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.
Part II: Muslim Majority Countries
Introduction to Muslim Majority Countries
2. Saudi Arabia
7. The Greater Middle East
9. South and South East Asia
Part III: The Globalization of Blasphemy
Introduction to Western Countries and International Blasphemy
10. Islam and Blasphemy on the International Stage 1989-2009
11. Legitimizing Repression: Blasphemy Restrictions in the United Nations
12. Religiously Incorrect: Islam,
Blasphemy, and Hate Speech In Western Domestic Law
13. Enforcement by Violence and Intimidation
Part IV: Muslim Criticism of Apostasy and Blasphemy Laws
Introduction to Muslim Voices
14. Renewing Qur'anic Studies in the Contemporary World, by Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd
Rethinking Classical Muslim Law of Apostasy and the Death Penalty, by Abdullah Saeed
Part V: Conclusions
There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.
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.
Islam in Transition
- Edited by John J. Donohue and John L. EspositoMaking Sense
- Margot Northey and Joan McKibbin