Intervening in a Public Debate
This chapter details the rationale behind the book’s central question: Is Islam hospitable to religious freedom? It offers three reasons why religious freedom is marshalled to assess Islam. First, religious freedom serves as a good criterion for adjudicating an intense public debate over the character of Islam that has been raging in the West at least as far back as the attacks of September 11, 2001. The chapter details the positions of “Islamoskeptics” and “Islamopluralists,” the two major positions in this debate, and explains why religious freedom captures what is at stake. Second, religious freedom is associated positively with social goods like democracy and peace and negatively with social ills like terrorism and civil war—goods that are disproportionately lacking and ills that are disproportionately present in the Muslim world. Finally, religious freedom is a matter of justice. It is a universal human right, not a parochial Western value.
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