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SANITY TONIGHT

You Can’t Have a True Muslim State without Freedom, Democracy, Music, Art and Science

Christians and Jews would be enjoying freedom, peace and safety in a truly Muslim State.
A street scene in Cairo, Egypt.

A street scene in Cairo, Egypt.

A model of society in which people are forced to worship is completely contradictory to Islam. In fact, it is not the threat of Islam but it is the threat of bigotry that concerns people. If true Islamic moral values were lived in the countries in question, there would be painting, music, art, science, democracy and freedom of ideas and belief, and Christians and Jews as well as others would be enjoying their freedom in the truest sense of the word and living in peace and in safety.

Surely, one of the most debated topics of the day is how Muslims view Christians and Jews, the rights of religious minorites in Muslim-majority countries, and whether there can indeed be democracy, freedom of thought and freedom of worship in Muslim countries. The world is used to seeing people who claim to represent Islam as they preach hatred, promote violence and terrorism while implementing dictatorial regimes and rejecting democracy and civil liberties. But is this true Islam? Do these people faithfully express Islam as we know it from Scripture?

Much of the time, people researching such matters turn to individuals or ideas as a point of reference, and these individuals or ideas are not at all reflective of the true nature of Islam itself. This is a major mistake; it is especially important to differentiate between bigotry supported by the classical rightist propaganda and the true teachings of Islam. In order to shed some light on the matter, it is imperative to understand the outlook of Islam toward democracy and freedom from its source: the Holy Qur’an.

As a Muslim, when I see any pressure put on Christians and Jews, especially in some countries where a majority of the society is Muslim, I feel intensely disturbed about this situation. I would be delighted when people live, trade, travel and pray at ease. And every true Muslim would share the same feelings with me. On the other hand, when the leftists are under pressure, it is equally something that makes true Muslims very uneasy. Thus it is my goal to ensure that everyone lives in peace and lives by their own beliefs sincerely, and to reveal that the persecution perpetrated in the name of Islam is not Islam itself but bigotry.

The rights of religious minorities, or the rights of others are generally an issue of legitimate concern in countries with Muslim-majority populations. However, this concern owes to the fact that true Islam is not being practiced in the countries of concern. Some people who are genuinely unaware of the morality of Islam, or obtain information from innacurate or dubious sources may end up harboring several prejudices and erroneous convictions on this subject. These people assume, for instance, that Islam will limit their lives or freedoms, or perhaps attempt to control their very thoughts or restrict the arts and sciences. The simple fact of the matter is, however, that Islam is a religion that ensures all manner of intellectual freedom as well as the freedom of worship and expression, that takes as a serious matter the rights of those people enjoined under its protection. Indeed, in a model where genuine Islamic morality prevails, Jews and Christians would be in the utmost peace and people from all walks of life, be they Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, or nonbelievers -regardless of faith, culture or ideology- would be living in comfort as first-class citizens and enjoying their equal rights.

According to Islam, it is not only those who believe in God, but even those who be classified as idolaters are granted asylum and protection, and it is the responsibility of Muslims to ensure that they are allowed to live undisturbed and in peace as well. According to the Qur’an, Muslims are responsible to protect people who worship idols, as these people go from one place to another, even at the expense of their own life. This is an important criteria that Muslims must not be obstacles but rather guarantors of people’s safety and freedom. And Muslims have a God-given responsibility to establish the comfort for all people, whether they are Christians, Jews, Sahabbeans, pagans or else.

Islam forbids not only physical pressure but also the slightest coercion and removes the basis of discrimination. Thus Islam -in its purest form- is not a threat to freedom but the guarantor of freedom. God says “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Qur’an, 2:256) Even though some critical voices would bring forth various interpretations of this verse to oppose me, God’s statement in the Qur’an is quite explicit for a sincere Muslim and leaves no room for doubt. Imposition is incompatible with human honor and it is also prohibited in the Quran.

Another important fact we learn from the Qur’an is that Muslims must respect and protect Jewish and Christian places of worship. God says “… if Allah had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where Allah’s name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. Allah will certainly help those who help Him – Allah is All-Strong, Almighty.” (Qur’an, 22:40) As seen in the Qur’an, the monasteries, churches and synagogues that are mentioned as places of worship are protected by God. If Jews or Christians want to set up their own places of worship, they should be able to do so freely and without hindrance. If they want to go and worship in their churches or synagogues, they should be able to abide by their beliefs in safety and peace. In Islam, there can be no interference in people’s beliefs, as that is something against God’s will.

Furthermore, forcing people to believe in a religion or compelling them to practice something is completely contrary to the essence and spirit of Islam. The responsibility placed on believers in Islam is to invite people by means of peace and in the most respectful manner. The decision whether or not to believe, whether or not to implement the advises, lies strictly with the other party. Forcing that person to believe, or trying to impose anything on him, is a violation of Qur’anic morality. God says that one is “… not responsible for their guidance” (Qur’an, 2:272) and states that “So remind them! You are only a reminder. You are not in control of them.” (Qur’an, 88:21-22) And in another verse, God tells “… you [O Muhammad] are not a compeller over them.” (Qur’an, 50:45)

Islam is a religion based on voluntary and sincere acceptance and practice. In other words, belief and worship are only of any value when they are directed to God by the free will of the individual. If a system imposes belief and worship on people, then they will become religious not out of sincere conviction, but out of fear of that system. From the religious point of view, what really counts is that religion should be lived for God’s good pleasure in an environment where peoples’ conscience is totally free.

On the other hand, God says in the Qur’an that various faiths exist. There are Muslims, the People of the Book; Christians, Jews, Sahabbeans, and fire-worshippers as well as Zoroastrians, pagans, hypocrites and atheists. Their existence is perfectly legitimate, and God creates them all. There can be no limits on freedom of ideas; it would be immoral to try to put chains around the minds of people in any way. Suppressing the freedom of speech is persecution. People can become irreligious or become a Christian while previously a Muslim, or embrace Islam while they were irreligious before, all as they wish. Nobody has the right to interfere if a Christian becomes a Muslim, and nobody can interfere when a Muslim becomes a Christian. We must respect everyone and as everyone is judged by their own decisions, God makes it clear that everyone’s religion is his/hers. According to the Quran, a Muslim’s reply is; “To you your religion, and to me, mine.” (Quran, 109:6)

As is seen, the primary concepts of democracy –freedom of speech and belief, treating everyone equally and as first class citizens, not putting any pressure upon anyone for any reason, respecting people regardless of their opinions and beliefs– are already present in the morality of the true religion. The origin of democracy as a reference to the rule of the people derives from the ancient Greeks. However, the spirit of democracy started with the Prophet Adam (pbuh) and has continued with all the prophets as they have been the true representatives of intellectual freedom and plurality.

Democracy and one’s feeling free is wholly essential because when there is no democracy and no freedom, people’s minds become inactive as if they are paralyzed, as people under authoritarian pressure generally lose their productivity feeling strained; they would not be able to speak in a relaxed and sincere way. Freedom comforts people, and it logically follows that it would increase their creativity, self-expression skills. For instance, a painter can’t paint if you put pressure on him, or a composer or an author writing a book would lose his inspiration if he feels depressed. Pressure annihilates the healthy functioning of the brain. But when one is feeling free and secure and filled with love, and then he can paint, write and speak in a very good manner. That is why democracy and freedom are like cures for these disorders. History has witnessed many examples of this, and during the time of the communist regime in Russia (and still present in China), people act as if their humanity have been sucked out of their body and act with the coldness of automatons. Just like their human appearance diminishes, their artistic side also becomes equally paralyzed. This is because pressure causes people to fall into this state, and that is why it should be every state’s concern to lift pressure over its people. So whichever government, whomever takes a step towards democracy, should definitely be supported. Freedom is a cure, a medicine for the human soul.

On the other hand, freedom comes with responsibilities and therefore one is not completely free in his actions. In other words, one’s freedom cannot override other’s rights. For instance, a Muslim cannot act in a way to hurt another person or damage his honor and self-respect. Along the same line of thought, an idolater or atheist cannot also act in any way against another’s dignity, self-respect or chastity. Thus, nobody can interfere with another’s rights. The important thing is for people not to harm one another, not to insult or physically attack one another. Otherwise, they should be as free as the birds of the air and enjoy their right to express themselves and behave. As long as people do not act violently or interfere with other’s freedom, there should be unlimited freedom.

About the Author: Sinem Tezyapar is an executive producer on Turkish Television. She is a political and religious commentator and a peace activist. She can be reached on Facebook, and Twitter.


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18 Responses to “You Can’t Have a True Muslim State without Freedom, Democracy, Music, Art and Science”

  1. Thank you for such an excellent posting. I have personally experienced life with both the Jewish and Muslim peoples, and can honestly say all peoples, regardless of Faith can live together, in harmony. The beauty and Harmony that True Islam promotes convinced even a hardened soldier such as myself to become a True believer. How wonderful life would be, if only the radical fringes would stop attempting to subjugate peoples that have little or no control over their circumstance. Evil elements must be confronted before such a country can exist. Turkye itself seems to come far closer than any other in the mid east. Those that claim to honor the Qur'an, and manipulate the Palestinian issue, need only to read the Book they claim to believe in. Hopefully, external pressure, such as that the Turkish-Islamic Union can exert, thru peaceful means, may allow us to realize true peace and harmony in our time. ihsa'Allah

  2. Amazing article, really articulated and written in truth, with truth and by the truth. I applaud you.

  3. Amazing article, really articulated and written in truth, with truth and by the truth. I applaud you.

  4. Melis Sapmaz says:

    As an international relation speacialist, I participate in your ideas. To live in a freedom with limitless democracy , to live in a peace with security , it should be established as a Muslim State.

  5. Yusuf Aslan says:

    first of all thank you because muslims need quality, science and art. world needs your ideas and the solutions you offer. we want a age just like rennasaince quality modernity and peace of course. thank you

  6. Ömer Tangül says:

    Islam's divine source is the Qur'an, which is based on concepts of morality, love, compassion, humility, sacrifice, understanding and peace. A Muslim who lives by those precepts in its true sense will be most polite, careful of thought, modest, decent, noble, just, trustworthy and easy to get on with.

  7. Charlie Hall says:

    Many Muslim countries in the middle ages and even early modern times were quite tolerant — far more so than most of Christian Europe.

  8. Amber Acar says:

    What a nice article, thank you for writing it. I agree with the ideal. The radical rightist bigotry should end with the correct point of view. A Muslim person is qualified, mercyful, cheerful, beautiful, clean and justiful. All the world should understand it.

  9. masaAllah. Beautifully articulated comment Sister Amber. I can tell you that Muslims are the salt of the earth. The search for a lasting peace is real, and educating all sides is our mission. Allowing radicals to hijack, then twist the words of our Holy Qur'an, will be defeated thru education and speaking the Language of peace. May God Bless you. insha'Allah.

  10. Esther Abergel says:

    whether it is contradictory to Islam or not is absolutely irrelevant. If you look at facts on the ground in Islamic countries this is not the reality but wishful thinking. It might have been in the past but it is not any more. Face reality!

  11. Thank you for your insightful comment. Before Islam, I have spent my adult life in battle against the 4 Radical groups. With brothers and sistesr on both sides of the Fences, it is fact that the Qur'an plainly states that the Jewish people belong in the Jewish state. That alone totally dissolves the argument Hamas is making. Time is not on their side. They continue to defy the will of Allah and the Holy Qur'an May yo have a blessed holiday season. insha'Allah

  12. Amber Acar says:

    Thank you sir, may Allah bless you too and love & peace be with you inşaAllah

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  14. Daniel Greenfield says:

    There are quite a number of states run under Islamic law, including Iran for the Shiites and Saudi Arabia for the Sunnis.

    A Muslim country is a place where non-Muslims do not have equal rights.

    As your own country Turkey has become more Islamized under the AKP, Jews have been complaining about the loss of their rights and feeling intimidated.

  15. Mo Arthur says:

    ok, so which islamic state in all of recorded history has been a "true islamic state" saudi arabia the utopia? the caliphate? seljuks? ottomans? andalusian spain? All were genocidal. The entire premise of this article is false. I wish it were true but its simply a dreamland that never existed and never will.

  16. Mo Arthur says:

    the turkish islamic union? are you off your meds again?

    the only reason turkey is in a better position today then most other islamic countries is because of the decades of secularism, not islamism.

    You have been duped my friend

  17. Mo Arthur says:

    Jimmy Coleman look up the meaning of abrogation

    you will find though intense research of the koranic passages that much of what you think is clear is abrogated (annuled/superceeded) by passages written later in time

  18. Mo Arthur says:

    I see this quoted.
    God says “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Qur’an, 2:256).

    I saw no mention of these.

    Quran (5:33) – "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement".

    Quran (8:12) – "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them".

    Quran (9:29) – "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."

    Quran (61:9): "He it is who has sent His Messenger (Mohammed) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) to make it victorious over all religions even though the infidels may resist."

    are those the words that remind you of the utopia you seek?

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