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A mourner reads the Quran on August 17, 2011 in Gaza City, Gaza. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Making the Islamic Case for Religious Liberty

Abdullah Saeed

Many Muslims today are trying to come to terms with the modern concept of religious liberty. One of the most authoritative and influential definitions of religious freedom comes from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms that:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Such a comprehensive understanding of religious liberty is essential for civil peace and prosperity in multicultural and pluralistic societies. Those modern, secular countries that can secure religious freedom for all citizens through rule of law and civic toleration are more stable and successful because they are able to bring together, on the same level playing field, a range of competing faith groups and worldviews that may have little in common philosophically or theologically. By contrast, when religious freedom is suppressed, it can have dire consequences for the exercise of other basic freedoms and rights, for a country’s cohesion, and for political and economic development.

At a personal and ethical level, religious liberty is essential for people “to live justly.” It enables individuals to do justice to themselves, to others, and to their communities.1 In its most comprehensive sense, religious freedom promotes civic toleration and respect for human dignity because it is rooted in respect for the deeply human journey to seek religious truth. When societies restrict religious liberty, the result quite often is intolerance and increased societal tensions which may eventually boil over.

Muslims and non-Muslim believers alike understand the importance of freedom for fulfilling their obligations to God and for the expression of their respective faiths. Still, many Muslims feel uneasy with contemporary understandings of religious liberty, and some reject it entirely. Islamic tradition is much more restrictive of religious liberty than modern norms, and this tradition still carries great weight and authority among the majority of Muslims today. Many Muslims also see freedom of religion in the way it is expressed in Article 18 of UDHR as a “Western” value and essentially alien to Islam in its aims and focus. Traditionally, religious communities have tended to perceive faith as a competition for members or adherents, and many Muslims fear that calls for religious liberty are actually calls for Muslims to convert to other religions (particularly Christianity). A great number of Muslims also worry that embracing religious liberty will lead to the destruction or weakening of Muslim identity and community.

In addition to these pervasive cultural attitudes, the individual right to freedom of religion, thought and conscience is today severely constrained by many governments in Muslim-majority societies. At the same time, the use of political authority to control religious belief is widely seen as legitimate in these countries. Likewise, various Islamist movements also oppose religious liberty as they strive to impose their own worldview in pursuit of political power. These combined pressures can be seen in the spreading intolerance and worsening sectarian conflict both among different Muslim populations and between them and other religious groups.

Because of these realities, many Muslims and non-Muslims have concluded that Islam is essentially opposed to modern ideas about religious liberty. This conclusion, however, is mistaken. There is, in fact, a great range of teachings within Islam and its traditions about religious liberty as it pertains to society and individuals. Indeed, the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad speak extensively on the topic. As the belief in Islam requires fidelity to the Qur’an and the message of the Prophet, these sources all warrant closer examination.

The Qur’an on Religious Liberty

The Qur’an says belief in God is an individual choice, or rather, that it is a choice between an individual and God. It states, “Whoever is guided is only guided for the benefit of his soul. And whoever errs only errs against it. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another” (Qur’an 17:15). The Qur’an provides for free will right from the creation of the first human beings. Adam and Eve are said to have been given free will, and it was through this which God tested them. They failed their first test, but in Islamic belief their failure did not lead to the fall of the human race. Instead, the Qur’an presents free will and the testing of it as part of God’s plan for human beings. It is one of the reasons humans were created. In fact, many Muslims believe that free will bestowed by God is what gives humankind a higher place in the order of creation.2

The Qur’an repeatedly expresses the theme that a person’s dignity is intimately related to his or her individual freedom, particularly the freedom of conscience.3 For example, it affirms that God created humans “in the best of molds” (Q 95:4) and, in doing so, He honored humanity and conferred on it special favors (Q 17:70). In God’s eyes, human beings have inherent worth and dignity. In recognition of this, God gave humankind the intellect and ability to discern between right and wrong.4 The Qur’an says, “Now clear proof has come to you from your Lord: if anyone sees it, that will be to his advantage; if anyone is blind to it, that will be to his loss– [Say], ‘I am not your guardian.” (Q 6:104).

An essential part of the Qur’anic conception of free will is the freedom to choose whether or not to believe in God and in His way or religion. The Qur’an leaves space for human beings to reject Islam if they wish and to follow what they desire. Many verses stress that all human beings are free to believe or not to believe in God or in a particular religion. For example, “Let him who wills believe in it [Islam], and let him who wills, reject it.” (Q 18:29) Or, “Whoever chooses to follow the right path, follows it for his own good; and if any one wills to go astray, say [O Prophet, to him] ‘I am only a warner’” (Q 27:92). The Qur’an acknowledges that there will always be believers in the One God as well as non-believers (Q 16:9).

This choice is also about individual responsibility: human beings are responsible for what they do or fail to do on earth. For Muslims, part of this is believing in the One God, following God’s commandments and prohibitions, and following the moral path that God conveyed through His prophets.5 The Qur’an makes it clear that God will hold individuals accountable for the choices they make during their lifetime. What this means is that salvation, like belief itself, is an individual effort, not a collective or community matter.6

One of the critical ways the Qur’an affirms an individual’s freedom to make choices is by rejecting the use of force in matters of faith. The Qur’an states plainly that no one should force others to believe.7 One of the most commonly cited verses in this regard is Qur’an 2:256:

There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing.

Affirming this, Ibn Qudamah (d. 1223 CE), a jurist of the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence, wrote:

It is not permissible to compel a disbeliever into professing Islam. If, for example, a dhimmi or musta’man is forced to accept Islam, he is not considered a Muslim unless it is established that his confession is a result of his own choosing…8

In the Qur’anic perspective, forced belief is no belief at all. Correct faith (al-iman al-sahih) only comes from individual certitude and conviction.
The Qur’an teaches that believers should also be wary of doing things for the sake of mere habit, or tradition, or because of the influence of others. It clearly denounces practices and attitudes that are based on the blind adherence of ancestral precedents instead of independent thought or personal conviction (Q 2:170).9 Forced belief is not sincere belief, and the Qur’an exhorts sincerity and denounces hypocrisy in all human dealings (Q 61:3).10

In this same vein, the Qur’an lays down guidelines for Muslims when preaching Islam: “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best…” (Q 16:125). It encourages Muslims to use courteous advice, sound reasoning, and elegant persuasion rather than hostility or physical aggression in spreading Islam.11 After imparting the message, the Qur’an says to Muslims: “Say, ‘[Know,] then, that the final evidence [of all truth] rests with God alone; and had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright’” (Q 6:149). This is also evident in the example of the Prophet Muhammad. As the Qur’an explains, the Prophet did not have the power to force people to convert to Islam. It says that Prophet Muhammad was not to be a “keeper” over people (Q 10:108). Instead, the Prophet’s duty was only to convey the message of Islam, never to compel anyone to accept it. For example: “The Apostle [Muhammad] is not bound to do more than clearly deliver the message [entrusted to him]” (Q 24:54) and “Our Apostle’s only duty is a clear delivery of this message” (Q 64:12).

We can moreover see that Prophet Muhammad supported the idea of free choice when it came to religious belief and practice. In Mecca and Medina, the Prophet showed a great deal of tolerance towards other religious communities. They were allowed to manifest and practice their religions and even to govern their lives by their own religious rules and values. Muslims were encouraged not to abuse or slander those of other faiths—including even idolaters, whose beliefs were the antithesis of Islam. On one occasion, when the Prophet Muhammad could not convince some non-Muslims to embrace Islam, the Qur’an commanded him to tell them that: “[t]o you be your way [din, religion] and to me my way” (Q 109:6).12 This same principle of tolerance was implemented by the Prophet in “The Constitution of Medina,” a compact created to establish relations between various tribes and religious groups, including the Jewish community, in the city of Medina. One of the articles of this document states that: “the Jews of Banu Awf are a community (ummah) along with the believers. To the Jews their religion (din) and to the Muslims their religion.”13

The Weight—And Blessings—of Islamic Tradition

The central message of the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad does, in fact, support a robust conception of religious liberty. Yet despite this, the real-world prospects for religious liberty in many Muslim-majority countries are bleak. Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey rank among the countries with highest overall restrictions on religious belief and practice, according to a recent report by Pew Research.14 Furthermore, while debates over blasphemy and heresy are part of the distant past in the West, they are still commonplace in Muslim-majority countries today. It is only in Muslim countries that one hears about cases of and execution for the “crime” of apostasy. Although most of these countries do not officially sanction punishment for apostasy and heresy, several of them—including Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—still do.

These governments claim their power on the basis of Islam. Similarly, various Islamist movements also use Islam to impose their own ideological worldview and to promote intolerance and sectarian violence. It is true that some hadith support the death penalty for apostasy, and other hadith restrict religious freedom in other ways. However, these hadith are sayings which Muslim tradition has over time ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad; importantly, they are not necessarily the same as the actual actions of the Prophet.

Conversion from Islam existed in the Prophet’s time. For example, several Muslims left Islam immediately after the Prophet’s reported famous “night journey” to Jerusalem and to heaven (known as__ Isra__’ and Mi’raj). These people questioned how the Prophet could possibly have travelled to Jerusalem and then back to Mecca in one night, as the journey typically took weeks. Similarly, some Muslims migrated to Christian Abyssinia when the persecution they experienced in Mecca because of their Islamic beliefs became unbearable, and later converted to Christianity.15 The Qur’an also makes many references to hypocrisy (nifaq) and to hypocrites (munafiqun) in Medina who were, for all practical purposes, apostates. However, none were put to death. There is no evidence that the Prophet orderedthe killing of any person simply because of a change in faith.16

Despite the core message in the Qur’an about religious liberty, Muslim jurists of the classical era after the first generations of Muslims developed a set of principles and rules to govern religious life. By and large, they set down a range of restrictions on religious freedom and assigned penalties for flouting these prohibitions. These jurists’ main concern was with defining correct religious practice and prohibiting acts of apostasy, blasphemy, heresy, and hypocrisy in religious affairs.

Historically, apostasy was defined as the “unbelief of a Muslim who had earlier accepted Islam… of his [or her] own free-will,” which suggests that an apostate is a Muslim who “rejects Islam and/or converts to another religion.”17 The ban on conversion from Islam developed on the basis of certain hadith or sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. The most obvious of these is the hadith that states: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.”18 In other sayings, the Prophet reportedly orders the execution of certain individuals. These hadith are routinely used today to bolster the argument that the appropriate punishment for conversion from Islam is death. However, some of these traditions are considered weak and unreliable and too general, and it is therefore difficult to use them as evidence in support of a death penalty for apostasy.

Blasphemy laws placed yet more restrictions on the Qur’anic conception of religious liberty. Initially, these prohibited the use of foul language with respect to Prophet Muhammad (sabb al-rasul), although this was later extended to include foul language about God (sabb Allah), any of the angels, or about other prophets. Anyone using this kind of language was considered a grave sinner.19 Muslims who committed this sin were considered outside the fold of Islam and could be punished with death. In some cases, non-Muslims were also executed for committing blasphemous offences.

Moreover, heresy was banned. In many cases, heresy involved the outward show of Islam, while in fact remaining faithful to one’s former religion, or questioning the fundamentals of Islam, such as the prophethood of Muhammad or the authenticity of parts of the Qur’an. Some scholars came to believe that such heretical beliefs should also be punished by death.

The transgression of religious hypocrisy dates back to the time of the Prophet. During the Medinan period (622–632 CE), the Qur’an refers on several occasions to hypocrites and hypocrisy. It warns Muslims that hypocrites are a danger to the Muslim community. One verse commands the Prophet to engage in jihad against any hypocrites and unbelievers who are engaged in hostilities; other verses warned them of punishment in hell.20 All of these restrictions came to be used in various ways to limit the religious liberty of either Muslims or non-Muslims (or both) within Muslim-ruled states at different points in time.

It is important to understand the context in which these rules governing religious life were developed and propagated. During the Umayyad and early Abbasid periods (8th to the 10th centuries CE), Islam was rapidly expanding and the Muslim community began to experience political power as they brought more and more non-Muslim lands and communities under their rule. In part because of this, the great Muslim empire-builders began to grapple with novel issues about how to both establish their rule and remain true to Islam in multi-cultural and multi-confessional polities. As empires expanded and Muslims came into contact with new peoples and religions, Muslim scholars began to grapple with how to define mainstream Islamic belief and they faced growing political and intellectual pressures to determine Islamic positions on a range of issues. Because of this, a new Islamic orthodoxy began to emerge during Islam’s second and third centuries, and the propagators and defenders of this new mainstream belief sought to strengthen it by labelling other views as beyond the fold, deviant or heretical.

In some cases, certain Muslim jurists argued that non-Muslims—in particular, the “People of the Book,” or Christians and Jews—should be brought under Muslim dominance as a sign of humiliation. Not all jurists thought this way, however. Some jurists, for example, argued that Muslims needed to distinguish between those non-Muslims who came under Muslim rule through treaties or other agreements and those who fought against the Muslim state and came under Islamic rule by force. In time, the idea of religious belief would become strongly connected with the idea of the superiority of Islam.

As more and more scholars sought to differentiate between Muslims and others at a theological level, restrictions such as blasphemy and heresy began to emerge. As such, the many practical issues that Muslims dealt with during this period of Islamic expansion and while governing multi-confessional empires later became religiously sanctioned practices concerning non-Muslims and their religious liberty.

In these ways, the rules governing religious life developed by Muslim jurists in the classical era differ considerably from religious liberty as it is widely understood today. Religious liberty and the restrictions on it that were developed centuries ago to suit that particular period in time were a reflection of various factors that emerged from the context in which the jurists lived. After the Prophet’s death, the boundaries between religious and political communities became more clearly defined.

However, not all the positions within classical jurisprudence on religious liberty were the same. In fact, there is a considerable range of opinion among the classical jurists. Each jurist had his own legal and theological views, reasoning and rulings. This diversity and the remarkable fluidity within Islam over time should be recognized. It should also be seen as a blessing in disguise, because within Islamic Tradition there can be found positions which are less restrictive of religious freedom as well as reasoning which can be used to support contemporary conceptions of religious liberty. The Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad also provide a strong basis for Muslims to rethink contemporary restrictions on this liberty from within their tradition and to come to terms with the modern understanding.

Fostering Religious Liberty in Muslim Societies

In large part because of the political and religious realities of the classical era, a variety of traditions in Islam came to embrace rather restrictive notions of religious liberty. But such limited understandings of religious liberty do not necessarily have to be the Islamic understandings. Moreover, circumstances also change. Our contemporary social, political, cultural, and intellectual context is driving humankind toward greater freedom, not less. To succeed and live well in this era, Muslims need an updated Islamic understanding of religious liberty that is in line with the contemporary understanding and expectations. Importantly, the modern understanding and practice of religious freedom doesn’t require a denial of Islam, for religious liberty seems also to be in line with the core message of the Qur’an and the example of Prophet Muhammad. How, then, can we foster a more modern and comprehensive understanding of religious liberty in Muslim societies? There are a number of possible strategies.

First, Muslim thinkers and scholars must be wary of blind imitation of received practice and instead dig deep into their own traditions to rediscover and engage the wealth of insights that these traditions offer. This means examining the texts, interpretations, rulings and practices that have accumulated over many centuries, and particularly during the first three centuries of Islam, to see what resources exist within these traditions to support a contemporary understanding of religious liberty. As previously discussed, the diversity of Islamic Tradition means that there are resources within it that can be revived in support of modern religious liberty while remaining faithful to Islam.

As one example, the contemporary Egyptian thinker Muhammad Salim al-Awa introduces an element of legal flexibility in the body of traditional juristic opinion which holds that apostasy, for instance, should be punished with death. There are a range of classical scholarly opinions on this punishment, and al-Awa argues that it is not a “prescribed punishment” (hadd) in the Qur’an but rather a “discretionary punishment” (ta’zir). This difference matters, because if the punishment is prescribed, then it (at least in theory) cannot be changed, but if it is a discretionary punishment, it can be changed in agreement with principles developed in Islamic law. By applying this legal methodology, al-Awa provides an opening for scholars to remain faithful to Islam while moving away from the long-held position that apostasy is punishable by death.

Second, contemporary Muslims need to closely examine the foundations of the restrictions on religious liberty that exist in Islamic Tradition and determine whether these are essential to Islam or not. Scholars need to ask if these restrictions actually have a basis in the Qur’an, or whether they are simply a product of the social or political contexts in which they first appeared. If these restrictions are shown to be derived from and contingent on historical context, then work can be done to counter the assumption that these restrictions are an essential part of Islam. Indeed, as I have suggested, when the diverse and historically fluid traditions of Islam are examined more carefully, key restrictions on religious liberty may be found to have little solid basis in Islamic scripture, the authentic sayings, or the practices of the Prophet Muhammad and the pious generations of early Islam.

Many Muslim scholars today, in fact, are coming to such conclusions. A number of contemporary thinkers have re-examined the texts associated with the punishment for apostasy, for example, and they have shown that there is no Qur’anic requirement for the death penalty, nor is there any basis for it within the Prophet’s practice.21 In addition to the excellent work by Tahar Jabir al-Alwani, a prominent legal scholar, Mohammad Hashim Kamali, the author of Freedom of Expression in Islam, for example, has this conclusion:

It may be said by way of conclusion that apostasy was a punishable offence in the early years of the advent of Islam due to its subversive effects on the nascent Muslim community and state. Evidence in the Qur’an is, on the other hand, clearly supportive of the freedom of belief, which naturally includes freedom to convert…22

Having this religious knowledge and understanding provides Muslims with a strong and confident basis to move away from a range of restrictions on religious liberty which they have inherited from tradition but which may not be in line with the Qur’an and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad.

Third, Muslim and non-Muslim thinkers need to identify and highlight the far-reaching political, economic, and social consequences that restrictions on religious liberty have in Muslim-majority countries. It is necessary to describe how these restrictions adversely impact the growth and development of these societies, intellectually and otherwise, and how this lack of freedom detrimentally affects the lives of both Muslims and non-Muslims. The reality today is that most Muslim-majority countries use restrictions on religious liberty to curtail other freedoms, such as the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Political power and religious authority are often intertwined, and limitations on religious liberty provide a convenient way to manage dissent and maintain the status quo, both religiously and politically. However, this places an enormous burden on the development of these societies. A 2007 study conducted by Brian Grim and Roger Finke found that government regulation of religion was the strongest predictor of religious persecution, even when controlling for other possible explanations, including religious homogeneity, armed conflict, population growth, and income inequality. These results indicate that attempts to regulate faith contribute to a culture that represses dissent from government-dictated orthodoxy.23 This establishes a vicious cycle of persecution.24 More regulation leads to increased persecution, which in turn means less order and more violence.25 Intellectual freedom, government transparency and accountability, civil liberties, and human rights cannot grow in heavily restricted societies.

Other research suggests that restrictions on religious liberty have a detrimental effect on economic development, including lowering GDP and reducing productivity in the workplace and in education. The suppression of religious liberty can also erode political stability, social cohesion and morale and contribute to a climate of despondency, apprehension and fear that can lead to increased tension and even radicalization within communities. Interestingly, there is evidence of a strong connection between restrictions on religious freedom and the extent of both conflict and of militarization in a society. In countries where religious liberty is repressed, a greater share of the GDP tends to be spent on the military,26 and this suggests that the costs of maintaining social stability are higher in societies that are religiously unfree. By contrast, a growing body of evidence shows that implementing religious freedom can have enormous benefits for society. Foreign Policy magazine’s 2007 Failed States Index affirmed that “freedom of worship” may be a “key indicator of stability.”27 Furthermore, authors such as Thomas Walsh have found that “freedom of religion is consistent with other freedoms” and in fact “serves to bolster the existence of other freedoms.”28

Fourth, it is vital to encourage and support Muslim scholars who are already deeply engaged in rediscovering their traditions and developing understandings which can support modern conceptions of religious liberty. Promoting and circulating the work of Muslim scholars who employ Islamic terminology and concepts to show that restrictions on religious liberty are not essential to Islam could prove particularly helpful. Supporting such scholars will help to make their very encouraging ideas more widely known among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Indeed, it is only by popularizing such ideas and understandings that they will one day become the norm. This change must be driven by Muslim thinkers, scholars, and jurists; not by those outside the tradition. But to accomplish this, Muslims can be supported and provided platforms to circulate and express their views.

Fifth, although there may be great political and cultural reluctance to the loosening of restrictions on religious liberty in Muslim-majority countries, significant international pressure will help these societies to free up the space for Muslims to explore such ideas and practices within an Islamic context. This pressure requires that the international community document and publically highlight the human rights situation with regard to religious liberty in these countries. It must encourage Muslim-majority countries to give more room for the adherents of various religions, non-Muslim and Muslim alike, to function as freely as possible.

Finally, we need to address Muslim concerns and fears, whether real or imagined, that religious liberty is a guise for the project for the conversion of Muslims to other faiths. Dealing with these deep-seated fears will require empathy and patience, but it is vital. We must show that changes to thinking about religious liberty has great potential to help Muslim states and Muslim communities develop socially, politically, economically, intellectually and spiritually, and to enhance Muslim thought. As the Iranian scholar Abdolkarim Soroush has argued:

To compel individuals to confess a faith falsely; to paralyse minds by indoctrination, propaganda and intimidation and to shut down the gates of criticism, revision and modification so that everyone would succumb to a single ideology creates not a religious society but a monolithic and terrified mass of crippled, submissive and hypocritical subjects.29

Ultimately, religious faith needs to be given sufficient space to flourish. That cannot happen unless governments and societies allow for and respect the individual right to freedom of conscience, religion and thought. Unless the restrictions on religious liberty in Islamic tradition are revisited, then repressive political and religious establishments as well as extremist Islamist movements will continue to have free reign to curtail Muslims’ intellectual activity and more enlightened religious thought and, in so doing, continue to halt the development of Muslim societies. Through empirical research, we need to continue to show the genuine benefits to economic and political prosperity and to civil peace that can only come from the establishment of a comprehensive conception of religious liberty. The more religious liberty Muslims have the more they are likely to develop their societies harmoniously and also to fulfill their obligations to God.


Akhtar, Shabbir, A Faith for All Seasons: Islam and Western Modernity (1990) London: Bellew.

Al-Alwani, Taha Jaber, La Ikraha fi al-Din (2006) Cairo/Herndon VA: IIIT and Maktab al-Shuruq al-Duwaliyyah.

Ayoub, Mahmoud M, ‘Islam and the Challenge of Religious Pluralism’ (2000) 2(1) Global Dialogue, 53-64.

Bukhari, K. al-Murtaddin (n. d.), Sahih al-Bukhari.

Grim, Brian J., ‘God’s Economy: Religious Freedom & Socio-Economic Wellbeing,’ in Paul A. Marshall (ed) Religious Freedom in the World (2008) Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Grim, Brian J. and Roger Finke, ‘Religious Persecution in Cross-National Context: Clashing Civilizations or Regulated Religious Economies?’ American Sociological Review 72(4) (August 2007): 633–658.

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim, Freedom of Expression in Islam (1994) Kuala Lumpur: Berita Publishing.

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim, ‘Freedom of Religion in Islamic Law’ (1992) 21 Capital University Law Review, 63-82.

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim, Islamic Law in Malaysia: Issues and Developments (2000) Kuala Lumpur: Ilmiah Publishers.

Oh, Irene, The Rights of God: Islam, Human Rights and Comparative Ethics (2007) Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Pew Research Centre, ‘Trends in Global Restrictions on Religion’ 23 June, 2016. Available < >.

Rahman, S.A., Punishment of Apostasy in Islam (2nd ed) (1978) Lahore, Pakistan: Institute of Islamic Culture.

Saeed, Abdullah, Islam and Belief: At Home with Religious Freedom (2014) Palo Alto, CA: Zephyr Institute.

Shah, Niaz A., ‘Freedom of Religion: Koranic and Human Rights Perspectives’ (2005) Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law, 69-88.

Shah, Timothy, ‘Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right’ (2012) July Public Discourse. Available < >.

Walsh, Thomas, ‘Religious Freedom and the Moral Society,’ presented at Religious Freedom and the New Millennium, International Coalition for Religious Freedom, Washington, D.C. (April 17–19, 1998). Available < >.

1 Timothy Shah. Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right. July 2012. Public Discourse. Available at
2 Abdullah Saeed, Islam and Belief: At Home with Religious Freedom (2014) Palo Alto, CA: Zephyr Institute, 16.
3 Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam (1994) Kuala Lumpur: Berita Publishing, 99.
4 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 16-17.
5 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 16.
6 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 17.
7 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 17.
8 Mohammad Hashim Kamali, ‘Freedom of Religion in Islamic Law’ (1992) 21 Capital University Law Review, 66 citing VII Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi, Al Mughni (1981) 114 (Riyad, Maktabah al-Riyad al-Hadithah).
9 Kamali, Freedom of Expression in Islam, 101.
10 Niaz A. Shah, ‘Freedom of Religion: Koranic and Human Rights Perspectives’ (2005) Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law 1 & 2, 74.
11 Shah, ‘Freedom of Religion’ 72.
12 Shah, ‘Freedom of Religion’ 72.
13 Shah, ‘Freedom of Religion', 72 citing W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Medina, (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1969), p 223.
15 See Al-Alwani, La Ikraha fi al-Din, 101–104. [In English translation, pp. 42ff.]. See also Saeed, Islam and Belief, 18.
16 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 18.
17 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 7.
18 K. al-Murtaddin Bukhari (n. d.), Sahih al-Bukhari.
19 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 7.
20 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 8.
21 S.A. Rahman, Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, 2nd ed. (Lahore, Pakistan: Institute of Islamic Culture, 1978), 54.
22 Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Islamic Law in Malaysia: Issues and Developments, Kuala Lumpur: Ilmiah Publishers, 2000, 219.
23 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 19.
24 See Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke, “Religious Persecution in Cross-National Context: Clashing Civilizations or Regulated Religious Economies?” American Sociological Review 72(4) (August 2007): 633–658, (draft text), 34–35.
25 See Grim and Finke, “Religious Persecution in Cross-National Context,” 654. See also Brian J. Grim, “God’s Economy: Religious Freedom & Socio-Economic Wellbeing,” based on Religious Freedom in the World, Center for Religious Freedom, survey (2008), presented at “World Trends in Religious Freedom.”
26 See Grim, “God’s Economy,” 2.
27 Saeed, Islam and Belief, 19.
28 See Thomas Walsh, “Religious Freedom and the Moral Society,” presented at “Religious Freedom and the New Millennium,” International Coalition for Religious Freedom, Washington, D.C. (April 17–19, 1998),
29 Irene Oh, The Rights of God: Islam, Human Rights and Comparative Ethics (2007) Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 83, citing Soroush, “Tolerance and Governance,” 142, 143.

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