Against State Censorship of Thought and Speech: The “Mandate of Philosophy” contra Islamist Ideology

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Contemporary Islam presents Europe in particular with a political and moral challenge: Moderate-progressive Muslims and radical fundamentalist Muslims present differing visions of the relation of politics and religion and, consequently, differing interpretations of freedom of expression. There is evident public concern about Western “political correctness,” when law or policy accommodates censorship of speech allegedly violating religious sensibilities. Referring to the thought of philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and accounting for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, and various empirical studies on the religious convictions of Muslims, it is argued here that: (1) sovereign European state powers should be especially cautious of legal censorship of speech allegedly violating Muslim religious sensibilities; and (2) instead of legal moves to censorship, European states should defer to the principle of separation of religion and state (political authority). Further, a reasonable interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence allows that matters of religious difference may be engaged and resolved by appeal to private conscience and ethical judgment, rather than by appeal to public law per se. In so far as they are 1 representative of contemporary scholarship, the interpretative positions of Ziad Elmarsafy, Jacques Derrida, and Nasr Abū Zayd are presented in illustration of this latter point.
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Archival date: 2019-02-23
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