May 20, 2020 Print

Photo Credit: Islam & Liberty Network 

Scholars, students, and civil society leaders came together last November to make the Muslim case for religious freedom at the 7th International Islam & Liberty conference, hosted by Islam & Liberty Network, an Atlas Network partner based in Malaysia. With lectures on religious intolerance, classical Islamic jurisprudence, religious freedom in a Muslim democracy, and the connection between religious liberty and economic development, the conference brought together 120 participants and four different civil society organizations dedicated to showing the connection between Islam and a free society.

Participants at the conference, which included twenty leading scholars from Asia, the Middle East & North Africa, Europe, and the United States, presented papers, held discussions, and collaborated on joint projects. Several academic collaborations have begun as a result of these lectures, including multiple academic articles, five videos, and a podcast—all dedicated to the promotion of religious freedom in the Muslim faith. 

According to the conference Call for Papers, Islam recognizes religious freedom on the basis of Quranic evidence, including “There shall be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Religious freedom was later affirmed and demonstrated through the Charter of Medina, signed by the Prophet Muhammad and the citizens of Medina, which guaranteed religious liberty for all communities. The introduction to the conference agenda offers additional context: “We believe that this conference will help in the promotion of equality and human rights and their enforcement in Muslim majority countries. It will also help in improving general understanding about perceived gaps between Islam and religious freedom.”

A lasting legacy of the conference is the strengthened and expanded network of like-minded organizations throughout the world, specifically in the Middle East. Islam & Liberty Network, which recently won Atlas Network’s 2020 Asia Liberty Award for their faith-based Muslim Case for a Free Society project, is creating curricula and other intellectual arguments that reinforce a message of peace, toleration, and religious liberty that they hope will spread throughout Muslim-majority countries and the Middle East.

Additional sponsors for the two-day conference included Fatayat Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim organization; the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) in Malaysia; and the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, DC.

Islam & Liberty's 7th International Islam & Liberty conference was supported by an Atlas Network grant.