The 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie awakened many westerners to the danger of being charged with blasphemy in the Muslim world. Charges of "blasphemy," "apostasy," and "insulting Islam" are increasingly used by authoritarian governments and extremist forces within key Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states to acquire and consolidate power. These codes have proved effective in intimidating not only converts and heterodox groups, but also political and religious reformers.
In their newly released book, Silenced (Oxford University Press, 2011), Paul Marshall and Nina Shea provide the first survey of such accusations in the contemporary Muslim world, in international organizations, and in the West. These charges traditionally carry a punishment of death but are contested within Islam today, as described by the late Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid in the foreword to Silenced. Nevertheless, as Marshall and Shea describe, hundreds of victims, including political dissidents, religious reformers, journalists, writers, artists, movie makers, and religious minorities in many countries. They also document the political effects in Muslim societies of blasphemy and apostasy laws, as well as non-governmental fatwas and vigilante violence. And they examine in the West the move toward importing new blasphemy standards through bans on purported hate speech and Islamophobia, aggressively promoted by the OIC, and the increasing threat of violence to stifle commentary on Islam even in the absence of law.
More About the Speakers
Senior Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom, The Hudson Institute
Director, Center for Religious Freedom, The Hudson Institute
Jennifer A. Marshall
Director, Domestic Policy Studies