The Islamic Imperative to Defend Religious Freedom

January 21, 2016

Religious freedom is much larger than just the right to practice one’s faith. It encompasses freedom of belief, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly. These are freedoms that are the underpinnings of a just and civil society and affect everyone- those of faith and those without. Hence, it is in the interest of all citizens to work towards freedom of religion.

For Muslims, religious freedom runs two ways: it allows the practice of the faith in an open manner, free from prejudice and persecution, and it is a responsibility that we bear to ensure that others can freely practice their faith or no faith.

As Muslims, it is not enough to demand religious liberty for only the practitioners of our faith; we must defend the rights of all others to practice their faith just as vociferously. This is an Islamic obligation.

American Muslims, and all Muslims, must be at the forefront of religious freedom battles. Whether it be the persecution of the Yazidis in Iraq by ISIL, blasphemy laws in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, the violence against Copts in Egypt, attacks against the Baha’i in Iran, oppression of the Shi’a in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, or attacks against Jews or Ahmadiyyas or Christians in any number of countries, American Muslims must take a stand against all of these violations of religious liberty.

Standing up against infringement of someone’s religious freedom is not only a moral obligation, it is a duty prescribed by our faith. We find references in the Qur’an that we must defend the faith of others as they defend ours. Our history is one where people of all faiths found refuge and prosperity in Muslim lands. In the contested areas of today where ISIS is murdering people because of their faith, we find mosques, churches and synagogues in close proximity and sometimes sharing the same walls.

In the current time, when Americans of other faiths are confused about our faith and are often presented with horrific images that are antithetical to our values, and at a time when we are dismayed and disgusted that  groups like ISIS justify their crimes in the name of Islam, it is more imperative than ever that we send a resounding message that we support religious liberty for everyone.  Furthermore, we must ensure that Muslims are active in religious liberty advocacy in the US and internationally. We must be at the forefront of this movement as a matter of religious responsibility.

On Wednesday, January 27th, join the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) as it partners with the "I Am Your Protector" movement to commemorate the International Holocaust Day with an Interfaith ceremony honoring courageous individuals during the Holocaust who were protectors of Jews, often risking their own lives to save the “other." In particular, we will be recognizing Muslim protectors, who are often unknown. The event will be held at the Muslim Community Center (MCC) in Silver Spring, Maryland. See details here.



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