Daniel Philpott on Religious Freedom in Islam


– Welcome to Rehm Library,
I’m Tom Landy, the director of the McFarland Center for
Religion, Ethics, and Culture. The McFarland Center sponsors lectures, discussions, conferences, and other initiatives to explore issues of meaning, morality,
and mutual obligation. You can learn more and watch videos of our lectures online at
holycross.edu/mcfarlandcenter. And for your friends who
are unfortunate enough to have missed today’s lecture, you can tell them in a couple days this one will be online as well. I’m really pleased to welcome an expert on global peacebuilding and reconciliation to speak to us about the
culture war over Islam and the role of religious freedom in moving things forward. Daniel Philpott is professor
of political science at the University of Notre Dame. Between 2000 and 2006, he
traveled regularly to Kashmir, the disputed Indian territory that’s recently been on the news, as a senior associate for the International Center
for Religion and Diplomacy. From 2009 to 2013, he
shifted his focus to Africa, helping leaders in the Catholic
Church develop a vision of reconciliation in the Great
Lakes Region, East Africa. As director of the Center
of Civil and Human Rights at Notre Dame, he directed research on
the role of forgiveness in peacebuilding in Uganda. He’s published a number of books on reconciliation, religion,
and global politics, including The Politics of Past Evil, Religion, Reconciliation, and
Transitional Justice in 2006, God’s Century, Resurgent Religion and
Global Politics in 2011, Just and Unjust Peace, an Ethic of Political
Reconciliation in 2012, and Restorative Justice, Reconciliation and Peacebuilding in 2014. Religious freedom is a major theme in Professor Philpott’s work. He’s co-director of the
Under Caesar’s Sword Project, which researches Christian responses to persecution around the globe, and is funded by the
Templeton Religious Trust. Since 2011, he’s been an associate scholar at what is now the
Religious Freedom Institute in Washington D.C. And his most recent book, which he’ll share more about today, is Religious Freedom in Islam, The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today. His talk is one of the Deitchman Family Lectures
on Religion and Modernity, a distinguished series
at the McFarland Center, made possible through the generosity of the John Deitchman
family, class of ’73. It’s also part of
International Education Week, which we are celebrating
here at Holy Cross. Please, join me in
welcoming Daniel Philpott. (audience applauding) – Thank you. Thank you so much, and thank you for the
kind introduction, Tom. And it’s a great honor to
be giving this lecture. I’m very grateful to the Deitchman family for their generosity, and for the McFarland Center, for the kind invitation. The Islam question is the
subject of a culture war that has been roiling
in the West over Islam. It is played out again and again on cable news, talk radio, the Internet, and in newspapers. At least as far back as the attacks of September 11th, 2001. And, indeed, every time Islam appears in some way to be linked with violence. Consider the murder of the
Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, Al Qaeda’s bombings in Madrid and London, Danish cartoons mocking
the Prophet Muhammad, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Regensburg Address
of Pope Benedict XVI, the building of an
Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan, the Arab uprisings of 2011, shootings at Fort Hood and San Bernardino, depredations of Boko Haram and the Islamic State, and so forth. There are hawks and there are doves. Hawks hold that violence and intolerance are widespread in Islam. That Islam is hardwired
for these pathologies through its texts and doctrines. That Islam is inhospitable
to liberal democracy. And, then, the prescription comes that the West must gird
up for a long struggle against the Islamic threat. Doves hold that Islam is
pluralistic and diverse. Like all religions, Islam has
extremists but they are few. Where violence and
intolerance do exist in Islam, it feeds off local and historical
particular circumstances. It’s not hardwired. Islam is capable of democracy. The West should acknowledge its own role in contributing to violence in Islam, and engage in a dialogue that can increase the sphere
of shared understanding. Are more nuanced views available? Of course, there are, and my aim, in fact, is to present one. Yet, it is remarkable to me how widely the debate follows these lines. Not only on cable news and the like, but also in higher-brow publications like The New Republic,
the National Review, The New York Review Books, and, yes, in universities. I believe that scholars
have a responsibility to shed light on public controversies. And this is the aim of my remarks, which are drawn from my
recently published book, “Religious Freedom in Islam,” intervening in a culture war. I wish to take a close look at Islam with respect to claims that it is either a violent
or a peaceful religion, oppressive towards outsiders
and dissenters or tolerant. The same question can be fruitfully posed towards any religion, or for that matter secular ideologies, or states and other communities. But I want to ask the
question with regard to Islam, because it is so contentious
in our political conversation, and because there are
important stakes in it. It matters for the foreign
policy of the United States and other Western states, and for the larger set
of cultural attitudes that vitally shape relations between the West and the Islamic world, including Muslims living in the West. And I want to pose us a criterion for getting at this question, the principle of religious freedom. Why religious freedom? Many scholars have proposed
democracy as the criterion, and assessed Islam’s compatibility. Democracies, elections,
and popular rule, though, coexist perfectly well with intolerance towards religious
minorities and dissenters. The tyranny of the majority. Religious freedom adds human rights to rule by the demos. Others have invoked
tolerance as the criterion. But tolerance is temporary like a truce, and is not founded on
a deep principle basis. Religious freedom, by contrast,
is principled and permanent. When a community adopts religious freedom, its members agree enduringly to respect the full citizenship rights of those with whom they disagree over the ultimate questions. Today, some critics of
religious freedom argue that the standard is a Western one and should not be imposed
on the rest of the world. I have argued by contrast, and argue in the book at greater length, that religious freedom is
a universal human right, consonant with its appearance in the major international conventions. Is Islam hospitable to
religious freedom, then? Different methods for
answering the question might be adopted. Islam’s founding texts, the Quran and the Hadith,
could be examined. The tradition of Islamic
thought could be plumbed. Or we might look at Islam as a whole, the Muslim world as a whole around the globe. Noting for instance the rise in Islamic terrorism since 1980. My method is to look at the Muslim world through the 47 or so
Muslim-majority states. Now, an excellent index for assessing religious
freedom has been developed by Pew Research Center Scholars Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke. Their Government Restriction Index scores the laws and policies
of 198 states and territories on a scale of zero,
which is the least free, to 10, which are the most free. Based on a battery of 20 questions that measure particular
dimensions of religious freedom. Based on these scores Pew
divides the world’s countries into four categories of restrictiveness: very high, high, moderate, and low. What do the numbers tell us about religious freedom and Islam? From a satellite view, the picture seems to favor the more hawkish perspective. Of 47 Muslim-majority states, 36, more than three-quarters, have high restrictions
on religious freedom. Taken as a whole the set
of Muslim-majority states is far less religiously free
than the global average, or the set of Christian-majority
countries for instance. Zooming in from a landscape view to a closeup view, however, the picture starts to look
more diverse and hopeful. It becomes apparent, for instance, that 11 out of 47 or
nearly one-fourth regimes of Muslim-majority countries
have low restrictions on religious freedom
according to the Pew Index, and can thus be judged religiously free. Among the regimes that exhibit high levels of religious restriction, Pew’s moderate, high,
and very high categories, there is diversity in the reasons behind the restrictions. To understand this diversity we must look beyond the numbers to the manner in which
religious freedom is restricted. Crucial is what we may call a regime’s political theology, that is the doctrine
of political authority, justice, and the proper relationship between religion and state, that political and religious actors derive from more foundational, theological, and philosophical claims. Among religiously unfree regimes in Muslim-majority countries, two very different political
theologies can be found. One is secular repressive, where the state marginalizes Islam in order to build a modern society. 15 regimes fit this description. The other is religiously repressive characterized by an
Islamist political theology, where the state imposes a strongly traditional form of Islam. 21 regimes fit this description. When regimes with a religiously
free political theology are added to these orientations, a typology of three kinds of regimes in Muslim-majority states emerges. Let us take a closer look
at the three orientations. Consider first the 11
religiously free regimes in the Muslim-majority world. Their governments are
committed in principle to refraining from coercing or discriminating heavily against individuals and
religious communities in their practice of religion. They adhere closely to international human rights conventions in matters of religion. Their constitutions either
do not mention Islam, or else mention in it in a sense that has little implication for the interpretation of law. Their constitutions also
contain robust provisions for religious freedom, allowing religious people
and communities wide liberty to practice and express their faith, to educate their children in their faith, and to govern their communities
and their properties. They protect the liberty of Muslims who descend from prevailing orthodoxies and of religious minorities such as Christians, Jews, and Baha’is. In these states Muslim
religious leaders promote the vigorous practice of Islam, the spread of Islam, and
a robust Islamic culture, while often enjoying direct support for religious activities. These are the implications of a political theology
of religious freedom. In a certain sense, religiously
free states are secular. But this requires a clarification of the fraught and protean word secular. Pope Benedict XVI distinguishes between positive secularism, which involves a healthy separation of religion and state and
robust religious freedom, with negative secularism, where the state motivated by
an anti-religious ideology seeks to restrict, marginalize,
and privatize religion. Religiously free states are
secular in a positive sense. The greatest concentration of religiously free
Muslim-majority countries is in West Africa, where they are found in Senegal, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Burkina Faso,
Sierra Leone, and The Gambia. Lebanon is another interesting case. There’s also Djibouti,
Kosovo, and Albania. But let’s focus on West Africa. Most of the West African
countries contain minorities of Christians and other faiths. And many of them Shia
and Ahmadi communities who descend from mainstream Sunni Islam. This is the geographic heart
of religiously free Islam, and offers the strongest existing evidence for the possibility of religious freedom in the Muslim world. Importantly, these countries are free not despite or apart from, but rather because of
their Islamic character. Prevalent in them is Sufi Islam, which strongly stresses
the free character of faith and the presence of God in every person. Sufis often appeal to Koran 2:256, which says there is no
compulsion in religion. I’ll come back to that a little later. They refrain from labeling
anyone an apostate, and even defend a right to exit Islam. Dating back to the 14th and
15th centuries in West Africa, Sufism is arguably the
most important shaper of the regions unusual degree of inter-religious harmony and tolerance. And more broadly, the
commitments to freedom in matters of faith that form the political theology that underlies governance
in these regions. One might also look at the manner in which Islam came to the region, back in the 15th and 16th centuries. Unlike, say in the Middle East where it was spread by conquest in the generations just
after the Prophet Muhammad, here it came through small bands
of missionaries and traders who had to make accommodations with the surrounding rulers
and the surrounding religion. That pattern of accommodation helped to set the long pattern for inter-religious harmony
and religious freedom. Within the last five
years, Islamist groups, some of them Salafi, have grown in most of these countries, often influenced from the outside, and in some cases committing
violence and terrorism. All of these countries,
though, despite this, have maintained their high
levels of religious freedom. The second orientation
of Muslim-majority states towards the governance of religion is based on a political
theology of secular repression. The political theology
of secular repression runs something like this. We are a modern nation that
is headed for greatness. We will develop a modern economy. And everyone, yes, everyone, boy or girl, regardless of caste or class, will receive an education. We will advance in science, technology, and military might. European states have shown
us the path to the future. But they will no longer be
our masters or colonizers. This progress requires
keeping religion in check, so goes the logic. Our citizens may practice religion, if it gives meaning to their lives and makes them more virtuous. But religion will not
define our public life. Religion is irrational, superstitious, and the source of hierarchies
that impede equality. And it directs people’s
pursuits away from this world and its endeavors, and their loyalties away from the state. Perhaps, religion can
become more serviceable to the public wheel, but it must be reformed and modernized. And this will require
oversight and governance, even heavy-handed
oversight and governance. Typically, Islamic
secular repressive rulers will establish a moderate version of Islam by supporting it, commending it, and closely controlling
the governance of mosques, seminaries, universities, and schools, the content of curricula, the public expression of religion, the architecture of buildings, and even the dress of their
children and citizens. They will simultaneously suppress more traditional and
radical forms of Islam, preventing its clerics from
holding positions of power, and if necessary, jailing
them, torturing them, or killing them. Secular leaders will present
these religious figures as enemies of the state, and use them to make the
case for authoritarian rule. It’s me or the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak
would say to his critics. The prototype of this pattern in the Muslim world is
the Republic of Turkey founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1923. After World War II, several
Arab states adopted the model, the most influential of these being Egypt. But they also included Libya, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, and Algeria. Iran embodied the pattern under the Shahs of the Pahlavi Dynasty up until the Shah’s overthrow in 1979, as did Iraq under Saddam Hussein up until his overthrow in 2003. Indonesia was a secular repressive state under the dictatorship of Suharto, from 1967 to 1998. Still, secular repressive are the Soviet Republics of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan. The third orientation is a
religiously repressive one based on a political theology of Islamism, which calls for the government to use law and policy to promote a traditional form of Islam in all spheres of life, the family, the economy, culture, religious practice, education, dress, and other areas. Islamism originated in the
first half of the 20th century in the thought of intellectuals
like Hassan al-Banna, Abul Ala Maududi, and Sayyid Qutb, who called for a revival of Islam in the wake of centuries of decline due to internal moral decay and external imperial domination. Symbolized most vividly by the abolition of the caliphate by the newly established
Republic of Turkey. Religiously repressive regimes contain strong constitutional provisions that establish Islam as
the identity of the state and the source of law. They exercise strong
authority in both supporting and regulating the Muslim
religious community and their state, while sharply restricting
dissenting forms of Islam, and religious minorities. There are 21 of these regimes. The standard bearers are
Saudi Arabia and Iran, who seek to spread Islamism
far beyond their borders. Sudan and Afghanistan
are strong examples, too. While most of these regimes
are highly authoritarian, some of them are democracies
whose electoral dynamics favor religiously repressive policies, including Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Indonesia might at first
seem like a strange choice to include in this category, because it is the world’s
largest democracy, has two large movements
that espouse tolerance sorry, the world’s
largest Muslim democracy, has two large movements
that espouse tolerance, and has a regime based on Pantjasila, which recognizes seven official religions. At the same time, however, there are numerous ways in which Indonesia’s laws and government restrict
minority religions, especially those not
officially recognized, and in which the Indonesian state empowers Islamist groups in society. For these reasons Indonesia ranks in Pew’s very high level of restrictions
on religious freedom. What does this typology
of three regimes teach us about religious freedom in Islam? The principle that I have
proposed is the criterion for our present culture war. It shows that while there is a dearth of religious freedom in
Islam, the hawk’s point, Islam is not straightforwardly
responsible for the dearth, as the dove’s would have it. While Islamist regimes
make the strongest case for the hawk’s view, even they are a product of modern times, formed through an alliance
with the sovereign state, in many cases incubated
in secular repression, and erected partly in
reaction to colonialism, and not merely an outgrowth of the Quran. Behind secular repressive regimes are principles imported from the West. Religiously free regimes, almost one-forth of
Muslim-majority regimes, are more than anomalies, and show that religious
freedom is possible, and that religious repression is not the overwhelming
story of contemporary Islam. I may have mentioned that the benchmark I have been using to
assess religious freedom is the scores of the Pew Forum for 2009. I chose this date because it allows us to survey the landscape of Islam prior to the rapid changes sparked by the Arab uprisings. I wish now to say a few words about the Arab uprisings that began at the end of 2010 in Tunisia with a frustrated fruit
vendor’s self-immolation. What do they teach about
Islam and religious freedom? Five years after the
protests of early 2011, almost all these
predominantly Muslim countries were not more religiously free. So, the countries in which
the major uprisings occurred that were sparked by the Arab uprisings generally were not more religiously free, and still are not today eight years later. The dreams of the courageous people who first took to the streets, risking being trampled by the
forces of the dictatorship were largely dashed as well. In the six countries where
uprisings took place, the uprisings succeeded in four, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and failed in two, Syria, where there’s still
a civil war going on, and Bahrain. In all but one of these cases, Tunisia, democracy failed to advance. Islamic countries along
with a vast failure of religious freedom and democracy, does such a correlation
bolster the judgment that Islam is inhospitable
to religious freedom? Here, again, zooming
in on the cases reveals a more complex picture. Hawks can explain part of this picture in so far as traditional Islamic forces. Radical jihadi militant groups, Salafist and Islamist in general, obstructed freedom’s emergence. To leave matters there, though, leaves a great deal unexplained. The secular, repressive dictatorships that ruled Arab countries for decades bear much of the blame for the failure of religiously free democracy to advance. Decades of secular repression
in Egypt, Libya, and Syria suppressed Islamic parties
inclined towards democracy or religious freedom, and drove some Muslims into
violent or obstructive reaction. And when regimes in Egypt and Libya fell left a gargantuan task of governance to parties with little
political experience. In Syria, a secular
repressive regime persists and foments mutual antagonism with the religiously repressive groups who dominate the rebellion. The fate of freedom in the Arab uprisings is explained further, following the argument of the book, by the presence of Islamic
proponents of religious freedom. Tunisia’s Ennahdha Party
is the best example of such a party, one that had developed a commitment to democracy and religious
freedom prior to the uprisings, was willing into coalition
with secular parties, worked to open up the system for religious participation in the wake of brutal, secular repression, and was willing to stand down when it lost the elections of fall 2014. Though, Tunisia’s Pew
numbers show a slight decline in religious freedom by 2013, I believe that religious freedom opened up more than the numbers show, though this is still
compromised in significant ways. In each of the countries where major uprisings took place, there were also people in factions who stood for religious
freedom on Islamic grounds. Indeed, I would argue that where parties or factions holding a political theology of religious freedom
were relatively strong, democracy stood a much better chance. And where forces of secular repression and religious repression
were relatively strong, democracy was handicapped. Religion matters and
religious freedom matters. So, this brings us to the question. Now, that we’ve seen a kind of landscape of religious freedom in
the Muslim-majority world, and kind of closeup on the Arab uprisings, we can stand back a little bit and ask, is there hope for
increasing religious freedom in the Muslim world? One often reads in the Western media that what Islam needs is a reformation. In another version, it is an enlightenment
that Islam really needs. In either rendering
Western history in invoked to reveal a pathway for Islam. The West, too, once knew a time when intolerance reigned, the logic runs, but then a revolution took
place that ushered in freedom. Should Islam experience
a similar revolution, it too would realize freedom. Now, Muslims will not
likely find these pathways to be promising. The Protestant Reformation
divided Christendom, bred religious war, and took a century and half to produce a cluster of
religious freedom champions, who remained a minority among Protestants. The Enlightenment was decidedly mixed in its support for religious freedom, and yielded the harsh secularism
of the French Revolution, and its Republican legatees
in Europe and Latin America. Muslims have experienced
the European Enlightenment directly on their own turf. Enlightenment ideas have inspired what I have called the Secular
Repressive Model of Regime. Some of them, like Egypt and Syria, are torture capitals of the world. Should Westerners,
then, abstain altogether from commending their own history as a pathway for Muslims? Well, I believe that Western history does in fact contain a pathway to freedom that is promising for Islam. Ironically, it can be
found in the religious body that the Reformation and the Enlightenment both considered freedom’s greatest enemy, the Catholic Church. It can hardly escape notice that the Catholic Church came
around to religious freedom quite late in history upon the Second Vatican
Council’s Promulgation of Dignitatis Humanae, its declaration on
religious liberty in 1965. Three centuries after certain Protestant and Enlightenment voices began to articulate religious liberty. The church’s long, historical pathway to Dignitatis Humanae, however, can prove instructive for Islam. In some respects the
Catholic Church’s experience will not apply to Islam. For instance, Islam does not contain a single locus of authority that speaks for all Muslims in the way that the Catholic Church does, through its pope, its bishops, and its theology of
the Church as one body. This difference, though,
leaves intact the sense in which Dignitatis Humanae is directly relevant for Islam. Namely, that it shows how a religious body that for many centuries did
not teach religious freedom, eventually found a way to
embrace religious freedom that was compatible with
its traditional teachings about religious faith. None other than Pope Francis
drew from this tradition when he became the first pope to visit the Arabian
Peninsular this past spring. There, he invoked his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who near the end of his life journeyed to Egypt to convert the
Muslim sultan to Christianity and ended up engaging with him in a dialogue about peace. In his dialogue with Muslims
in the United Arab Emirates, our latter day Francis raised the issue that most mars peace
Catholics and Muslims, religious freedom. Too-kwo-kway, Pope Francis’s interlocutors might well have pointed out that Saint Francis encountered the sultan on the front lines of
the wars of the Crusades, not one of the church’s sparkling episodes of religious freedom, or that 15th and
16th-century Catholic Spain expelled Muslims and Jews, who then found refuge
under a different sultan in the far more tolerant Ottoman Empire, or that the church conducted inquisitions over the course of six centuries, and that Catholics fought
a century and a half of religious wars with Protestants. While the Muslim world’s dearth of religious freedom demands honesty, the Catholic Church’s
history forbids triumphalism, but might even offer Muslims
a pathway to the future. During the 15th through 20th centuries, when the church was losing its grip on its medieval temporal power, it feared religious freedom, much as many Muslims do today. It’s rivals were Protestant reformers, Enlightenment intellectuals,
and their political agents, who portrayed the church
as a purveyor of dungeons, superstition, and hierarchy. And its version of religious freedom sent Catholics into hiding
or to the guillotine. In reaction, 19th-century popes thundered against religious freedom,
including Gregory XVI who called liberty of conscience an absurd and erroneous
proposition in 1832, and Pious IX who condemned
religious freedom in his Syllabus of Errors in 1864. The church hierarchy’s political thesis was that states would
establish the Catholic Church and restrain other faiths, while the church acquiesced
to non-establishment and religious freedom, only on the hypothesis that
Catholics were in the minority. It was called the Thesis
Hypothesis Doctrine. The established Catholic Church was ideal, but we would take religious freedom, not establishment, if necessary. Now, eventually, the church found its way to deep, principled articulation
of religious freedom, which, again, it proclaimed in its landmark declaration
Dignitatis Humanae at the close of the Second
Vatican Council in 1965. Animated by this teaching and by the Second Vatican
Council’s more general endorsement of human rights, Catholic Churches then
came to challenge dictators and champion democracy
over ensuing decades in Poland, the Philippines, Chile, South Korea, Ukraine, Malawi, and many other countries. How did the Catholic Church travel from fearing freedom to fomenting freedom? Not by adopting the logics of its rivals, but rather by developing a new teaching from its own history and tradition. It looked back to the early
centuries of the church when church fathers like
Tertullian and Lactantius argued for religious freedom for all people living
under the Roman Empire. While Augustine and Aquinas, two of the church’s greatest theologians, defended the coercion of
heretics by the state, both also stressed the
free character of faith, a central component of Dignitatis Humanae. The Church’s favorable experience under constitutions of religious freedom in the United States and in post-World War II Western Europe taught that living under a constitution that provides genuine religious freedom need not be a threat. 20th-century intellectuals
such as Jacques Maritain, Heinrich Rommen, and John Courtney Murray developed arguments for religious freedom that retrieved favorable
doctrines from the tradition, and set them in the context of modern constitutional democracy. While opponents of religious freedom at the Second Vatican Council objected that error has no rights, proponents rejoined, yes, but people do. By tying religious
freedom to human dignity, the council fathers untied it from the religious
relativism and secularism that caused earlier popes to reject it. Like yesterday’s Catholics, today’s Muslims widely
fear religious freedom, perceiving it as a Western export that is packaged with individualism, the breakdown of the family, secularism, and the efforts of Christian missionaries to convert them. Yet, Muslims may find in their
own history and tradition grounds for embracing religious freedom, much as the Catholic Church did. The Quran, as I said earlier, contains one of the strongest
statements of freedom in the text of any religious tradition. There is no compulsion in religion, a verse that proponents
of religious freedom have put forth throughout the tradition. The Prophet Mohammad,
though he was a conqueror, established tolerance towards non-Muslims, including Jews, in the
Constitution of Medina, and never punished anyone,
per se, for leaving the faith. Muslim countries in regions that were religiously
tolerant can be found in medieval Spain, 19th-century Ottoman Empire, and early 20th-century Iran,
Egypt, and Central Asia. Again, today, 11
Muslim-majority countries, nearly one-fourth of the
total are religiously free. These are what I call seeds of freedom that could be drawn upon, and if they were nurtured and germinated and helped to grow, and expand, could be the basis for
a much wider, expanded, practice and doctrine of religious freedom within the Muslim world. The West can also do its part to promote religious freedom. One of the best ways it can do this is to stress the universality
of religious freedom as a universal human right. In 1998, the U.S. Congress passed the International
Religious Freedom Act. More recently, the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway
have adopted religious freedom into their foreign policies
in one way or another. Canada reversed course, though, closing its Office of Religious
Freedom in March 2016. Religious freedom is a
universal human right. The credibility and effectiveness of policies to realize religious freedom in the Muslim world everywhere depend on these policies
being shared in a way that reflects this universality. The best way to ensconce religious freedom in the common conscience of humankind, rather than allow it to become one side of a culture war is to expand the network of
people and organizations, who share a stake in it. Religious freedom cannot only be the cause of the U.S. and other Western governments. In the book, I propose
a trans-national network of religious freedom constituencies, including civil society organizations in countries where religious
freedom might be expanded. Organizations in free countries that promote religious freedom, international organizations,
Western governments, and religious bodies. Working together the members of such a constituency would strengthen one another, and pressure un-free
regimes from all sides. Historically, international
communism operated on this principle, with its international network of parties and local cell groups. Premised upon a bad idea
it was not successful. More can be hoped for religious freedom. Now, interestingly, you look at the Trump Administration, who I would be reluctant to mention in terms of promoting harmony with Islam. Certainly, President
Trump’s own many statements and tweets and so forth towards Islam have been anything
but promoting of harmony and not to be admired. And, yet, under the State Department, perhaps, more under the initiative of the Secretary of State, over the last two summers the
U.S. government has hosted something called a Ministerial. And in the past one, you had governments of some 106 countries, and over 1,000 civil society
and religious leaders gathering to talk about and make a common commitment
to religious freedom. One of the architects is an ambassador for religious minorities. Not ambassador, special assistant
in the State Department, a gentleman named Knox Thames. He was appointed by the
Obama Administration, stayed on in the Trump Administration, and, really, I think, has been the key guy to promote this. And his vision is precisely this kind of trans-national network of people committed to religious freedom that can expand it in places where it is not non-existent. A bipartisan feel to it, Nancy Pelosi addressed the group, and I think it is a good example of the kind of international effort where the United States is acting in a highly multi-lateral way to promote a universal principle, in a way that I think
could very much bear fruit. The best way to realize religious freedom is to expand the sphere of people who are persuaded by the principle. The more people around the world who undergo a gestalt shift towards perceiving religious freedom as a universal human right, the stronger and wider
the political demand for change will be. New possibilities for global cooperation will emerge as well. Religious freedom is a norm of peace. It is a principled commitment, not just a pragmatic accommodation, and is a commitment not simply to coexist, but also to respect the full
and equal citizenship rights of the people who hold and
live out divergent answers to the most important questions
about human existence. Religious freedom is a
norm of reconciliation. With respect to the public
debate that rages in the West, it is a criterion that
reveals both hawks and doves, to be both right and wrong, and that were both sides willing to acknowledge what is right in the other side’s position could do much to calm the dispute. With respect to the West
in the Muslim world, religious freedom summons
a new set of relationships that are different from
those of many centuries past, when both sides failed
to treat the members of the other side as equals in their most ultimate
commitments and far worse. The ability to choose this new history and to prove false the
inevitability prescribed by the past is another dimension of
freedom not to be overlooked. Thank you. (audience applauding) – Well, I think you’re right that religious freedom is something that goes further than tolerance, which is kind of a modus vivendi or just a kind of accommodation to the reality of pluralism in a way that says, let’s
just live with each other. Religious freedom calls for
a kind of principled respect for the full citizenship rights and freedom to practice religion within a very broad remit
of every religious community and every individual. And, so, I think there
is an important principle of justice there to be maintained. But in terms of how Muslim countries and
communities and so forth might develop it. I mean, here, is where I would point to what I call the seeds of freedom, which are elements in
the tradition itself, that I think voice religious freedom or voice different parts of it and voice an important piece of it, or illustrate parts of it that could be nurtured and developed in a way that is authentic
within the tradition. I think that’s the important thing that I want to get from
the Catholic example, that in the Catholic tradition they looked back to principles that were in the tradition, and were able to draw upon those, including early expressions
of religious freedom, and then draw upon those, and then kind of articulate this doctrine. Whereas, they were being
pressured also by outside ideas like the Enlightenment
and so forth to do this, but ultimately they came to
do it on their own basis. I mean, it’s very true, though, that there was a dialogue
with the modern world that kind of brought this about, so it was certainly
true with that dialogue where it was kind of challenged
and modeled and so forth. But, ultimately, it came to embrace it on principles that came
authentically from the tradition. And, so, are there kind of basis for that to be done in Islam? Well, I would say the Quranic verse, there is no compulsion in
religion, is very important. And, in fact, that’s not just something that’s kind of pulled out, but has in fact been
understood by proponents of religious freedom or
something very much like it in the tradition as the
kind of key teaching. So, it’s not just I found this one verse. Hey, that looks good. No, no, it has a
tradition there behind it. I think there are elements
in the life of the prophet that illustrate the tradition, that’s obviously very
important for Muslims. I think there are episodes
in the history of Islam, medieval Spain, in certain senses, the Ottoman Empire, 19th-century Iran and Egypt, and places where you have and, today, Western
Africa, that illustrate that in practice religious
freedom can be done. One of the interesting
things about Western Africa is that Pew surveys also show that it’s one of the most
religious parts of the world. So, some skeptics say, well, it’s only when you become more secular that you really can
develop religious freedom. It’s only those secular people, but they have to stop being religious. But Western Africa is
one of the most devout, robustly religious parts of the world. And, yet, they have religious freedom, and so I think that’s a good example that you can say to other Muslims, you don’t have to stop becoming religious. In fact, this helps you
to practice your religion. It gives you the space for
it to be done most robustly. And I think that’s what
happened in the Catholic Church, a combination of doctrinal bases, but also a kind of lived
historical experience led many to say, hey, this is something that actually is part of who
we are, not against who we are. And that’s the kind of thing that, I think, could
hold potential for Islam. Yes. – [Student] Do you for comparison’s sake ever looked at how Catholic
countries are repressive? – Are repressive? Yes.
– Yes. No, I mean, I think. I mean, there’s kind of the long history of when the kind of Catholic Church was sanctioning what looked like what is not religious freedom, different forms of religious coercion. I mean, there’s the long
history of inquisition, and crusades and the religious wars. Where the thinking was really that the political realm had to be a realm of uniform religion, that if you didn’t have that, then that was a kind of that would really break apart the society. And that people who someone who was a heretic, the idea wasn’t so much that
you could coerce the heretic back into faith, but rather it was that that person was sort of damaging the public peace, and endangering other people’s faith. The heretic was almost something like someone guilty of sedition, like a rebel, because the ideology
was that the realm had to be one of religious uniformity. So, that was the model for many years. And then coercion could be used against people who were of a
different faith, and so forth. Even after the Second Vatican Council there were still some countries
where that was the case. I think of Spain under Franco. But I think that the force
of the council itself had a lot to do, this
is what I would argue, it actually helping to overthrow
Franco and bring democracy. But, yeah, pretty late into the game. If we’re talking about repressing, if we’re talking about
religious repression, the lack of religious freedom, pretty late in the game that was still, I don’t know, prevalent,
but certainly still existed in Catholic-majority populations. Religious freedom in the Western countries has had an interesting trajectory, and many people kind of commonly believe that in the Enlightenment,
so the 18th century, that was kind of the breakthrough
of religious freedom. And there is some truth to that. There were some Enlightenment thinkers who did advance religious freedom. I’m thinking like some
of the American founders, for instance. But I think it’s vastly overrated. I think John Locke is often thought of as a key kind of development, and sure later on toleration was important for religious freedom, historically. I have questions about
whether his arguments were really, very strong ones. And even he would curtail it for atheists, Muslims who were loyal to
the sultan, and Catholics. Although, I just about a month ago, they discovered a new document of Locke that showed, actually, that
he was more sympathetic to freedom for Catholics. So, maybe, the jury is
out a little bit there. But other Enlightenment thinkers like Rousseau and Diderot,
and so forth, were not very I mean, Rousseau talked about
establishing a civil religion, and put the death penalty on
it, if you didn’t hold it. So, he thought you needed a religion to sort of keep civic peace. But it couldn’t be the Christian religion or the Catholic religion. And that kind of set the stage
for the French Revolution, which in some ways advanced principles of civil liberties and
things that we now think of as part of constitutional democracy, but in other ways could
be quite repressive and was broadly repressive
towards Catholics, forcing them to declare an oath by which they were loyal to the regime and not to the pope. Many Catholics were killed
or imprisoned, and so forth. And then that produced a kind
of legacy of republicanism that often had a kind of strongly anti-Catholic character to it. Third Republic of France,
1870 to 1940, I guess, was very anti-clerical. Thousands of Catholic
schools were shut down. Jesuits were expelled, and we can all appreciate
that here at Holy Cross. Over in Germany, they had
the Kulturkampf of Bismark also expelling Catholics
and imprisoning them, and expelling Jesuits. Early 20th-century Mexico
was quite anti-clerical. Then you go into the 20th century, and you have communism
and fascism developing, and not very good on religious freedom. So, pretty far into the history, it’s pretty problematic to just say the West was the place where religious freedom happened. It’s really after World War II that at least in Western Europe you had the kind of consolidation
of religious freedom in Western democracies, like Germany and France, and England was pretty good by then. And it was kind of in that
atmosphere, and Italy. It’s kind of in that atmosphere that then the Catholic Church of the
Second Vatican Council said, “Well, maybe, there are
some realms here where “maybe we could do okay “under a regime of religious freedom.” Maybe, religious freedom
doesn’t have to be something that involves repression of Catholics. The presence of those democracies helped to demonstrate that. I also think the example
of the United States was very important, because here’s a place
where the Catholic Church on balance did pretty well. It developed schools and universities and hospitals and churches and parishes, and yet it did so under a
constitution of religious freedom and not establishment. Well, that kind of jammed the circuits of the folks at the Vatican, ’cause that wasn’t supposed to happen. The church was supposed to be at a place where it was established. But the fact that it could
actually do pretty well in an environment of religious freedom, I think, was also instructive and helped to bring about the changes of the Second Vatican Council. But, in general, I
would be highly cautious about just equating the
West with religious freedom. It’s much more of a
mixed bag, historically, than that image suggests. You have the 21 countries that I call religiously repressive would be ones where the state gets behind a very traditional form of sharia law, and promotes it in a way
that is pretty heavy-handed, and then doesn’t leave a
lot of room for dissent or for religious minorities,
and so forth, and I don’t know whether, yeah,
you asked me if I’m optimistic. I’m not sure. It’s very hard to predict
exactly where it’s going. My main point was that I think in the Muslim world there are a lot of potentialities for freedom. Whether one should be optimistic
about those developing, I’m not sure. I mean, Indonesia is
an interesting example, because it had a democratic
revolution in ’98, and overthrew the kind of what I call the secular
repressive government of Suharto. But since then democracy has
actually kind of allowed a more repressive form of Islam to develop, as it has over 20 years. Democracy doesn’t necessarily
help the picture either. So, I’m not sure where it’s going, but there is still a large
part of the Muslim world that is still in this kind of religiously repressive category. Well, that’s where I think this idea of a kind of
trans-national network might be something that’s promising. I mean, you look at
something like Indonesia. It has a lot of problems
with religious repression, but it’s also in many
ways an open democracy. And there can be civil conversation, and you have two major
parties and movements who are pretty favorable towards at least a heavy degree of tolerance, and so there is a lot of room for in places like that, at
least there’s a lot of room for contestation and conversation
and that sort of thing. Not that it can’t be dangerous. Or I think of somewhere like Pakistan, again, big problems. They have the blasphemy laws and we read about some
of the people jailed under those laws and so forth. But you can still write an
article in the newspaper, and that sort of thing, and
advocate for religious freedom. Now, you might be taking
your life in your hands vis-a-vis certain groups. So, in places where there’s a relatively open conversation, at least democratic debate and, maybe, evolution
of ideas can take place. Much harder to do in a
place like Saudi Arabia where it’s much more repressive. – [Tom] Not out of universities. Let’s say, it’s a different
level of civil discourse. – There is a lot less of it. – [Tom] You would expect that. – Yeah. But I also think you can
put together networks of Muslim intellectuals who
are favorable toward this. In the last seven or eight
years there have been three major declarations. There was the Marrakesh Declaration, the Jakarta Declaration,
then one other one. I’m not remembering, but where they gather large
groups of Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders and so forth to sign a statement, saying, calling for protection of minorities, or something very much
like religious freedom. And the more international that can be, the more you get respected
religious leaders who are are respected
widely in the Muslim world, and not just the Westernized
ones I think is important. But I think there is a long way to go. I mean, there are some
Muslim intellectuals who are very powerful
articulators of religious freedom. I think of Mustafa Akil from Turkey. There is Abdullah Saeed from the Maldives. But both of them encounter big problems. I mean, Mustafa Akil gave
a lecture in Malaysia and he was detained and put in jail for the night. Now, there was some diplomatic action and they managed to get him out. And then Abdullah Saeed can’t go back to his home in the Maldives. So, that indicates the kind of that it’s still an uphill struggle. But you can establish a
kind of deposit of networks, and intellectuals, and
make it trans-national, make it rooted in the Muslim world, the more you can kind of
build an idea, I think. I mean, I think that for the in this, maybe, it’s a
different message in a way that needs to happen. In the secular repressive states, their view is we want to become modern and Western and developed, and that Islam is a break to that. But I think, maybe, there the message is it doesn’t have to be. That Islam is capable of evolving in modern ways, too, and still being devoutly religious. I mean, the example of
Turkey is very interesting. I mean, let’s leave
aside today for a minute. But for most of Turkey’s history, it was this secular repressive
regime till about 2002. And, interestingly, though, so you continually saw the
development of Muslim parties who wanted it to be more open to Islam. What would happen is periodically there would be a coup in which the secular regime, which had the military and the judiciary on its
side would throw them out. There would be a coup d’etat. Sometimes, the leaders
of the Muslim parties were hanged or killed or
exiled or what have you. And then they would develop again. I mean, part of the problem is whenever they opened it to democracy, the Muslim parties would win, because the population was not the majority was not in favor of the kind of secular,
repressive approach. So, whenever there’s
like a continual cycle in Turkish history. They open it up. The Muslim parties win. They have power for a little while, then there’s a coup
and they’re thrown out. Then gradually they open it up, again. Then there’s a coup and
they throw them out again. And this continually went on. But the interesting thing to observe is that in all this the Muslim parties were actually more favorable to democracy. You developed a Muslim middle class associated with economic
openness and trade, and so forth, and they were also broadly favorable toward the NATO Alliance and the West, whereas the secular repressive
regime was more socialistic. It was more kind of internal in its foreign policy. I mean, the irony is that the Muslim party actually represented, arguably, a more promising
avenue to modernity than the secular repressive regime, even though the message of
the secular repressive regime is that religion has to be marginalized if we’re going to get to modernity. I think the message is is that religion, there could also
be a religious pathway towards things like economic development, and opportunities for women,
and so forth and so on. Then in 2002 you had the
Justice and Development Party took over, the Muslim Party, and it actually looked pretty good. It was trying to sort
of open up more freedom, and create a more kind of
Muslim-friendly democracy. 2011, though, became very authoritarian, and not necessarily Islamist, but mainly just
authoritarian under Erdogan, and I think that’s where it is now. So, you had a kind of brief experiment. So, that would be my message there. I think the message in the
religiously repressive regimes is that freedom does
not have to be inimical to vibrant religion. And I think the example of West African countries shows
that they’re highly devout, and yet it’s also in an
environment of freedom. And, in fact, the very
repressive Islamist approach may not be good for religion at all. I mean, there are surveys that were taken in secret in Saudi Arabia that shows that some 30%
of the country is atheist. This is Saudi Arabia. So, is it working? Is religious repression
giving you what you want, this devout population? So, I mean, I think that’s
the kind of argument that you can give there. But, again, that’s assuming
that you can make arguments in an oppressive regime,
which is not always easy. – [Tom] Well, thank you,
thank you for coming. – Well, thank you for
coming, yes, thank you. (audience applauding)

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