Source: Venn Institute
By M Zuhdi Jasser
The question of religious freedom for all as it relates to the religion of Islam is one of the most challenging yet important ones of this century. It is understandable that many judge faiths – not just Islam – based on the actions of their leaders and most vocal members. The same stands true for Islam. Sadly, it is undeniable that when it comes to the First Freedom, the fruit of religious liberty, it is undeniable that the overwhelming majority of the current Muslim leadership across the world have demonstrated little respect for the protection of individual religious liberty in Muslim-majority societies and even in Muslim communities in the West. Unfortunately, then, a faith of 1.5 billion adherents becomes represented by a small but vocal group of individuals who would seek to strip not just non-Muslims, but also critically thinking Muslims, of their religious freedoms.
Many scholars and pundits have attempted to determine the cause(s) of the infringements on religious freedom emanating from Muslim societies. They have blamed everything from history, to education, economics, foreign policy, and even the entire faith and its founder, Muhammad. Others, especially those Muslims uninterested in reform, even invoke a potpourri of conspiracy theories about why “real Islam” is so scarce. From Egypt to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and in particular the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) based in Saudi Arabia wielding often a bloc vote at the United Nations, Muslim leaders have to varying degrees chosen to advance or implement forms of draconian shar’iah law or its apologia while compromising the genuine religious freedom guaranteed by those who respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Where Muslim dictators, autocrats, monarchs, and theocrats entrenched in governments of the OIC leave off, the ubiquitous followers and leadership of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or Jamaat al-Islamiyya take over. These groups are well-funded, most often by petrodollars, and their populist offshoots bear many names. However, their stifling influence on voices of real religious diversity and liberty within Muslim communities is unmistakable.