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What ought to be the Muslims' response to freedom of choice or a person cannot turn out to be saint through enforcement

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An interesting research ranging comparatively all countries around the world according to "Islamic values" shows that the most self-declared Islamic countries occupy very low positions in the list. These countries which have systemic problems concerning freedom of choice are not even ranked among the top one hundred, while almost all developed Western countries with well-established values, which can be tentatively designated as 'core liberal values', such as freedom of choice, respect for individual freedoms, and anti-majoritarian protection occupy the highest positions. This research shows the importance of cultivating individual freedoms not only to achieve overall betterment of personal and social life in Muslim-majority countries, but also to develop and upgrade religious consciousness.

All but a few Muslim-majority countries have problems concerning the rule of law. Similarly, excessive repression and gross violations of basic human rights by a politically-dominant group/s characterize many Muslim countries, which is the factor which is central to breeding violence. This impoverishes Islam, even threatens its survival as a religion.

It is not a coincidence that the more authoritarian and despotic political regimes, and the less freedoms the people enjoy, the more problems concerning morality and religious values emerge among its population. The level of drug-addiction, fornication and other wrong-doings are soaring in many of the Muslim countries run by, either in the name of religion or local "traditions", oppressive regimes. Is it not a result of harsh, punitive policies of allegedly Islamic or "traditionalist" regimes denying the basic of the basics to be a human -- freedom, killing the potentials of both material and spiritual development, and producing by their own hands criminals, radicals and hypocrites?

As usual, a majority of religious people a priori assume that as such freedom of choice, underlying ideals of liberalism and pluralistic society, has the inherent meaning to "induce people into falling into an abyss of depravity". Moreover, it is assumed that freedom of choice detaches people from morality or divinity and God. However, was it not this freedom that was given by God to its fullest extent to Satan and Adam?

Therefore, a main idea of properly perceived freedom of choice is to let a person her/himself choose between "good and evil; Godly and Satanic". Freedom of choice can help shape and elevate human potentials from coal-like level to the ranks of brilliant. It is a human inner journey which should be full of temptations and opportunities to choose a direction. Is not it God's aim in creating humankind? A person cannot turn out to be a saint through enforcement, oppression and persecution.

To be able to choose freely is a logical consequence of possessing the ability to reason and the nature of being human. A religion without freedom of choice cannot be a religion, inasmuch as any religion is premised upon good intention and will-seeking God's pleasure. Good intentions can only be a result of free choice.

Despite many distortions and pervaded understandings, Islam is very much in favour of diversity and freedom of choice. One of the major objectives of religion is the protection of reason or intellect. Basically, the protection of reason is not other than to honour the freedom of choice. It is contrary to firmly 'popularized' belief there isn't any capital punishment for changing religion in Islam, similarly there is no worldly punishment for blasphemous remarks.

The fact that religion is not monolithic body of rules, prohibitions or injunctions but, rather, has many aspects open to interpretation, which is a sign of God's mercy and infinite knowledge, also must induce religious people to develop flexible mindset accepting all other views.

We can conclude from abovementioned that the development of so-called "Islamic values", which, to the contrary to some essentialist views, to a great extent overlap with universal human values, is conditioned by cultivating freedom of choice and respect for personal freedoms. Not lashing the freedom of choice down, but instead the naturalization of this right will urge the religious people living either in the Western or Muslim-majority countries to adopt a methodology of interpretation of religious sources forming inclusive religiosity and identity.

Honouring freedom of choice, acceptance of others, and openness to alternative views follow from compassion and humanness, self-esteem and confidence, the very qualities which properly understood religion are excepted to shape in the minds and hearts of the believers.

A natural result of freedom of choice is ethnic, religious and cultural diversity which is indispensable to spiritual and material development. Muslims should re-discover the reality that diversity is a source of God's blessing, it is no way a tragedy or disaster, or punishment. In contrary, diversity is in favour of Muslims, it is a source of inspiration, development and self-realisation. The most successful and magnificent civilisations were built by the Muslims who lived in religiously and culturally diverse societies.

(Article changed on June 29, 2015 at 04:35)

(Article changed on June 29, 2015 at 04:37)

(Article changed on June 29, 2015 at 10:38)

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Independent scholar based in Almaty (Kazakhstan), a faculty member at Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Suleyman Demirel University in Almaty and a non-residential research fellow at the Rethink Institute, Washington, DC. (more...)

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