International “Religious Freedom” Agenda Will Only Embolden ISIS

USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett with Peter Van Dalen, co-chair of the European Parliament's Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, September 30, 2014.

This weekend in Oslo a group of parliamentarians signed a Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief, launching an international coalition to combat religious persecution and protect religious freedom. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) described the meeting as an “attempt to counter the dark networks of ISIS, al Qaeda and others focused on religious persecution and violence, with one committed to freedom of thought, religion and belief.”

USCIRF co-organized the Oslo meeting with Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, leader of the All Parties Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief in the British Parliament. I met Baroness Berridge last spring at the Westminster Faith Debates when we represented opposing sides on the question of whether governments should promote religious freedom abroad. Seeing her name brought to mind an odd story she recounted during our debate that involved sitting down to tea with General Sisi, shortly after the coup, to discuss the prospects for religious freedom in Egypt.

It was only a matter of time until the Baroness and others in the international religious freedom (IRF) lobby sought to capitalize on the moral panic surrounding ISIS to advance their agenda. The call to arms in Oslo is among the first attempts to link ISIS and international religious freedom, but it won’t be the last. As someone who has spent the past few years studying the global politics of the IRF lobby, my first response to the Oslo announcement was whether it would be possible to imagine a more effective ISIS-recruitment tool than the image of a group of global parliamentarians, led by the US and the UK, poised to lead the way to civilization by instructing citizens of the Middle East on how to be religiously free. In some sense, international religious freedom has become the civilizing discourse of our time.

Of course religious freedom advocacy is not the answer to the violence and oppression plaguing the contemporary Middle East. To the contrary, like missions civilisatrices of the past, such efforts tend to exacerbate the problems they are designed to resolve. Let’s be clear: ISIS and the IRF lobby cannot be equated. Yet they share more in common than either would care to admit. Both claim to be driven by the objective of universal emancipation and collective religious flourishing; both draw strength from an intensive, explicit, and highly politicized focus on religious and sectarian divisions; and both have the answer to how we should live together. In some sense they are each other’s nemesis, supporting and sustaining each other in an endlessly provocative (and for some, quite lucrative), globalized version of the American culture wars.

What would it look like to distance ourselves from the Manichean worldviews of both ISIS and the IRF lobby? Is it possible to refuse both positions, to harbor doubts about all claims to have discovered and perfected a universal model of how we ought to live together at all times and in all places in this world? Is there an alternative to the IRF lobby’s narrative in articulating a response to ISIS? Might the perception of a choice between religious freedom and religious tyranny rest in a misunderstanding of both of these supposed alternatives?

Today the IRF lobby, many IGOs and NGOs, foreign policy bureaucracies, and most of the international media relies on an understanding of religious freedom as a stable human right, legal standard and social fact that can be measured and achieved by all communities. Individuals and governments are expected to comply with this universal norm. States and societies are judged based on the extent to which they have achieved religious freedom. A small industry has emerged to quantify its presence or absence.

My experience as co-organizer of the Politics of Religious Freedom project over the past several years suggests that IRF advocacy is considerably more complex than is suggested by such accounts. To promote religious rights is to promote a particular mode of governing social diversity that implicates religion in complex and variable ways, depending on the context. Legal and political advocacy for religious freedom tends to mask other contributors to social tension and conflict, amplify and entrench the religious divisions it seeks to manage, and force political authorities to discriminate between “good” and “bad” religion. Each of these tendencies has implications for the current debate over ISIS.

A bigger field of play 

Religious freedom advocacy singles out individuals and groups for legal protection as religious individuals and collectivities. Positing religion as prior to other affiliations re-politicizes and retrenches divisions between religions, and between the religious and the secular. It leads to what historian Sarah Shields describes as a particular “ecology of affiliation.” Other factors that contribute to social tension, discrimination, conflict, and co-existence are lost from sight.

In a recent piece in the New York Times magazine, the American journalist Theo Padnos described his experience as a hostage held for two years by the al-Nusra front. In reading his account I was struck by the extent to which Islam and the role of Islam in the war in Syria remain in the background, always part of the context, but never defining it. Padnos’ narrative, like those of others who have been close to the ground in this war, suggest that the tragic conditions leading to the rise of ISIS cannot be reduced to Islam, religious persecution, or a lack of religious freedom.

To understand how a movement like ISIS became possible requires grappling with the effects of a series of complex and entangled enabling conditions. As others have noted, these include a long history of state-sponsored violence with origins both inside and outside of the region, multiple legacies of colonial oppression, a pervasive lack of good governance, the widespread resonance of Islamist politics as an oppositional and anticolonial discourse, a dearth of economic opportunity for the vast majority of the region’s population, an unequal distribution of resources, sectarianizing state politics, exploitation and repression by local, regional and international elites, and ongoing oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians. ISIS is but the latest manifestation, a lashing out, and a last stand against the injustices plaguing the people who live in this part of the world.

To suggest that legal guarantees for religious freedom, as defined and imposed by the international community, will solve these complex problems and challenges is at best naïve and at worst an insult to the people of region. To endorse religious freedom as the solution is to refuse the reality and complexity of the situation on the ground. It hinders the development of informed governmental and non-governmental policy responses by deflecting attention away from the considerations described above in favor of a focus on (whatever is defined as) religion, religious leaders and religious communities.

An informed response to this crisis would combine a deep understanding of the factors listed above with a sense of humility and respect for the people of the region, from all backgrounds, that rose up beginning in 2011 to challenge impossibly repressive governments and their foreign supporters, unthinkable police brutality, and unjust living conditions. This was not, and is not, only about the politics of social and religious co-existence. It is much more encompassing. The response of the international community should reflect this complexity, honoring those who gave their lives attempting to create new forms of political community and solidarity reflecting a democratic sensibility.

Whose religion? Whose freedom? 

But the problem with the IRF lobby runs deeper. Paeans to religious freedom not only mask the causes of conflict in the region but also, and more perniciously, exacerbate the situation on the ground by giving sustenance to the “us versus them,” black versus white, right versus wrong logic on which ISIS thrives. The Manichean worldview espoused by the IRF lobby—either you’re with us or against us; either you support our version of religious freedom or you don’t—ironically works to retrench the very divisions (Christian/Muslim, believer/unbeliever, western/non-western) that groups like ISIS depend on to cement and popularize a collective sense of identity and purpose defined in opposition to western states, Israel, Jews, and Christians. Prioritizing advocacy for religious freedom unwittingly reinforces the boundaries that feed ISIS’s fire. Undermining ISIS is a long-range project that involves, among other measures, unsettling the assumption that the boundaries dividing Jew from Christian from Muslim from Hindu from unbeliever are the only ones that matter. They aren’t.

And yet the IRF project presses the public imagination, legal and political institutions and social practice in the opposite direction, reinforcing the public and political salience of sectarian divisions and empowering some leaders and orthodoxies over others. In this worldview, individuals are identified based on perceived religious affiliation—for instance, he’s a Muslim, she’s a Christian, they are part of a particular “religious group.” These groups are publically consecrated as discrete faith communities and official spokespersons are called forth to represent them. A “religionized” political landscape takes shape. Faith leaders who enjoy good relations with the political authorities are emboldened, while others are marginalized. Dissenters, doubters, those who practice multiple traditions, and those on the margins of community fade into the background.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, in the world of IRF many violations of human dignity fail to register at all, languishing beneath the threshold of national and international recognition as scarce resources go to rescuing persecuted religionists and defending faith communities that have broken through the threshold of international religio-political recognition. As I argue in Beyond Religious Freedom, these selection dynamics cannot be mitigated with a more diverse and sophisticated understanding of religion or religious community. There is no easy fix. Certain questions always plague such efforts: Which religions are protected? Which leaders are engaged? And whom exactly are these leaders presumed to represent?

In another tragic mirroring of ISIS’s ceaseless reckoning of who is a “good” or “bad” Muslim, the politics of religious freedom force political authorities to make determinations between “good” and “bad” religion. In ISIS’s books, al-Nusra once occupied the position of good Muslim, was reclassified as bad Muslim, and, as of this writing, appears to be back in the “good” Muslim column as the two fronts join forces against Assad and the US-led airstrikes. A related set of dynamics bedevils American efforts to identify and support “religious moderates” in Syria. Prioritizing religious freedom in the fight against ISIS simply exaggerates these dynamics as the IRF lobby struggles desperately to distinguish between sects and leaders who support “religious freedom” (as defined by the lobby and its powerful donors) and those who do not.

Beyond religious freedom 

It’s not my intention to judge individuals who find themselves in difficult circumstances and choose to make political claims in the language of religious freedom. Nor do I wish to undermine local groups working to oppose violence and discrimination that have chosen to register complaints using the legal tools at their disposal, some of which will inevitably invoke religious classifications. This is understandable. But there is a larger story to be told about that which is hastily described by the IRF lobby, the media, and others today as “religious” violence and persecution—and freedom and toleration.

The challenges facing the Middle East today cannot be reduced to a choice between religious freedom and religious violence. The solution to today’s dilemmas of global collective life lie neither in the relentless pursuit of the international religious freedom agenda nor in ISIS’s oppositional fantasy world. Despite the rhetoric in Oslo, and the momentum of the new religion agenda in Brussels, Washington, and Ottawa, the last thing the people of the Middle East need is a religious freedom charter that will serve only to embolden ISIS among its followers. If a solution exists, it lies beyond religious freedom, and with the people of the region.


  •' Jim Reed says:

    That was the one religious problem where we thought we had the good religion/bad religion thing sorted out. We have lots of good religion/bad religion problems here at home, and many we have spread around the world like to Africa, but as a nation we are way too undecided to know how to fix any of them. ISIS is the only one we could agree on, and now you are taking even that away from us.

  •' the Old Adam says:

    ‘Freedom’ is one of the things that gets ISIS so riled up. They HATE freedom. Subjugating people under Sharia Law is what they are all about.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    They probably see freedom as freedom for American rich to globalize their economy under their rules, and get more rich off of resources and manpower from around the world, and backed up by American military strength. Ultimately the world will need some kind of definition of just what freedom is, and it can’t be the American definition because that one is way too slanted.

  •' apotropoxy says:

    The idea of individual freedom on matters religious is grotesquely offensive to those who believe their god’s law is the final word. We in the West incorrectly assume that freedom is a good thing and are baffled by those who think otherwise.
    BTW: There is a large and growing movement in the USA to overthrow man’s law in favor of a god’s law. In the Protestant precincts the movement is often called Dominionism and has adherents like Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. The Catholics have the Rick Santorum types.

  •' Hans says:

    What a terrible and tortured attempt to equate to equate apples and oranges … only from the mind of an academic steeped in some kind of lofty idealism disconnected from reality could such an article emerge … The Stalinist mass murderers had their defenders in the West … this is the same sad and sorry thing.

  •' GeniusPhx says:

    If you are honest the Bible could be a guidebook for ISIS. The subjection of women to mans rule, death for minor crimes like talking back to parents and theft, and the punishment for not believing in that god is death according to the bible. People who believe in inerrancy of the bible not that different than muslims, they just don’t go that far.

    This international panel will have to look at parts of the US that coddles cults that are abusive, Colorado city of AZ/Utah, the mormon cult in Texas where Jeffs rules, and others they should have seen like David Koresh and Jim Jones.

    We ignore these and call it religious freedom, but would the people caught up in those call it freedom? Are we strong enough to use that critical eye on ourselves??

  •' Lamia says:

    What an atrocious article. Evidently Professor Shakman Hurd has never heard of the Middle Ground Fallacy – her thinking here is a logically and morally disgraceful example of it. Northwestern University should be embarrassed.

  •' Lamia says:

    Another thick, parochial American who thinks it’s always all about the USA. It’s not. Get over it.

  •' apotropoxy says:

    If all you can do is make Bold Assertions (fallacy) then, either you haven’t thought through your position, or you don’t have one.

  •' Hans says:

    I have to admit to boldly standing with Thomas Jefferson’s belief that all people everywhere deserve freedom … There’s nothing fallacious about that in my mind. It does not mean we should go around the world enforcing the idea .., but it’s a simple idea … either you believe it or you don’t …. No torturous thinking about it is really necessary …..

  •' apotropoxy says:

    We children of the Enlightenment share Jefferson’s (John Locke’s really) world view. Pre-Humanists like the fundamentalists members of the Abrahamic tribes do not. The only thinking you need to torture yourself with is this…
    Both sides of this question think their’s is the correct one but only those who hold Enlightenment values can see the commonality.

  •' Daniel says:

    Promoting religious freedom resonates with almost everyone. It helps the West not seem so evil. I bet in the long run it hurts ISIS because it is harder to convince people they need to fight the West if the West is trying to make sure you have the right to live your religion. Not promoting religious freedom creates a backlash.

  •' Jacob Cheval says:

    “both have the answer to how we* should live together.”

    Who is this we? It obviously doesn’t include Shias, Christians or any of the other people that ISIS have decided don’t get to live, either together or separately.

  •' phatkhat says:

    The ENTIRE state government of Arkansas has been taken over by the Republicans – most of them of a theocratic bent. In addition, we are sending radical Teavangelical Tom Cotton to the US Senate. Oklahoma elected a raving lunatic, Lankford, a Baptist preacher, to the US Senate. This country is about to lose its OWN religious freedom to the talibangelicals. It ain’t gonna be pretty…

  •' phatkhat says:

    No, it’s about the irony of the US advocating religious freedom abroad, when our own is seriously under assault by the religious fundamentalists on our own soil.

  •' phatkhat says:

    Freedom gets all religious fundies riled up. They want obedience to authority above all. And that authority is “godly” men. If the religious fundies – i.e. Reconstructionists/Dominionists ever get control here, it won’t be any different. It will just be a different branch of the Abrahamic tree.

  •' apotropoxy says:

    I think this tribe and their political party are circling the drain of the tub they tried to drown the government in. The internal contradictions of their ideology leave them with no way out.
    I hope they don’t resort to “Second Amendment” remedies, but suspect they will.

  •' Lamia says:

    Americans have no more idea of what it is like to have their religious freedoms ‘seriously under assault’, than they know what it’s like to suffer mass starvation. Any time truly horrific suffering and injustice from another part of the world is being discussed, a certain segment of US opinion tries to turn the topic into the oppression of the US population by its government.

    You do not live in a perfect country by any means, but even with the televangelicals and other problems it is a far better place to live than most places in the world. Equating the religious nuts in the USA with ISIS is not intelligent self-criticism or ‘balance’, it is first-world narcisissm, and it trivialises the horrendous suffering of people at the hands of the likes of ISIS.

  •' Nati Man says:

    Interesting and well-argued editorial from an astute observer of religion and politics at Northwestern University. I especially welcome her call for an end to the “politics of the millet”, in which populations are represented religiously and “Dissenters, doubters, those who practice multiple traditions, and those on the margins of community fade into the background.” But I think she makes some unwarranted assumptions.

    In the spirit of rebuttal, I offer the following:
    1) ISIS is already emboldened. Indeed the choice with ISIS is between religious freedom and religious violence in a way that could not be more stark. So I am confused as to what, if anything the author proposes should be done by religious leaders about ISIS. I welcome the call to shift from these Manichaean categorizations, but such complications are essentially irrelevant when one is actually facing ISIS. I don’t really buy the author’s argument that declarations from Oslo will affect things for the worse. Things already are terribly, horribly bad.

    2) The author assumes that one cannot support religious freedom and at the same time work to broaden the definitional categories of religion. I am positive that many scholars might be critical of the way in which the goal of religious freedom is pursued in the West, but still be supportive of the larger idea. I would hazard a guess that a great many scholars of religion would be in favor of both projects and see an essential overlap between them. This leads me to….

    3) That the definitional categories of “which religions are protected” is continually open/negotiated/subject to political bias is not in itself an argument for ceding the ground of religious freedom entirely.

    Shall we then cede the UN Convention on Human Rights?
    Equally arbitrary.
    The Geneva Convention on Torture? Ditto.

    Let us say it is up the people of the region to judge, as the author argues. And on what shall they rely? The Bible? The Quran? Their constitutions? All negotiated discourses infused with political and religious bias. If such bias itself disqualified any religious or political solution to human difference, there would not be a single document or tradition from the thousands of years of human history on which to rely on. I thus find the author’s conclusion incoherent.

    A simple and politically realistic solution is to acknowledge that efforts to fundamentally shift the discourse of religious freedom will have to begin by acknowledging and appreciating religious freedom and the struggle for it on some fundamental level, before the work of deconstruction proposed here can begin. One can be critical of the struggle for religious freedom turning into a new kind of civilizing mission or cultural imperialism, while still accepting the framework of religious freedom as a desirable one with great potential.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Christianity worked out the way to resolve doctrinal differences in previous centuries. They went to war, and killed until both sides were too tired to kill any more, and then they could sit down and come to an agreement that each country would let the other country choose their own religion. As long as you have religion, this might be the only way that can work. Beyond that you are just fooling yourself. The reasons are based on the nature of religion. It is a system of unwavering faith based on nothing. When you start with religious concepts based on nothing, you can never convince the rest of the world you are right. One problem is faith based systems can never see the flaws in their own faith, but they are all good at spotting flaws in other faith systems.

    Over the horizon, I see another battle coming up. It is the battle of religion vs. atheism. Hopefully this battle can be fought on the field of reason instead of a field of blood. I have an ulterior motive in hoping for this because when dealing with issues of reason, atheism can’t ultimately lose, and religion could never win. This will be a chance for the world to finally come together.

  •' reform uscirf says:

    Extremely well said. Religious Freedom, in death grip of exclusivist believers, does more harm & less good.

    Here is USCIRF case study:

    *Conflict of Interest (Market Player should not be Market Regulator):
    USCIRF states “Commissioners are NOT supposed to act as rep of their faith” but Is it possible for ordained priest,& evangelical, Commissioner to act otherwise?
    How about setting up International Racial Freedom Commission? Let’s Appoint Zealous Commissioners who believe in righteousness of their own race and have decades of experience in unbridled race based advocacy of their own race. Let’s also make sure that majority of them belong to 1 race and assume that as commissioner (a part-time job) they will not lobby for their own race (a life-time job).

    * Instead of promoting peace, harmony and religious freedom by constructive engagement, USCIRF is focused on harsh denunciations and selective cursing. Over longer term, it might create a hostile atmosphere, for religious minorities, in USA.

    * Legal Compliance: Every formal submission of USCIRF report carries an IRFA 1998 Act compliance statement but reports suffers from many sins of omissions & commissions, quasi lies & hearsay.

    *Equality is a prerequisite for Freedom:
    Without Equality there is no Freedom. Religious Leaders, who believe in 1 true god, will
    never be able to embrace respect and equality of all religions. At best they can show tolerance which is a grossly insufficient to provide harmony & true freedom.

    -Check USCIRF reform on google and Twitter.

  •' Philip Finn says:

    Well, freedom to be “(s)ubjugating people under Sharia Law is what they are all about” to be precise. They hate OTHER people’s freedom. One only has to look at some of the posts here to see the assumption of religious Dominionism or Exceptionalism is a global phenomena. I think the dilemma is this; we are discussing a global perspective of having the universal freedom to define religion as whatever one says it is, and the freedom to practice said religion in any way one chooses to call a religious practice, in a world where at least some of the participants fashion a god in their own image and likeness.
    At issue, I think, should actually be a global discussion of at what point do decent, civilized people – in the name of civilization and self-preservation – draw the line. The first step would be to enforce a concordance that all religions are created equal, take the onus off of origins and politics and put it on behavior and outcomes where it belongs. That’s the way the Enlightenment and Democracy criminalizes behavior rather than culture, ethnic background, color or gender.

  •' GregAbdul says:

    The West has a pretty long track record of rescuing Muslims in modern times. Muslims are the main people who need saving from the nutties. The only real issue is we need saving from both sides. We Muslims need saving from ISIS and I don’t see a lot of resentment over it and we need saving from Hate Inc. and the lies they tell on ordinary Muslims. For me, I will take all the saving I can get.

  •' Corey says:

    so happy to see USA jump onto religious freedom but keep quiet, blatantly ignore banning the use of land mines that go unaccounted for years after military use where they blow the limbs off of innocent children in todays non-waring countries. The US does the same for protecting LGBT people around the globe, never to commit to just a statement saying LGBT should be protected. You cant expect much, for the more religious a country is, the more oppression there is. Take a religious country, add Capitalism run amok, where elections are bought and sold, and you have nothing more than a country that the Founding Father’s fled from, and tried not to recreate, regardless of all their flaws. Sure the US is one of the best places to be born in the world, but what does that matter if your rights can be given then taken from you depending on who has the most money?

  •' Corey says:

    Just like the conservative Christians in the US, people of ANY religion become lethal when they mix conservatism with dogma.

  •' Corey says:

    Conservative Christians take on new names every few years, to make their theocratic movement seem more acceptable and attractive. For instance, Moral Majority was a big seller. Now people call them the Religious Right, Tea Party, Right Wing, etc. However, my favorite, and most accurate would be and is the American Taliban.

    Even if you leave political parties aside, (because through the years they have varied in their ideology and completed flipped on others, but keep the word “conservative”) these people are, and have always been evil!

    Conservatives don’t like change, don’t like anything different, though they spout individualism and freedom, they only mean those who believe in the same kinds of freedoms and rights.

    Religion always plays a role, has throughout history, but since we are in the USA, it’s Christianity that is the problem. Not all Christians are evil just as not Muslims are terrorists. However, in the USA, it has always been the most vocal, most funded, and most politically connected Christians who are those who believe in conservatism. Some of these folks follow the ideology that believes God choose them personally to be in control of and dominate all aspects of society. These people follow Dominionism, sometimes called Christian Reconstructionism.

    GW Bush, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, etc. the core power of the Republican Party of today is controlled by these dangerous people.

    These people believe their god picked them, made them wealthy and powerful, and those who are poor and/or suffering deserved it, because God didnt choose them to be in his army so why should anyone else.

    Unfortunately, the only comparison that mirrors this ideology is Hitler, but conservative Christians always use their get out of free card when you bring this up and they say, “He wasn’t a real Christian”, however, they say the same thing about the KKK, Christopher Columbus who demanded a certain amount of gold daily for the slave labor of the Natives, that if they didn’t fulfill his demand, he had their hands cut off.

    I can only assume in decades and centuries to come, conservative Christisns will be saying that same thing when someone brings up how the conservative Christians of today treated gays, immigrants, Muslims, and still woman and black people. They seem to think if no one is being lynched, then its not racism or oppression.

    So, until mankind kicks these bums out, they aren’t going anywhere, and every couple of years there will be articles and books written about how these people are losing power…. then Reagan comes along, again, books and articles are published about the demise of these groups, then GW Bush comes along, same thing happens, and even now I have seen many articles and come across a few books that talk about how the Right-Wing is losing power and fading fast. I just roll my eyes, and wonder what is coming next.

    Helpful reading:

    1. Dominionism –

    2. Dominionism

    3. The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy

    4. The Despoiling of America – How George W. Bush became the head of the new AmericanDominionist Church/State

    4. Ted Cruz, Dominionism and Jesus: “Dominionists believe they are engaged in an epic battle against the forces of Satan.

    5. The Theology of Government Shutdown: Christian Dominionism

    6. The Christian right’s “dominionist” strategy

    7. The American Taliban

    8. Quotes from the American Taliban

    9. American Taliban – The marriage between religious fundamentalism and market conservatism is as strong as ever.
    Book review by Robert Kuttner ‘Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party’
    By Max Blumenthal, Nation Books,

    10. Proof Conservative Christians Want to Take Over the USA and the World

    11. A Nation Under God – Let others worry about the rapture: For the increasingly powerful Christian Reconstruction movement, the task is to establish the Kingdom of God right now from the courthouse to the White House. By John Sugg

    12. Red State, Republican, T-Bag, “Right-wing” & Conservative Christian Hypocrisy (Nov. 2008 to April 2012)

    13. Separation of Church and State DVDs & Videos Suggestions

  •' Lamia says:

    Dear Corey, I am not an American and I am sorry but I am not remotely interested in reading those links because I am not obsessed, for good or for ill, with the USA.

    This story is supposedly about ISIS and the Middle East. You’ve just exemplified again the constitutionally ability of many Americans to approach such a topic without getting wrapped up in what is going on in the USA as if it is comparable or worse where you live. I’m not interested. You are not living under some equivalent of the Taliban or the Iranian regime, and it is pure narcissistic delusion to tell yourself that you are.

    “However, my favorite, and most accurate would be and is the American Taliban.”

    I don’t like the religious right either but you are not living under anything like the Taliban, and you cheapen the suffering of those who have lived and often horribly died under it when you do. It might be amusing but it is not accurate. It is actually tasteless and delusional because you trivialise what the Taliban really are and really do.

    But well, done, this was an article about people in the Middle East where opponents of ISIS are currently facing and often experiencing persecution, torture, slavery and death, but you and some others have made it all about the struggle of yourself and other heroic Americans in the face of the Bushitler Taliban. It must be so much worse for you than those whiners in the Middle East. It’s all about you-you-USA isn’t it?

  • Lamia – you have brought up some valid points, and so has Professor Hurd, even if you do not agree with them. I am curious about where you live because it sounds like you have experienced first hand some the atrocities that have been done in the name of religious freedom in the Middle East, or at least have witnessed them or their aftermath.

    As I read this article, I found myself wondering if Prof. Hurd was supportive of the Oslo conference or if she was critical of them for trying to define and defend what religious freedom should consist of for the world. I think she may be right in that it has given ISIS something to attack, just as it has given the conference members something to support. I got the impression that she was holding judgment but was afraid that it would do more harm than good.

    In both cases I feel that they are wrong and have failed to understand much of the problem is not about religious freedom, but about secular power and control. Prof. Hurd touches on it on one paragraph of her article, pointing out that there are other more pressing issues in the Middle East that hiding behind the label of “religious freedom” are not being addressed.

    I am neither Muslim, Jew, or Christian, I am a Deist, and I do not live in the Middle East. I am 62 years old and have been a student of religion (all religions) and history my whole life. I agree that there will never be an easy solution in the Middle East, and I certainly do not think that forcing one religion over another in the area is justifiable under any circumstances. We are dealing with cultures that have existed for thousands of year before they had established any of these faiths, and they have been at war with each other over land, resources, personal needs, and restrictions that they each put on each other since time began it seems.

    If you could present a solution that might actually be sound enough to create a solution that meets the social, cultural, and religious needs of the people in the region, what would it be? I have asked this question of people in interfaith discussion boards, only to be met with everything from being called an anti-Semite to wanting the destruction of either Israel or Palestine, to wanting war with Iran or not, and yet I have not received one answer or even a few answers that might work. Do you think that you, because of your personal experiences, might have some answer to such a question that would respect everyone’s religious rights or freedoms, as well as their other needs and rights being met and respected? I truly would like to hear it so that I can share it with others. Thank you.

    Rev. Devon J. Noll
    New Word Universal Fellowship Church
    Christmas Valley, OR

  •' MainTour says:

    Religious Freedom runs contrary to the basic tenants of Islam as evidence by the aggresive usage of taxes (Jizza) and blasphemy laws to target non-believers as justified by their definition of the Sharia in places such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan.

  • The idea here is that emphasizing religious freedom actually just re-emphasizes that religious identities are important and work in a certain way. Conflicts that might have not been entirely religious get re-cast as holy wars when they’re put in terms of religious freedom, making them harder to solve.

    Come Dimagrire IN Una Settimana

  •' Corey says:

    What many people who claim to not be racists today say “Well we dont lynch black people any more, so we arent racists”.

    America may not now be as bad as the Middle East, but how do you think the USA was built?

    Rape, murder, oppression, slavery, and genocide…..literally.

  •' Lamia says:

    Once again, you have demonstrated my point:

    This story is supposedly about ISIS and the Middle East. You’ve just exemplified again the constitutionally ability of many Americans to approach such a topic without getting wrapped up in what is going on in the USA as if it is comparable or worse where you live. I’m not interested.

    It’s not all about you. Your self-flagellation is just another form of exhibitionism.

    America may not now be as bad as the Middle East, but how do you think the USA was built?

    That has absolutely nothing to do with, and has no value with respect to, what is going on in the Middle East today. Get over yourself.

  •' Lamia says:

    The idea of individual freedom on matters religious is grotesquely
    offensive to those who believe their god’s law is the final word.

    Good. I’m glad they are offended. They deserve to be, and worse than offended. Innocent people in the world are suffering quite enough due to the deranged egos of these people. It’s not secularists who are beheading children for refusing to change their religion, it’s religious extremists who feel ‘offended’ by beliefs differing from theirs. Your cringing towards these evil thugs is pitiful.

  •' apotropoxy says:

    Your reading comprehension is pitiful.

  •' Lamia says:

    No, I’ve got you marked. You state, with no attempt to justify it, that, “We in the West incorrectly assume that freedom is a good thing.” You are at best a moral relativist, at worst a sicko who thinks it’s clever to pretend to see no difference between freedom and slavery. How wonderfully jaded and cynical of you.

    How convenient that you live in a country where your human rights are largely protected in a way that most people on this planet can only dream of,so that you can discuss them as if they are something abstract. How tickling to pretend that you are no better off than people living under real religious oppression, are and that your freedoms are illusory and/or worthless. Typical comfortable, parochial Yank.

  •' NDaniels says:

    Injustice does not stand against injustice, it stands with injustice against Justice. Only that which is Just, and thus respects the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person, can stand with Justice against injustice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *