Soon after I said ‘religion cannot be policed’, the Malaysian religious police came in and started interrogating me. They showed me their ID cards – and their job is defined as ‘religion enforcement officer’ – so I was challenging their job. They arrested me.
Mustafa Akyol, senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, is the author of a new book, Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom and Tolerance.
In a wide-ranging conversation with Newlines’ Faisal Al Yafai, they discuss what happened when Akyol was arrested by the religious police in Malaysia; early Muslim reformers and the making of the first Muslim state; the coercive power of modern Islamic states and why Akyol believes it is holding back the full flourishing of the Muslim world.
They also discuss France’s “illiberal secularism”; Tunisia’s revolution; the “grand political revolution” that Akyol contends Turkey is now living through – and why his criticisms of Islam don’t include the role of power, colonialism and war.