By Daniel Philpott - WP
This post is part of the "Islam and International Order" symposium.
The West's cultural war over Islam has entered an intense new phase since the rise of the Islamic State. The debates are familiar: Is Islam inherently violent and intolerant, or is it peaceful, diverse and often the victim of Western domination? A good criterion for answering the question is religious freedom – the civic right of persons and religious communities to practice, express, change, renounce and spread their religion. Whether the adherents of one religion can respect the beliefs and practices of another, or whether they respond to this otherness by violence or discrimination, is at the heart of these debates.
Whereas some scholars view religious freedom as a Western value derived from Western history, the principle has a claim to universal validity. For one thing, it is ensconced in the major international human rights conventions. It can also be derived from the value of religion itself, in which people across an enormous variety of times and places have sought fulfillment. Considering that religion is at its most authentic when it is freely chosen, the conclusion that the state ought to guarantee the right to pursue that fulfillmentunimpeded follows naturally.