In light of the continuing political uprising throughout the Middle East, American leaders are reported to be recalculating their approach to Muslim world.
Politico's Ben Smith wrote this week that the Obama administration "clearly sees an opportunity," signaling "that they're hoping the changes in Tunisia and Egypt spread, and that they're going to align themselves far more clearly with the young, relatively secular masses" in countries like Iran, Algeria and Lebanon.
Is this a new moment for American relations with Muslim countries? Is freedom a religious or secular idea?
In many ways the question boils down to whether one prioritizes the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof") or the First Commandment ("You shall have no other gods before me.") Many cultures have a difficult time reconciling the two. But a truly secular posture allows the two to coexist not just harmoniously but in a mutually respectful way.
Posted by Jason Poling, on February 16, 2011 2:00 PM
While legal reform is certainly in order, and even as religious groups have shown themselves capable of respecting one another, the problem of religious intolerance will never be defeated if the government is secretly planting seeds of strife by contriving attacks in order to fulfill its ulterior motives.
Posted by Asma T. Uddin, on February 16, 2011 1:52 PM
It would be a huge mistake for American foreign policy to equate a "freedom agenda" with secularism and rule out the possibility that there is just as much, if not more, dynamism in the Islam of young Muslims around the world as there is among those who self-identify as secular.
Posted by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, on February 16, 2011 1:40 PM
Freedom, as we understand it here in America, or as it emerges in Egypt, is a universal idea that belongs to all of us. Neither the religious nor secular world can claim exclusive ownership, but both have important roles to play in protecting it.
Posted by Welton Gaddy, on February 16, 2011 1:01 PM
The end of the Mubarak regime demonstrates the falsity of commonly held stereotypes: Arabs reject democracy, Islam is incompatible with popular sovereignty, the grip of rulers of security states is unshakable.
Posted by John Esposito, on February 15, 2011 2:48 PM
Around the globe, we are witnessing nations and peoples striving towards greater freedom. It is thrilling to see this fundamental need finding its voice in a fight against tyranny. However, which sort of freedom will prevail?
Posted by Serene Jones, on February 15, 2011 1:59 PM
he best hope for Egypt is that Islamic, Coptic, and Jewish Egyptians can revive the marriage between private piety and public liberty that Locke envisioned. They must do so in a way natural to Egyptian language and costumes, and the great monotheist faiths have the resources to do this job.
Posted by John Mark Reynolds, on February 15, 2011 12:43 PM
In touting genuine religious freedom -- and its constitutional corollary, the separation of church and state -- we Baptists often hold up 17th century preacher Roger Williams' "hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world."
Posted by J. Brent Walker, on February 15, 2011 11:59 AM
If we want to be respected throughout the world, we need to be consistent on values we promote: the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all humans; justice and peace in the world; equal rights for men and women; freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the right to change or even denounce religion.
Posted by Herb Silverman, on February 15, 2011 7:01 AM