Activist reveals how Muslims support religious freedom

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Despite what most people think, the religion of Islam promotes tolerance of different faiths, and Muslims are working to alleviate the jihadist terrorist situations in global communities, activist Jennifer S. Bryson said Wednesday.

In a talk hosted by the Clements Center for National Security, Bryson, director of operations and development at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, dsicussed how Muslims around the world are working together to correct the un-Islamic ideologies proposed by jihadist groups by clarifying the Quran’s promotion of peace and religious toleration.

Muslims who work for religious freedom can’t be the sole solution to ending violent extremism, but Bryson said they’re still helping the situation. 

“This contribution is just one set of elements among many others in countering violent extremism,” Bryson said. “Muslim support for religious freedom is no silver bullet, but it is part of the story.”

Bryson said religious freedom has been compromised throughout history. Catholics and Lutherans during the sixteenth century in Europe and Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony ended up killing or banishing non-conformists, Bryson said.

“Muslim support for religious freedom specifically mitigates against forced conformity and justifying the killing of non-conformists,” Bryson said.

Center Director Will Inboden said he agreed with Bryson. As a country, the U.S. should provide proactive protocols to avoid an increase in terror groups, Inboden said.

“If you told me on Sept. 20, 2001 that 16 years later, the United States would not have suffered a mass casualty terrorist attack, I would have been stunned,” Inboden said. “But I would not believe that 16 years later, not only the Al-Qaeda core would be a threat, but there would also be a proliferation of other militant jihadist groups, which points to a real failing of our country’s international policy.”

Bryson said many Islamist groups, including the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, have been working to end intolerance among extremist groups, specifically their condemnation of apostasy and blasphemy. These organizations also promote citizenship and the virtue of honesty in Islamic societies. 

Adam Crawford, a graduate student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, found Bryson’s views necessary to start a conversation in political discourse. 

“It’s interesting to hear someone actually talk about these issues when you can’t just turn on CNN and hear these types of reflections,” Crawford said.