Islamic Liberalism: Real or False Hope?

Policy Forum
February 15, 2017
5:00PM to 6:30PM EST
Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute
Featuring Mustafa Akyol, Author, Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty (W. W. Norton and Company, 2011), Visiting Senior Fellow, The Freedom Project, Wellesley College; and Shadi Hamid, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Author, Islamic Exceptionalism; moderated by Ian Vasquez, Director, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute.

Predominantly Muslim societies suffer from low levels of political, economic, and civil liberties. Authoritarian political regimes, rigid social structures, and radical religious movements that suppress human liberty in the name of God loom large in the Muslim world. Is this liberty deficit due to a “dark age” of Islam, which can be overcome with reform and a different religious interpretation? Can Islam make its peace with liberal democracy, as Christianity and other religions did after their own illiberal ages? Or is there something different about Islam, making it inherently incompatible with a secular government and a free society? Mustafa Akyol, a longtime defender of “Islamic liberalism,” is optimistic. Shadi Hamid is more pessimistic, arguing that Islam is “exceptional,” in the sense of being essentially resistant to liberalism. Please join us for this timely and provocative debate.