Religious-freedom-under-assault-K1AA258-x-largeThe fight against global terrorism is a battle of ideas as much as brawn, says Robert George, and environments that promote freedom of thought and belief empower moderate ideas and voices to denounce extremist hatred and violence:

Central to this effort is understanding two things. First, extremist groups seek to capitalize on the fact that religion plays a critical role in the lives of billions. Nearly 84 percent of the world’s population has some religious affiliation. In many areas of the world, including the African continent, religion matters greatly.

Second, people across Africa (and elsewhere), Muslim and non-Muslim alike, are rejecting the hijacking of religion by these extremists. For some, this rejection has come from bitter personal experience. Wherever violent religious extremist groups have held sway, be it central Somalia or elsewhere, they have penetrated every nook and cranny of human endeavor, imposing their will on families and communities in horrific ways. In many instances, they have banned routine activities such as listening to music and watching television. They have crushed all forms of religious expression other than their own, even seeking to destroy historic Islamic religious sites. They have imposed barbaric punishments on dissenters, from floggings and stonings to beheadings and amputations.

As a result, especially in places where these forces operate, people want an alternative: They want the right to honor their own beliefs and act peacefully on them. And as a number of scholars in recent years have shown, societies where this right to religious freedom is recognized and protected are more peaceful, prosperous, and free of destabilizing terror.

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  • Curt Day

    In as much as promoting religious freedom is right and good, to rely on it to fight terrorism is to merely oppose the horrible solution that some religious extremists try to compel others to submit to. These extremists reason that if everyone believed what they do, there would be an end to the injustices that provoke the terrorism they practice.

    Yes, promote religious freedom because it is both right and important. But, to nip terrorism in the bud, that is to get at its source, change foreign policies of Western countries which exploit others and domestic policies for countries where people are exploited. It is the policies that exploit and abuse others that provoke terrorism. These cancerous policies revolve more around economics and the abuse of power than around freedom of religion regardless of how important that freedom is.