely contrasting the covenant of JUDAISM (Old Testament) to Christianity (New Testament). The Quran is its own book and contradicts itself. It would be akin to New Testament contradicting itself, which it doesn’t.

        1. The New Testament contradicts itself a lot, and biblical scholars are in universal agreement on this. Setting aside the dozens of factual inconsistencies in the gospels alone, you have the later Pauline teachings replacing Jesus re: the old covenant. If Paul hadn’t made that move, the early Christian church never would have garnered the support it did from gentiles. Acts is inconsistent with the gospels.

    3. Whether Islam, or any other religion, supports the concept of religious freedom is not a question that can be answered by looking at a religion’s founding scriptures and parsing them out. A religion supports the concept of religious freedom if and when a critical mass of its adherents come to believe — usually not for religious reasons — that it should. There is no ascertainable truth of the matter separate from what a religion’s adherents believe.

      1. Good point.

        Is there anything in Christian scriptures that calls for freedom of religion?

        1. Render unto Caesar perhaps?

          1. I don’t think passages intended to demonize the Jews is the best source of a New Testament religious tolerance.

            1. Caeser isn’t Jewish…. he was Roman…

              1. The “Pharisees” attempting to “entangle [Jesus] in his talk” were Jewish. It was not Caesar’s “wickedness” that Jesus perceived.

            2. More to the point, that would have been separation of church and state, not religious tolerance.

        2. uh yeah, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Golden Rule. The whole message of Christianity is that ALL humans are sinners, we all have problems, every single human. Thus “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” means nobody should be stoning anyone. The whole point of its covenant is one of forgiveness, not rules and rituals.

          1. That’s certainly a view one who is inclined, for whatever reason, to believe in religious freedom could take, and there are certainly scriptural passages one could use to support that view. But no one can determine “the whole message of Christianity” unilaterally by pointing to selected Christian scriptural passages, any more than someone can determine the whole message of Islam by pointing to selected Islamic scriptural passages. A religion means now what enough of its current adherents say it means. In the future, it will mean what enough of its future adherents say it means in the future.

            1. The practice of a religion, and the meaning of the supposedly authoritative texts comprising divine revelations from which that religion arises, are two separate things with the tendency to diverge from time to time.

              Notwithstanding, in general and on average, the two appear to be naturally and fundamentally in alignment over the long term. This is true notwithstanding historical vacillations in form and secondary substance, and the various schisms and factional departures. And this will remain so indefinitely in the future, until either the semantic labels are simply appropriated and redefined, or until some new information becomes treated as divine revelation. None of that seems likely (although Joseph Smith mounted quite a notable effort).

              With that said, it is impossible to claim that the New Testament does not “call for religions freedom” or could be reasonably interpreted in that way. It’s not just a verse here or a parable there, it’s basically every word of the text. But to add another illustration, Paul wrote, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church?”

              1. Notwithstanding, in general and on average, the two appear to be naturally and fundamentally in alignment over the long term. This is true notwithstanding

                This is true notwithstanding and also notwithstanding?! Not that I see. This is just another talking point upon which to bash Islam.

                Most starkly the Jewish People and the bloody crazy Old Testament. But also Christianity for a very long time (and a bunch of sects still today) focusing more on temple-rage Jesus and fire-and-brimstone Revelations than those other more boring turn-the-other-cheek bits.

                With that said, it is impossible to claim that the New Testament does not “call for religions freedom” or could be reasonably interpreted in that way.
                Which is fully contradicting your previous paragraph, given the general history of Christianity killing itself, having crusades, and colonizing hardcore under color of the proper faith.

                “What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church?” Brett points out the flaw here.

                I’m a UU, I love me some New Testament Jesus. But come on, man.

                1. Here’s the problem. The historical perspective you advocate is a skewed one that focuses exclusively on the grossest offenses, both real and imagined, throughout history by anyone who was gathered near the banner of Christianity.

                  It’s very ahistorical, even if popular and accepted by many. The fact is Christianity as was a radically extreme egalitarian idea from its inception, in the cultural context of that day, and it remains just the same in today. The historical legacy, on the whole, reflects this.

                  1. Christianity has been pretty egalitarian within it’s chosen sect – that was part of it’s appeal. But outside? You’re the one being selective.

                    You’re also being at least as selective about Islam as well, so whatcha gonna do.

          2. That’s part of the message.

          3. “…the Parable of the Good Samaritan…”

            Whether it has anything to do with religious tolerance is not obvious, and is a matter of interpretation.

            “…the Golden Rule…”

            Islam uses the same golden rule. “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them.” There are probably more statements of the Golden Rule in the hadith than in the Bible.

            “Thus “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” means nobody should be stoning anyone.”

            The Pericope Adulterae is a very late addition to the Gospel of John, showing up around 400 years after Jesus died. That you think the “whole message of Christianity” is something said long after anyone who knew Jesus would have lived, should be telling.

    4. The teachings of Islam support the concept of religious freedom in the same way the U.S. Constitution supports a national gun ban to disarm every civilian: You’ll find a plethora of expert “scholars” to make the argument, but it’s not a popular teaching at all and seems to plainly contradict the text.

    5. No. Quran 9:113 is one of many that condemn those of other religions, in that verse specifically Christians.

      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”?

        I think you mean 9:30.

        Anyway, what do you have to say about 2 John 1:9-11? 1 Corinthians 5:9-13? 2 Corinthians 4:4? Luke 19:27? Revelation 21:8?

    6. That depends on what you mean by religious freedom.

      Islamic law applies differently to Muslims than to non-Muslims. In some contexts, non-Muslim witnesses are not acceptable in a case against a Muslim, Muslim witnesses acceptable against a non-Muslim. Muslims pay one set of taxes, non-Muslims a different tax. A Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, a non-Muslim man may not marry a Muslim woman. Conversion away from Islam is treated as a crime, conversion to Islam is not. Muslims are prohibited from drinking wine, non-Muslims are not.

      On the other hand, Islam was relatively tolerant by historical standards. Followers of the tolerated religions?Jews, Christians, and a third category whose identity is unclear, plus at least sometimes Zoroastrians, were protected under Islamic law, treated as legitimate, if somewhat second class, citizens of Islamic polities. Jews prospered in Muslim Spain, were expelled after the Christian reconquest.

      All of that is a description of Islamic legal doctrine (fiqh). Almost no modern Muslim majority polities actually implement that doctrine, however. Saudi Arabia is probably the closest. Mostly what “Islamist” polities implement is a modern system of statutory law with some features borrowed from actual Islamic law.

  3. Several times I have mentioned in this forum the unusual instance of my sitting through a murder trial, the location of the crime being an apartment in which my wife and I had lived for several years. I also mentioned that the killer was from Iraq and he shot his teen daughter because she got uppity and refused to wash his car.

    I don’t think I mentioned that the wife did not call 9-1-1 that day because she did not know how to use the telephone in the apartment. The family had lived in the USA some 17 years and she had never been allowed to use the telephone by her husband.

    This hope for magic social progress may take longer than calculated, because total immersion in our culture does not necessarily do it.

    1. I wonder how many women on LDS ranches near the Arizona/Utah border are in the same situation.

      1. As bad as the polygamist Mormons are they won’t shoot you if you draw vile cartoons about them.

        1. That’s an interesting comparison, AZ. Is a violent objection to cartoons better or worse than torturing, starving, and chaining more than a dozen children consequent to a “calling” within the Quiverfull movement?

          1. Don’t know.

            But I suspect that I have nothing to fear from the “Quiverfull” movement (whatever the heck that is) even if I were to draw vile cartoons about them.

            1. As compared to say…….Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the South Park guys), who faced a criminal terror plot to murder them because they dared depict the prophet Muhammad in an episode of their show.

              From The Hollywood Reporter……

              https://tinyurl.com/y5qv2t8s

  4. I think a nuanced view on this issue is appropriate because its highly unlikely that Islam is a main driving force of backwardsness in Islamic countries. We see in those countries, for example, a high level of cousin marriage, violent parenting, and other practices that systematically suppress intelligence not only of women (as one might argue some religious doctrines do), but of the men as well. And history has shown that a populace with low intelligence levels (some have proposed a cutoff using IQ, but that is too speculative for me), cannot self govern long term.

  5. “”America is not?and never will be?at war with Islam.””America is not?and never will be?at war with Islam.””

    It takes not 2 belligerents but only 1 to make a war.

    Islam is at war with civilization and has been since it’s inception.

    Islam was vomited up by a desert pirate to justify his every lust for child-rape, theft and murder.

    On the practical side it is just piracy, on the “spiritual” (for lack of a better word) it is a death cult married to a crime syndicate.

    1. Islam is at war with civilization and has been since it’s inception.

      You know nothing about either apostrophes or Islamic history. Muslim civilization was far more advanced than that of Christendom until about 1400 or so.

      1. What have you done for us lately? Stagnate and regress.

        1. I’m not a Muslim.

          It’s true that Islamic civilization fell behind the West. I was just trying to point out to AZ Gunowner that the idea that Islam has always been at war with civilization is utterly false as a historical matter.

          1. It is a rather bloodthirsty xenophobic religion as practiced by hundreds of millions of its adherents. And in a way not present in any other major religion at this time in history.

      2. “Muslim civilization was far more advanced than that of Christendom until about 1400 or so.”

        The Byzantine Empire begs to differ.

        Plus, the so-called “Dark Ages” in Catholic Europe was not really dark according to the latest scholarship.

        1. Bob, please explain your reference to the Byzantine Empire.

          I don’t know what you are getting at.

          1. The Byzantine Empire aka Eastern Roman Empire was Christian too and at least as advanced as Islamic areas.

            1. at least as advanced as Islamic areas.

              I mean, I love me some Byzantium, but they were too busy wanking about theology to really get into the sciences like the Muslim world at the time.

            2. It was Christian, but there is not much support for the idea that it was anywhere near as advanced as the Islamic world.

      3. uh, Islam has been spreading by violent conquest since it’s inception.

        Whether it was more “advanced” than Christian civilization from 700 AD until 1400 is probably a subject of some debate. And I suspect it is not quite so stark a comparison as you want to make it.

        Islam didn’t become violent, it is based on violence.

        1. Not much debate, actually. And since you used the word “probably” I’m guessing you don’t really know much about the comparison.

          For example, the first western contact with ancient Greek texts was by way of translations by Muslims into Arabic.

      4. No. No it wasn’t. Their Golden Age wasn’t a period of mental enlightenment, but of raiding neighboring civilizations and stealing their loot and shipping it back to Baghdad. Even the Algebra guy was a Zoroastrian they pillaged from Tehran and made to convert and compile their loot in Baghdad

        1. What exactly are you a doctor of, and who made you one?

  6. “Religious freedom is a universal principle …”

    Only in the sense that you’ve decided to believe it. Perhaps you mean religious freedom SHOULD be a universal principle. There certainly is no call for religious freedom within the tenets of Islam, just as there was none in the Western Christian world when one could seriously speak of ‘Christendom.

    The Western world only found religious freedom a reasonable idea very recently. Don’t be too surprised the next time you hear of Christians being incinerated inside a church in the same country Obama blessed with his pious words.

    P.S. Many years ago, V. S. Naipual pointed out that Muslim immigrants in the West were quick to demand religious ‘rights’ (presumably universal) at the same time it would never occur to them that their home countries should offer those same rights to others. I highly recommend his book Among the Believers.

    1. “Muslim immigrants in the West were quick to demand religious ‘rights’ (presumably universal) at the same time it would never occur to them that their home countries should offer those same rights to others”

      As Frank Herbert wrote:

      “When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.”

      1. +1000

        I’ve noticed most Muslims are pretty reasonable neighbors…….. in small numbers. The problem tends to come when they are a plurality, or majority. Then the Islamic oppression comes full force.

        England is experiencing this now. I would rather America not import more of these people so we can avoid that.

        1. I’ve compared Muslims to U235; A few Muslims are fine, a few more and things start heating up, assemble a critical mass together in one place and you get a smoking crater.

          The problem these days is that the internet can assemble a critical mass in virtual space, no matter where the Muslims happen to be physically located.

          1. This is some Protocols level dehumanization, guys.

            Muslims are not a deterministic process, they are various different peoples with free will.

            And not secret agendas to take over once they get critical mass.

  7. I haven’t yet read the book, although it is on my teetering TBR pile, so this question may be addressed in the text. Do you discuss the emerging field of Quranic textual criticism and what it might mean for the currently received text? I recently had the opportunity to hear a Ph.D. candidate in Quranic Studies discuss his work with original Quranic source materials. One of the points that he mentioned was that his research had uncovered over 2000 textual differences between the earliest manuscripts and the currently approved Quran. He also noted that there were very few scholars working in this area, especially when compared to other religions arising out of the ancient Near East, which meant that many of these anomalies had not been addressed within the Islamic theological tradition because most active scholars simply aren’t aware of the anomalies. He contrasted that to the Christian and Jewish scholarly traditions in which those kinds of textual differences have been discussed, debated, and analyzed over hundreds of years to arrive at a modicum of agreement as to what the texts actually say. His belief was that Quranic textual criticism had the potential to cause some serious issues inside the Islamic theological tradition.

  8. Am I the only one who finds the question, “is Islam tolerant of other religions,” patently absurd? One need only examine Islam itself, and note the unresolved, ongoing, violent, internal conflict of Sunni versus Shia. “Islam,” as a “whole,” monolithic faith is not even a valid concept, but if I concede that I can fairly conclude that Islam is not even tolerant of itself. Not since 632 A.D., anyway. And lately, it is getting worse.

    How can we even consider that Islam is tolerant of other religions???

    It’s laughable.

    1. The Sunni-Shia conflict was always much more about politics than religion.

      IIRC, Christian countries have sometimes fought each other.

      1. Maybe he thinks it’s patently absurd to ask if Christianity is tolerant of other religions?

        1. Yea, what about [fil in the blank.] Hardly a compelling argument.

          1. I didn’t bring up the whataboutism. I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt against bernard11’s accusation of potential inconsistency.

            1. Sorry, I misinterpreted your comment.

        2. Without in anyway agreeing, I would say that your comment sounds patently irrelevant.

      2. I’m not here to defend or attack Christianity, this post is about Islam. “What about-ism” is the haven of the weak of mind.

        The fact of the matter is that the two sects – yes, “sects” – have been fighting for almost 14 centuries. For them, politics and religion are inseparable, just as religion and law are inseparable.

        To this day, there are beheadings – public executions – for Hudud crimes – Quranic crimes – such as apostasy and atheism – in Saudi Arabia, admittedly one of the more ‘civilized’ of the majority muslim countries.

        Now, that’s religious tolerance!

        1. The Publius: “”What about-ism” is the haven of the weak of mind.”

          Have to disagree. This is a matter of context and degree. When the question at hand concerns a difference in kind between two things, and one brings up something that hypothetically is associated with only one of them, it is completely acceptable — even necessary — to point out where the same thing is associated with the other.

          After that one can actually discuss relative quantities — or other characteristics — of the “something.”

      3. “The Sunni-Shia conflict was always much more about politics than religion.”

        Says who?

        1. Says who?

          Says anyone familiar with Islamic history.

      4. In Islam the religion and the politics are the same.

        Islam is a political ideology of violent conquest or a violent political ideology of conquest.

        And both Sunni and Shia agree that Islam should cover the world and anything that stands in it’s way needs to be killed.

      5. well it’s about rival oil pipelines COMBINED with the religion’s heirs of Aisha vs Ali

    2. “So before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against the world. And all of us against the infidel.” (The Haj, p. 15)

    3. The question is patently absurd because religious freedom is a secular concept. You may wish to restrict the topic to Islam, but the fact of the matter is no religion preaches religious freedom except their own.

  9. It partly depends on which religion. They are reasonably tolerant of other related religions, but others are not. I have Zoroastrian relatives from Iran who had to flee the country when the revolution happened. One that did not was hanged.

    I cannot recall any Christian countries hanging people because of religion in the last few decades…

    1. Emmett Till (okay, more than a few decades, but not so many). Then again, maybe we’re not Christian?

      1. Till’s religion was a factor in his hanging? News to me!

        Pointing out that Christians commit murders is not *quite* the same as “Christians pass laws allowing them to kill disrespectful daughters and wives, gays, and members of other religious groups”

    2. Well, Russia is currently torturing Jehovah’s Witnesses and they also persecute Muslims under the guise of preventing extremism. Officially, certain minority Christian doctrines are now banned, leading to lengthy prison terms. I’m expecting many of these people to end up dead by the end.

  10. Western religious tolerance is an Enlightenment virtue. Partly due to exhaustion after centuries of religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

    As the Irish [or Jews] can tell you, its not even completely established 400 years after the Enlightenment began.

    1. This I agree with you on.

  11. Are there generally low rates of religious freedom in islamic nations?: Yes

    Is islam fundamentally intolerant of other creeds?: Yes, its embedded within the earliest and most basic islamic scriptures, anyone who claims otherwise either hasn’t read them or is lying to you. The fundamentalists are closer to the ‘true original’ form of islam than the moderates insofar as ‘true and original’ is a verifiable coherent concept in this case.

    Does the fact that strongmen in islamic countries feel the need to curb religious enthusiasm to ensure their rule mean islam is tolerant of other creeds?: No, quite the opposite.

    Does this mean Western countries are beacons of religious freedom?: No, most Western nations today bend the knee to far left ‘progress’ivism which is a State sanctioned religion in all but name. Despite fitting the definition of a cult in all the negative aspects of the word, it manages to escape most of the restrictions other religions face from various church/state separation clauses. Currently it has an alliance of sorts with elements of the islamic community (which is kinda weird since it’d be difficult to come up with two more seemingly diametrically opposed ideologies if you tried) against the perceived common enemy of rightwingers and traditional Christian values. But make no mistake progressivism does not like detractors or serious competition.

    1. What should we do to stop the progressive cult? Would forced confessions be sufficient, or do we just put them to the sword to be safe?

      1. “You’ll often hear libertarians and conservatives ask what gives with this. But you never hear them answer the question. You never hear them say, either, Should we stop persecuting racists and fascists, or should we start persecuting communists and socialists? Very difficult question.”

      2. I’d start with updating the definition of church and religion when it comes to separation of church and state. The old definition served well enough when nearly everybody sat in a pew or a madrassa but in these more interesting times its clear religious sentiments and associated extremism comes in much more diverse forms. Crazy cults don’t get a pass just because they don’t call themselves a religion. How exactly we winnow sensible differences of opinion from blind fanaticism is something that will have to be worked on but this will at least give us a solid base to start.

        1. AmosArch, advocate for thoughtcrime.

        2. How would you redefine church and religion? Could you be more specific?

    2. “Is islam fundamentally intolerant of other creeds?: Yes, its embedded within the earliest and most basic islamic scriptures”

      That depends what you mean by “intolerant.” Islamic doctrine does not treat other creeds as equal to Islam, but members of the tolerated religions (at least Judaism and Christianity, others depending on time and place) were supposed to be protected under Islamic law and permitted to practice their own religions, not forced to become Muslims. It was the Spanish Christians, during and after the Reconquista, who forced Jews and Muslims to either convert or leave.

      1. “were supposed to be protected under Islamic law and permitted to practice their own religions, not forced to become Muslims.”

        Only so long as they pay the jizyah and submit to the Islamic authorities.

        1. Way ahead of the Catholic Church at the time.

  12. It would be a very good idea. (To paraphrase Gandhi on Western civilization)

  13. >”a fiery public debate over the character of Islam has been raging in the West ”

    I’m sure there’d be a fierce public debate about the character of Islam in the Middle Eastern countries.. if they didn’t kill those who criticize it…

    1. “I’m sure there’d be a fierce public debate about the character of Islam…”

      In this thread, it is simultaneously claims that Islam is constantly at war with itself, and that there is no public debate about the character of Islam in the places that are engaged in religious civil war.

  14. Islam since it’s inception has always offered a religious choice, convert or die.

    1. Somewhere in Hell the Auto-da-F? nods in agreement.

  15. Sorry, but this is the same old white racism. Islam is one or two percent of the US population. Blacks are 13% of the US population and have been in oppressed in the land of freedom for 400 years. Today, a black child born in Mississippi or Alabama clearly does not have “choice” that belongs to privileged white children born in those same states. You constantly ignore the white bigotry in your own house and talk about how you need to insert white values in to Indonesia and Qatar? A white racist man sits in this nation’s highest office, who is a Muslim hater by the way, and you sit there whitely pontificating about universal values? Universal is code for whites shoving their ways on the world. One of those universals is mistreatment of black people, solely based on skin color. Racist beam first, in your own eye, maybe?

  16. the US does not host mosques. Muslims in America build houses of worship and then spend millions on cameras and guard to stop racist whites from burning down our mosques…..and has happened several times and happens almost every year.

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