As prior posters to this blog and media worldwide have noted, the recent Charlie Hebdo massacre reignited a debate that has been flaring off and on for years; namely, whether freedom of expression should be limited, among other things, by religious sensibilities (or sensitivities, as some might say). Not always but often, this debate is framed as one of Westerners (especially those in the U.S., where free speech has very few legal limits) versus Muslims. Thus, it was particularly interesting to note a recent Washington Post article by Asra Q. Nomani, a former WSJ reporter and author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam. In that article, Nomani charts what she identifies as a 10-year campaign led by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and others to police Muslim and non-Muslim critics of Islam under the guise of combatting “Islamophobia”. The tactics she describes have the effect of “quashing civil discourse”, preventing much needed conversation about the meaning and future of Islam. Nomani, who has received death threats, calls for renewed attention to ijtihad – the Islamic law concept of critical thinking and interpretation. Her analysis is not uncontested, but it is an important contribution to the debate and worth reading.
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