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Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide [Paperback]

Paul Marshall , Nina Shea

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Book Description

Oct. 6 2011
The fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the 2005 Danish cartoon fracas awakened many people to the potency of blasphemy accusations in the Muslim world. Accusations and charges such as "blasphemy," "apostasy," "insulting Islam," or "hurting Muslims' religious feelings" pose a far greater danger than censorship of irreverent caricatures of Mohammad: they are increasingly used as key tools by authoritarian governments and extremist forces in the Muslim world to acquire and consolidate power. These charges, which draw on disputed interpretations of Islamic law and carry a traditional punishment of death, have proved effective in crushing or intimidating not only converts and heterodox groups, but also political and religious reformers. In fact, one reason for the recent growth of more repressive forms of Islam is their use of accusations of blasphemy, apostasy, and related charges to intimidate and silence their religious opponents and make any criticism of their own actions and ideas religiously suspect. The effect of such laws thus goes far beyond what might narrowly be called religious matters.

This volume provides the first world survey of the range and effects of apostasy and blasphemy accusations in the contemporary Muslim world, in international organizations, and in the West. The authors argue that we need to understand the context, history, impact, and mechanics of the blasphemy phenomenon in modern Muslim societies and guidance on how to effectively respond.The book covers the persecution of Muslims who convert to another religion or decide that they have become agnostic or atheists, as well as "heretics:" those who are accused of claiming a prophet after Mohammed, such as Baha'is and Ahmadis. It also documents the political effects in Muslim societies of blasphemy and apostasy laws, as well as non-governmental fatwas and vigilante violence. It describes the cases of hundreds of victims, including political dissidents, religious reformers, journalists, writers, artists, movie makers, and religious minorities throughout the Muslim world. Finally, it addresses the legal evolution toward new blasphemy laws in the West; the increasing use of laws on "toleration" in the West, which may become surrogate blasphemy laws; increasing pressure by Muslim governments to make Western countries and international organizations enforce laws to restrict speech; and the increasing use of violence to stifle expression in the West even in the absence of law. Its foreword is by Indonesia's late President Abdurrahman Wahid.

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"Islamists, claiming they want only respect for their religion, are imposing brutal punishments for apostasy and blasphemy in the non-Muslim as well as the Muslim world. In this eloquent and definitive work Marshall and Shea make a powerful case that for us to accommodate this, anywhere, would be disastrous--weakening truly moderate Muslims and those of us who support them, and seriously crippling our own freedoms of speech and religion."-- R. James Woolsey, Chairman, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Former Director of Central Intelligence

"The book offers an extensive survey of blasphemy and its effects on Muslim societies and individuals, with a consideration of analogous developments in the contemporary West. The ad hoc way of enforcing blasphemy laws is placed in the framework of classical Islamic discussion where blasphemy is a function of state jurisdiction rather than simply of vigilante activism. As the book makes clear, evidence of arbitrary use of blasphemy is evidence also of contested state jurisdiction. This is a most valuable study."
-- Lamin Sanneh, D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity, Yale University

"Paul Marshall and Nina Shea have performed an important service with this account of laws and customs against "apostasy" and "blasphemy" in Muslim countries."--The Weekly Standard

"Exhaustive, courageous research is on brilliant display in Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide. Marshall and Shea compile a thorough dossier of existing Islamic blasphemy restrictions, show how they operate to bludgeon dissent, and chronicle a concerted campaign to export them around the globe. That alone would be a worthy achievement. But in addition, Silenced provides a ringing defense of free expression, upbraiding those who would acquiesce--out of craven fear, or flaccid political correctness--to a climate of self-censorship."--Books and Culture

About the Author

Paul Marshall is Senior Fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute. Nina Shea is Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide March 9 2012
By Thinker - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book makes you think. Unfortunately, if you truly open your eyes, you see the findings that this book reports on played out every day. The book is well researched and fact based. It is quite troubling and disturbing.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done and thought provoking exam. April 14 2012
By Harry F. Drabik - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My enthusiasm over the book is less than it should be because I find it difficult to feel positive energy over so grim a subject. The direct and indirect results of blasphemy law crept in as regulation of hate speech or of insult or denegration form an awful challenge to free speech. It seems clear from the bulk of the material in this book those who say they only seek to address excesses of free speech intend to do so by ultimately cutting its throat. The need for citizens to be alert in defense of both free speech and separation of church/state are vital if the Western World is to remain vibrant and progressive.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quick ship July 28 2013
By smboyas - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought this for my daughter. Got here on time. My daughter is very active in th fight for religious freedom. she read this boom and found it informative
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comment on cover design. Jan. 18 2013
By Ansvanaz - Published on
This is a brief comment on the design of the book cover only. What is the name of this book? It is of course "Silenced: How apostasy & blasphemy codes are choking freedom worldwide." But on first glance, one might (and in fact I did) think that the title is "How apostasy & blasphemy codes are Silenced choking freedom worldwide" -- which would seem to be practically the opposite of the meaning the authors wanted to give. If I were them, I would fire their book designer and hope for a second edition. It would be so easy to move "silenced" to the top of the cover, above the subtitle.

I rated this book 5 stars because I had to pick something to submit the review. In fact, I have not read it, but I certainly won't judge it by its cover.

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