Friday, September 24, 2010
At Public Discourse, Tom Farr reminds us, again, of the importance of religious freedom -- here and abroad -- to stability, security, and peace:
[T]he American experience teaches that religious liberty can be an effective way to engage religious actors in the project of self governance, and to forestall religion-based violence and terrorism. This is why religious freedom should be at the forefront of our counter-terrorism diplomacy. It is no accident that where religious freedom does not exist, or is under siege, Islamist terrorism is incubated, nourished, and exported, including to American shores.
A recent Pew Forum study shows that 70 percent of the world’s population lives in nations where religious liberty is severely restricted, most of them Muslim-majority nations. Extremist policies such as anti-blasphemy and anti-apostasy laws fuel the persecution of Christians in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, and the cruel repression of Muslim minorities in Pakistan and Iran. The absence of religious freedom prevents the emergence of Muslim reformers who oppose religion-based persecution and who are capable of developing a liberal Islamic political theology.
Unfortunately, American foreign policy has long been complicit in supporting authoritarian regimes in Muslim nations. It has also been lethargic and inept in advancing international religious freedom—even though it is required by law to do so—including in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration has been especially negligent on this score, failing even to mention religious freedom in its National Security Strategy. Almost two years into the President’s tenure, the senior State Department official responsible for promoting religious freedom abroad is still not in place. As I have argued here and here, the State Department has apparently concluded that the vigorous defense of religious liberty in Muslim-majority nations will offend Muslims and be resisted by their governments. . . .