by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea
Oxford University Press, 2011
(A book review by Thomas F. Farr)
Seventy percent of the world’s population lives in nations where freedom of religion is subject to severe restriction. In SILENCED, Marshall and Shea go bravely where the media fear to tread. Based on an extensive examination of Muslim-majority countries, they contend that laws and policies punishing blasphemy and apostasy are not only a major source of religious persecution, but also an obstacle to stable democracy and the defeat of Islamist terrorism.
Blasphemy has been understood classically as manifesting contempt for God or, worse, assuming the attributes of God. But today in many places the definition has been broadened to include any criticism of the favored religion, usually Islam. Blasphemy continues to be criminalized throughout the Muslim nations of the greater Middle East, Africa, and South and East Asia. Converts from Islam—apostates—are often imprisoned, tortured, or murdered.
In Pakistan, Muslim governor Salman Taseer and Christian cabinet member Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered in 2011 for demanding the repeal to anti-blasphemy laws. Polls show broad public support for the murderers.
One Egyptian convert to Christianity—a married woman—was arrested by local police and transferred to State Security in Cairo, where she was tortured, including with electric shocks, photographed naked, and then released to her family, who dragged her screaming from the station.
It is perhaps providential that SILENCED is hitting the book stores at this moment when religious persecution is reaching historic levels. Approximately 270 Christians are killed each day (10,000 per year) because of their faith. The rate of martyrdom has tripled in the past 100 years. SILENCED will dismay Western “realists” and others who prefer their foreign affairs stripped of religious ideas and actors. But among the victims of religious persecution, and those who see religious freedom as critical to stable democracy and the defeat of Islamic terrorism, it will be welcomed and celebrated. ♦