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Paul Marshall Lecture

September 19, 2017 @ 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
Cox Lecture Hall, Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University

Blasphemy and Other Threats to Freedom of Religion and Speech

A major, current, worldwide threat to religious freedom, freedom of speech and the press, is attempts to stifle religious and political discussion in the name of preventing insults to religion. This pertains to all religions but is now especially prevalent with respect to Islam. The twenty-first century has witnessed repeated eruptions of violence worldwide and such matters are now in the news every week.

Most victims fall into four basic categories. 1. “Post-Islamic” faiths. Baha’is and Ahmadis, interpretations that arose after Islam, are often condemned en masse.  2. A second is apostates–those who leave Islam for another religion, or none, as well as atheists. 3. A third is Muslims of the ‘wrong type’ in the ‘wrong place.’ Shia may be accused in Sunni-majority countries, and Sunnis in Shia settings, while there are attacks on Sufis.  4. The fourth major category is Muslim religious and political reformers and dissidents, both in the Muslim-majority world and in the West. There is a larger silencing is among those who, mindful of attacks on others, refrain from expressing any controversial views.

The freedom to debate or criticize religious ideas is an essential element of religious freedom and other freedoms. As the late Abdurrahman Wahid stated “Coercively applied blasphemy laws “narrow the bounds of acceptable discourse…. about vast spheres of life, literature, science and culture….” When politics and religion are intertwined, as they necessarily are in debates about blasphemy, without religious debate and critique there can be no political debate and critique.

Internationally acclaimed scholar Paul Marshall, Ph.D., is the Baylor University holder of the Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at the Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR). Marshall also serves as a research professor within Baylor’s department of political science. Marshall’s current research is focused primarily on understanding how Muslims and Christians are able to live and work together peacefully in Indonesia‚  the worlds most populous Muslim country. Marshall is in frequent demand for lectures and media appearances and has been featured on ABC Nightly News; CNN; PBS; FOX; the British, Australian, Canadian, South African and Japanese Broadcasting Corporations; and Al Jazeera. His work has been published in, or is the subject of, articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times, The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, First Things, New Republic, The Weekly Standard, Readers Digest and many other newspapers and magazines.