New York Times Publishes Op-Ed by Senior Visiting Fellow at the Freedom Project at Wellesley

October 18, 2017
NY Time publishes op-ed by Mustafa Akyol

Senior visiting fellow with the Freedom Project at Wellesley, Mustafa Akyol, published an op-ed in the New York Times, where his writing appears regularly.  Akyol wrote about his recent lecture series in Malaysia where he argued that religion should be based on freedom, not coercion. He has long asserted that he does not believe that an individual’s faith should be policed. Soon after the lecture, the “religion enforcement police” in Malaysia arrested him for, in Akyol's words, "daring to share his opinion."

Akyol wrote in the New York Times, “To be fair, nobody was rude to me, let alone cruel. Still, I was distressed: I had been arrested in an alien country whose laws and language I did not understand. I had no idea what would happen to me, and, most painfully, when I would see my wife, Riada, our 2-year-old son, Levent, and our 2-month-old baby, Efe.”

However, after a two-hour interrogation, Akyol wrote that to his surprise he was let go. Yet, he said, the incident showed him, once again, “that there is a major problem in Islam today: a passion to impose religion, rather than merely proposing it, a mind-set that most Christians left behind at the time of the Inquisition.”

Akyol said he is just glad that “this incident triggered a national debate in Malaysia, as media and civil society raised a powerful voice against religious authoritarianism.”

A proposal for Islam, said Akyol, involves Muslim authorities “honoring the Qur’anic dictum, ‘No compulsion in religion,’ rather than trying to limit its scope. It is to give up religious policing and respect people’s rights to choose their ways.”