Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide

Overview


The fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the 2005 Danish cartoon fracas awakened many people to the potency of blasphemy accusations in the Muslim world. Accusations and charges such as "blasphemy," "apostasy," "insulting Islam," or "hurting Muslims' religious feelings" pose a far greater danger than censorship of irreverent caricatures of Mohammad: they are increasingly used as key tools by authoritarian governments and extremist forces in the Muslim world to acquire and consolidate power. These charges, which draw...
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Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide

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Overview


The fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the 2005 Danish cartoon fracas awakened many people to the potency of blasphemy accusations in the Muslim world. Accusations and charges such as "blasphemy," "apostasy," "insulting Islam," or "hurting Muslims' religious feelings" pose a far greater danger than censorship of irreverent caricatures of Mohammad: they are increasingly used as key tools by authoritarian governments and extremist forces in the Muslim world to acquire and consolidate power. These charges, which draw on disputed interpretations of Islamic law and carry a traditional punishment of death, have proved effective in crushing or intimidating not only converts and heterodox groups, but also political and religious reformers. In fact, one reason for the recent growth of more repressive forms of Islam is their use of accusations of blasphemy, apostasy, and related charges to intimidate and silence their religious opponents and make any criticism of their own actions and ideas religiously suspect. The effect of such laws thus goes far beyond what might narrowly be called religious matters.

This volume provides the first world survey of the range and effects of apostasy and blasphemy accusations in the contemporary Muslim world, in international organizations, and in the West. The authors argue that we need to understand the context, history, impact, and mechanics of the blasphemy phenomenon in modern Muslim societies and guidance on how to effectively respond. The book covers the persecution of Muslims who convert to another religion or decide that they have become agnostic or atheists, as well as 'heretics:' those who are accused of claiming a prophet after Mohammed, such as Baha'is and Ahmadis. It also documents the political effects in Muslim societies of blasphemy and apostasy laws, as well as non-governmental fatwas and vigilante violence. It describes the cases of hundreds of victims, including political dissidents, religious reformers, journalists, writers, artists, movie makers, and religious minorities throughout the Muslim world. Finally, it addresses the legal evolution toward new blasphemy laws in the West; the increasing use of laws on "toleration" in the West, which may become surrogate blasphemy laws; increasing pressure by Muslim governments to make Western countries and international organizations enforce laws to restrict speech; and the increasing use of violence to stifle expression in the West even in the absence of law. Its foreword is by Indonesia's late President Abdurrahman Wahid.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Islamists, claiming they want only respect for their religion, are imposing brutal punishments for apostasy and blasphemy in the non-Muslim as well as the Muslim world. In this eloquent and definitive work Marshall and Shea make a powerful case that for us to accommodate this, anywhere, would be disastrous—weakening truly moderate Muslims and those of us who support them, and seriously crippling our own freedoms of speech and religion."— R. James Woolsey, Chairman, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Former Director of Central Intelligence

"The book offers an extensive survey of blasphemy and its effects on Muslim societies and individuals, with a consideration of analogous developments in the contemporary West. The ad hoc way of enforcing blasphemy laws is placed in the framework of classical Islamic discussion where blasphemy is a function of state jurisdiction rather than simply of vigilante activism. As the book makes clear, evidence of arbitrary use of blasphemy is evidence also of contested state jurisdiction. This is a most valuable study."
— Lamin Sanneh, D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity, Yale University

"Paul Marshall and Nina Shea have performed an important service with this account of laws and customs against "apostasy" and "blasphemy" in Muslim countries."—The Weekly Standard

"Exhaustive, courageous research is on brilliant display in Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide. Marshall and Shea compile a thorough dossier of existing Islamic blasphemy restrictions, show how they operate to bludgeon dissent, and chronicle a concerted campaign to export them around the globe. That alone would be a worthy achievement. But in addition, Silenced provides a ringing defense of free expression, upbraiding those who would acquiesce—out of craven fear, or flaccid political correctness—to a climate of self-censorship."—Books and Culture

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199812288
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/31/2011
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 998,746
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Marshall is Senior Fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute. Nina Shea is Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute.

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Table of Contents

PART I Chapter 1: Introduction

PART II: MUSLIM MAJORITY COUNTRIES Introduction to Muslim Majority Countries Chapter 2: Saudi Arabia Chapter 3: Iran Chapter 4: Egypt Chapter 5: Pakistan Chapter 6: Afghanistan Chapter 7: The Greater Middle East Chapter 8: Africa Chapter 9: South and South East Asia

PART III: THE GLOBALIZATION OF BLASPHEMY Introduction to Western Countries and International Blasphemy Chapter 10: Islam and Blasphemy on the International Stage 1989-2009
Chapter 11: Legitimizing Repression: Blasphemy Restrictions in the United Nations Chapter 12: Religiously Incorrect: Islam, Blasphemy, and Hate Speech In Western Domestic Law Chapter 13: Enforcement by Violence and Intimidation

PART IV: MUSLIM CRITICISM OF APOSTASY AND BLASPHEMY LAWS Introduction to Muslim Voices Chapter 14: Renewing Qur'anic Studies in the Contemporary World, by Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd Chapter 15: Rethinking Classical Muslim Law of Apostasy and the Death Penalty, by Abdullah Saeed

PART V: CONCLUSIONS Chapter 16: Conclusions

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012

    Timely and recommended reading.

    An important writing on the subject. Well written and excellently researched.

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