The Muslim Case for Religious Freedom

May 5, 2011
Saeed event poster

Abdullah SaeedSultan of Oman Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies; Director, National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, The University of Melbourne, Australia
Author of Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam and The Qur'an: An Introduction

This lecture will make a case for religious freedom from an Islamic perspective. It will briefly describe the situation with regards to religious freedom in Muslim-majority countries and then explore the range of views that exist among Muslims in relation to this right to religious freedom, particularly highlighting some Muslims’ discomfort with article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). I will argue that despite the very clear advice in the Qur’an about the importance of religious freedom, a number of factors contributed to this essential message being displaced to some extent in the Islamic tradition. Relying on the foundation texts of Islam, classical Islamic theology, and evidence available from Muslim history, I will show that the articulation of religious freedom found in article 18 of the UDHR has clear support in Islamic tradition, despite the current restrictions that exist for both Muslims and non-Muslims in many Muslim-majority contexts.

Abdullah Saeed is currently the Sultan of Oman Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies and the Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia.  His research focus is one of the most important issues in Islamic thought: the negotiation of text and context, ijtihad and interpretation. His publications cover Islam and human rights, Qur’anic hermeneutics, Islam in the West and reform of classical Islamic law. Among his publications are: Islamic Political Thought and Governance (edited, 2011), The Qur’an: An Introduction (2008); Interpreting the Qur’an: Towards a Contemporary Approach (2006), Islamic Banking and Interest (1999); Islam in Australia (2003); Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam (co-authored, 2004).

 Abdullah Saeed is consulted regularly on contemporary Islamic issues and participates in a number of major international projects.  He has a wide range of professional and research relationships around the world and is on the editorial board of several international refereed journals. He is a member of the UNESCO Commission of Australia and a Board Member of Australia-Thailand Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia. He is well-known for his inter-faith activities in Australia and overseas and for his progressive outlook, and is considered a key Muslim thinker in the West.


The Muslim Case for Religious Freedom


Lewis Library 120

Cosponsored by:

  • The Muslim Life Program
  • The Office of Religious Life

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