What is the status of religious freedom in Islam, and what are its prospects? An answer to this question must begin with a nuanced appraisal of the political theologies that govern different Muslim nations. The first in a two-part series.
Many scholars have proposed democracy as the most proper criterion for assessing Islam. Yet democracy’s elections and popular rule often coexist with intolerance toward religious minorities and dissenters—the tyranny of the majority. Religious freedom adds respect for human rights to rule by the demos. It is principled and permanent: a universally valid principle that manifests human dignity. In this essay, I consider the state of religious freedom in the Muslim world—in particular, in Muslim-majority countries. Muslims, of course, are scattered throughout the world, but such states valuably reveal how Muslims treat dissenters and religious minorities when political power is at their disposal.