Is there a liberal, secular, tolerant Muslim country?

There is disagreement over whether Islam is really compatible with Western values of freedom, tolerance, and secular government. One piece of evidence for this would be if, out of about 50 Muslim majority countries, there were any sizable countries which demonstrated values comparable to those found commonly in the West. Let’s look at several which are frequently put forward as shining examples of secularism, freedom and tolerance: Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia.


Christianity Today reports three Christians who were brutally tortured and murdered in April, 2007, by Muslims who had asked to meet with the victims in order to “learn more about the Bible.” According to reports published by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, there have been attacks on priests including one murder in 2006. Genocide Watch cites beatings, death threats, police brutality, and other anti-Christian behaviors. From time to time, missionaries are arrested or deported, even though missionary activity is ostensibly legal. Niyazi Guney, Ministry of Justice director general of laws, has commented that “Missionaries are more dangerous than terror organizations.” Since religious minorities compose less than 1 percent of the Turkish population, and there are many instances of Muslim intolerance even with so few minorities, one wonders what things would be like with more.


The Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities” lists many instances of intolerance and persecution toward religious minorities in Bangladesh. For example, Christians are savagely beaten. 10,000 Hindus live in fear of eviction. Rapes of minority Hindu women occurring on a daily basis could arguably be considered genocidal; little girls, pregnant women, and the elderly are not spared. According to Amnesty International, human rights defenders are under attack in Bangladesh. At least 500,000 minorities have been displaced within Bangladesh, in addition to hundreds of thousands who have fled the country, since October 2001. The indigenous Jummas of the Chittagong Hills Tract region of Bangladesh have, over the past 40 years, faced forcible conversion to Islam, religious persecution, arrests, tortures, abductions, and massacres. In 1947, 38 percent of the region that is now Bangladesh were non-Muslim; now it’s down to 8 percent.


Malaysian authorities recently confiscated Christian children’s books. Malaysia is now refusing to issue new visas for prists. They have given foreign priests already there a six month renewal, and told them they must leave after their visas expire. Ethnic Malays in Malaysia are required by law to be Muslim, and those who leave Islam may be jailed. In 2006, Malaysia banned the distribution of the infamous Mohammed cartoons.


In June, 2007, three Sunday school teachers were released after two years in jail. They had allowed some Muslim children to attend a program with the full consent of their parents. According to a report by Bishop Martinus Situmorang, 108 Christian churches have been closed in Indonesia due to Islamic pressure from 2004 through 2007. Asia News reports “Indonesian authorities have prevented the parish priest of Christ’s Peace Church in South Duri (West Jakarta) from celebrating mass.” According to Indonesia Matters, the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, a peaceful sect which believes there was a prophet named “Mirza Ghulam Ahmad” after Mohammed, has agreed to say they believe that Mohammed was the final prophet after all, in order to avoid being banned. Why would a peaceful sect be banned in a secular country? Also from Indonesia Matters, “Indonesia remains on the ‘Watch List’ in the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom report for 2006.”


The fact is, the four Muslim majority countries that are regularly touted as the most secular, tolerant, and free continue to have major problems with religious persecution. In addition, these four countries are among the least orthodox, but they are on a trajectory of becoming more orthodox, which probably means things will get worse. The rest of the Muslim world, in general, has even less religious freedom. (The possible exceptions are Senegal and Mali, two unorthodox West African nations with populations of around 12 million each, who have thus far mostly escaped the Islamist trend.) This is something for us to think about, as the Islamists have designs for making every Western country Islamic, as well. It that what we want?

4 Responses to Is there a liberal, secular, tolerant Muslim country?

  1. frankag says:

    I’ve been to Mali. As a “light skin tone person ” I was treated as well as anywhere I’ve been to in Canada.

  2. citizensagainstsharia says:

    I’m glad you had a good experience in Mali. Muslim countries do not necessarily have a big problem with racism, although some do. Islam is not a race, and religious intolerance is not the same as racism.

    What is at issue is whether they allow complete freedom of religion, which includes the right of non-Muslims to promote their religions and the right of Muslims to convert to other faiths. In addition, a truly free country allows anyone to criticize any religion and any political view (Islam includes both religion and politics). So, if you had gone to Mali, stood on a busy street corner, criticized Islam and promoted Buddhism and everyone was very nice to you, this would have addressed the issues more closely. (I would then have requested proof that this actually happened, and that this experiment could be repeated indefinitely!) So far, of all the people who claim Islam is secular and tolerant, I’ve known of no instance in which they were willing to put it to a real test.

  3. elraghy says:

    Hello There

    This might be a bit too late to reply but better late than never.

    To answer your question, I would suggest that you read ” God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe” authored by NYU history professor David Levering Lewis as well as watching PBS’ documentary “Islam: Empire of Faith”.

    Both the book and the documentary show how the same intolerant muslim countries, prospered and had invaluable contribution to the human civilization when people where tolerant and allowed religion freedom. 10 centuries ago, both Christians and Jews lived in pieces with muslims in the middle east and, as a matter of fact, several scientists that had contributed greatly to the Arab’s empire were Jewish. Current “muslims countries”, when compared to their status 10 centuries ago, make it clear that it has nothing to do with religion but rather with people. Same countries, same religion and totally two different social and economic status.

    It’s interesting how Europe was looking upon by Arabs 10 centuries ago. Europeans were the savages. Does that mean it was Christianity that lead to that? I don’t think so.

    • Hello elraghy,

      Unfortunately, in the case of Islam, the religion itself contains many, many tenets which Muslims use to justify intolerance and religious supremacy. When Muslims ignore those tenets, they can be very nice people. However, the comparison with Christianity does not stand. I suggest taking a good look at Robert Spencer’s excellent Blogging the Quran series, and then tell me if you think the Bible is equally problematic (providing specific examples, please!)

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