Free Speech, Scholarly Critique, and the Limits of Expression in Islam

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.

Presenter Title of Paper View Abstract
Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Modarresi Yazdi (Hawza Ilmiyya, Qom & Guardian Council, Iran) Dr Reza Pourmohammadi
(Women’s research Centre, Iran)
Principles and Limits of Freedom of Expression from the Islamic Jurisprudential Perspective Click here
Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa
Mohaghegh Damad(Shahid Beheshti University)
Freedom to Believe: Reassessing the Regulations of Apostasy Click here
Professor Dr Alison
Scott -Baumann (SOAS, University of London)
Authoritarian or Authoritative: Resolving the Free Speech Tensions between Secular and Religious Higher Education Click here
Professor Morgan Clarke
(University of Oxford) Dr Ali-Reza Bhojani (Al-Mahdi Institute )
Free Speech as Ethical Speech in Islam: an anthropological perspective. Click here
Professor Liyakat Takim
(McMaster University)
Freedom of Expression or Freedom to Ban: Juristic Pluralism and Diversity in Islam Click here
Professor Mohsen Kadivar
(Duke University)
Free Speech and Critique of Religion in Contemporary Islam Click here
Shaykh Arif Abdulhussain
(Al-Mahdi Institute)
Freedom of Thought and Expression from an Existential Perspective Click here
Dr Haidar Hobballah
(University of Religions and Denominations, Qom)
Freedom of Intellectual Expression – A Critique on the Legacy of “Books of Misguidance” Click here
Professor Seyed
Mohammad Fatemi
(Al-Mahdi Institute & Shahid Beheshti University)
Hermeneutical implications of the Akhbaris-usulis’ dispute on books of misguidance Click here
Professor Rebecca Ruth Gould
(University of Birmingham)
Dangerous Definitions: On the Debate around Defining lslamophobia within the UK Click here
Miqdaad Versi
(Muslim Council of Britain)
Free speech: opportunities and challenges for British Muslims in the UK Click here
Professor Rahim Nobahar
(Al-Mahdi Institute & Shahid Beheshti University)
Freedom of Expression and the Challenge of Hate Speech: An Islamic Perspective Click here
Professor Ebrahim Moosa
(Notre Dame University, US)
Ghazalian Insights on Doctrinal Toleration and Its Implications for Notions of Freedom Click here