News

Turkish Journalist Says Islam Craves Liberty

Turkish journalist/author Mustafa Akyol challenges the practice of “enforced piety” in his new book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.”

Multimedia

Audio
Ellen Spolar

Turkish Journalist Says Islam Craves Liberty
Turkish Journalist Says Islam Craves Liberty
“Enforced piety” or the act of coercing public respect for strict religious practice has come to be associated with Islam says Turkish journalist and author Mustafa Akyol.  But in his new book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty,” Akyol challenges and refutes this association.  Appearing recently on VOA’s Press Conference USA, Mustafa Akyol asserts that “piety police,” common in Saudi Arabia and Iran, are in fact, a product of authoritarian regimes that use Islam to consolidate power and rule through fear.  Akyol also explains that laws against blasphemy and apostasy, which are also often associated with Islam, appear neither in the Koran nor in other Islamic texts.  Instead, Aykol argues that such notions actually evolved within particular geographical, cultural and historical contexts where Islamic regimes found it convenient to attribute such ideas to Islam.  Akyol is equally critical of authoritarian secular states such as Turkey in the 1980’s, which often denounced or even outlawed manifestations of piety, such as the use of the headscarf, in the name of secularism.

Akyol argues that coercion in Islam or in any faith for that matter, backfires, and that “one needs a free society to be a genuine Muslim.”  He says “it is only through freedom of choice and true conviction that one can become a genuine believer.” Despite the emergence of the puritanical Wahhabi sect prevalent in Saudi Arabia, which not only promotes a literalist reading of the Koran, but also conflates tribal customs with Islam, Akyol describes many other schools of Muslim thought which demonstrate that Islam is indeed compatible with free choice and reason.  He contrasts the “Bedouin culture of the desert” with the more cosmopolitan historical contexts in which Islam has flourished and become a beacon of tolerance such as Muslim Spain (711 – 1492), the Ottoman Empire, and today’s modern Turkish state.  Akyol asserts that in societies in which trade and commerce are dominant features of the economy Islam is also interpreted in a more open, flexible manner. It is worth noting that the Prophet Mohammed was a successful merchant.

Turkish Journalist Says Islam Craves Liberty
Turkish Journalist Says Islam Craves Liberty
Mustafa Akyol expresses concern that those in the West, who observe authoritarian elements within Muslim majority countries, might erroneously conclude that such practices are directly linked to Islam.  Akyol not only refutes that argument but also underscores that even if it were partially true, many religions, not just Islam, have fallen victim to violent and rigid interpretations of the faith.  Christianity during the time of the Crusades and the Inquisition is a vivid example. But just as Christianity and its followers have reinterpreted the Bible to reconcile their beliefs with liberty and tolerance, Mustafa Aykol insists the “the same change is possible in Islam.”  Moreover, Aykol argues that both Islamic and secular governments in the Middle East are equally guilty of attacks on civil liberties. He speaks of two extremes in the Middle East: secular dictators like Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian President, and radical Islamist groups which oppose them.  “And this vicious cycle between both extremes destroyed any room for a pluralistic, democratic system,” says Mustafa Akyol.  For this reason, Akyol is cautiously optimistic that the democratic uprisings throughout the Arab world, as messy as they will be for some time to come, may foster greater democracy, pluralism and economic freedom, all of which can only bode well for the future of Islam.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs