Free Speech, Scholarly Critique, and the Limits of Expression in Islam | 9th Annual Contemporary Fiqhī Issues Workshop

The first two days of July 2021 saw Al-Mahdi Institute (AMI) host the 9th consecutive successful Contemporary Fiqhi Issues Workshop, entitled Free Speech, Scholarly Critique, and the Limits of Expression in Islam.

Given the ongoing Covid circumstances, this was the second of the annual workshops that AMI managed to host exclusively on a virtual platform.

Generally speaking, western democracies are thought of as bastions of the freedom of speech and expression; a freedom that extends to the satirising of revered figures. Critique of Islam, by way of mocking esteemed personalities within the religion, has led to some Muslim jurists condemning expressions that might be thought to fall under the umbrella of ‘free speech’.

With this backdrop, the two-day workshop commenced with a presentation from Duke University’s Prof. Mohsen Kadivar, who contrasted the approach taken by numerous Muslim countries, with the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His presentation was seamlessly followed by a presentation from Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad, who challenged prevalent Islamic jurisprudential regulations on apostasy.

The workshop also heard, from scholars and practitioners, about the dangers of the ‘free speech’ claim being misused to demonise the Muslim community, especially in a British context.

The AMI Annual Contemporary Fiqhi Issues Workshop prides itself on bringing together traditional seminarian scholars and academics from a range of disciplines and fortes. In line with this tradition, this year’s Workshop also benefitted from scholars giving contemporary perspectives and infusing their theoretical ideas with empirical research.

The final panel of the Workshop was privileged to include a presentation from Notre Dame University’s Prof. Ebrahim Moosa, who looked at the insights of Abū Hamīd Al-Ghazālī and their implications on the notions of freedom of speech and expression.

Over the course of the two days, the presentations elicited vibrant discussions that allowed the presenters to clarify, further elucidate and even adjust their viewpoints.

View abstracts here

View playlist here: