News Flash: Muslims Want Free Speech for Themselves!

May 7, 2008

Gallup has conducted world-wide polling of Muslims, described by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed as “six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations. Representing more than 90% of the world’s Muslim community, this poll is the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind.” It should be noted that John Esposito is the founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, which has received “$20 million of funding from Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal”, as noted in Martin Kramer’s Sandbox Blog.

Esposito and Mogahed report about Gallup’s findings in their book, Who Speaks for Islam?, which has the “not-so-hidden purpose” to “blur any difference between average Muslims around the world and average Americans”, as described in The Weekly Standard. Truth, it would seem, is not an insurmountable obstacle to that goal. (I highly recommend this article).

According to a review published by Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH), Esposito’s and Mohaged’s book draws the following conclusion:

“It thus turns out that Muslims apparently want a different kind of ‘democracy,’ one which avoids moral and other kinds of risks. For example, although they would like freedom of speech, they would not like it to be unlimited, such that it might permit speech offensive to religious sensibilities. In other words, blasphemy laws should limit it.”

This means that they want freedom of speech only for themselves! Anyone who has views of Islam that are different from their own would be censored! What’s so great about that? Anyone can be in favor of freedom of speech for those who agree with them. Even in Communist countries, a person is free to express a pro-Communist viewpoint. Is that freedom of speech? A person is committed to freedom of speech only if they also want to protect this freedom for those who disagree with them.

In practice, blasphemy laws apply to any view deemed sufficiently unorthodox; for example, in Muslim countries, the peaceful Ahmadiyya sect is typically deemed heretical and is stifled, even in a “moderate” country like Indonesia. Other “heretical’ sects are persecuted elsewhere in the Muslim world, even in “secular” Turkey. And, of course, the views of Muslims can be considered heretical whether or not they belong to a heretical sect, as can the views of non-Muslims.

So, despite Esposito’s and Mogahed’s attempt to portray the world’s Muslims as “just like us”, even this one statement reveals a vast difference. Individual Muslims should be judged on their merits, and there are Muslim individuals who do indeed believe in free speech for all. However, it is a mistake of monumental proportions to portray the Muslim community as freedom-loving.


Is there a liberal, secular, tolerant Muslim country?

February 1, 2008

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.

Turkey

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.

Bangladesh

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.

Malaysia

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.

Indonesia

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.”

Conclusions

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?