A Letter on Muslim Toleration

By Akyol, Mustafa | International New York Times, February 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

A Letter on Muslim Toleration


Akyol, Mustafa, International New York Times


It's time to rediscover the John Lockes of Islam: Postpone religious disputes until the afterlife, for God to resolve.

Over the past decade, headlines from the Middle East have reintroduced Westerners to terms from centuries past. "Heresy," "blasphemy," "apostasy" -- these are some of the charges that the radical Salafist group known as the Islamic State invokes when it executes its enemies, sometimes by crucifying or burning them alive.

Some Muslim governments, including United States allies, also mete out harsh punishments for similar offenses. The liberal blogger Raif Badawi was publicly flogged in Saudi Arabia last month on a charge of heresy, which he allegedly committed by criticizing the oppressive Saudi religious establishment.

Although there are contextual differences for these practices, as well as the sanctions for religious offenses in Iran, Sudan or Afghanistan, they all share one fundamental objective: Punishing people in the name of God.

A 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center showed that while not all of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims approve of this notion, a significant proportion of them do. Majorities in Egypt and Pakistan, for example, support the death penalty for Muslims who dare to abandon their religion.

Looking at this, some Westerners conclude that Islam is inherently more rigid than the creed that has defined their own civilization: Christianity. But they are forgetting that Christianity had its own, no less violent, history of punishing in the name of God. For centuries, churches burned people they thought were heretics at the stake or tortured them to purify their souls. The main difference with Islam is that Christianity gradually outgrew that age of religious persecution by grounding its theology in tolerance, reason and liberty.

So why couldn't Muslims do the same? This question has been around for a while, and some have proposed to answer it by calling for Islam's own Reformation, to be led by a Muslim Martin Luther.

This aspiration misreads both Christianity and Islam. Unlike the Catholic world before Luther, the Muslim world today has no central authority against which a Protestant-like Reformation could push back. And whatever Luther's other contributions, his reform hardly ushered in an era of tolerance; instead, it triggered more than a century of intra-Christian conflict and persecution.

In fact, the man who brought liberalism to Western Christianity came a century and a half after Luther: It was the English philosopher John Locke. The Enlightenment had many thinkers, but Locke, a Christian, was rare among them for defending liberty against religious intolerance not by attacking religion -- as Voltaire would do in France -- but by reinterpreting it. Locke based his case for political and religious freedom on both reason and the Bible.

If Islamic thought is to liberalize today, it must take a Lockean leap. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Letter on Muslim Toleration
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.