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From the Archives: On 9/11, Muslim libertarian scholar Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad addresses religious freedom at Georgetown U

On 9/11, Muslim libertarian scholar Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad addresses religious freedom at Georgetown U
September 11, 2010 10:29 PM MST

At the invitation of Hoyas for Liberty, a libertarian student group at Georgetown University, Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad made a presentation on September 11, 2010, on the topic “Freedom of Religion and Speech: We can, but should we?”

Just before he took to the lectern, Dr. Ahmad, the president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, spoke briefly with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the topic he was to address and the mission of his Maryland-based organization.

Sensitive to Others

9/11 September 11 Islam Muslims Minaret of Freedom Hoyas for Liberty Georgetown University
The topic, he said, poses “the question that, because America is unique in allowing any religion and any kind of speech, does that mean that we should always employ, should we not be sensitive to the feelings of others?”

He would also, he continued, “try to answer that question with regard to a number of topical issues going on right now.”

Ahmad used his presentation to “show how attempts to draw parallels in applying this question between, for example, the Manhattan Islamic center on the one hand and the burning of Qurans on the other, [are] rather misguided.”

'A provocative act'
Why is this? Because, he explained, “certainly the burning of Qurans” – such as the action threatened by Florida Pastor Terry Jones – “is a provocative act, deliberately intended to insult another people, whereas the building of the Islamic center in New York has as its intention to adopt the model of the Jewish community center there, which is to build a bridge between a minority community and the larger society.”

As for the Minaret of Freedom Institute, Ahmad noted that it “was founded in 1993 with a fourfold mission: to counter the distortions about Islam, to show the origin of certain modern values that came out of the Islamic civilization, to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims on the importance of liberty and free markets, and to advance the status of Muslims (whether they live in the east or the west).”

To advance this mission, he said, “we write papers for refereed academic journals, we do op-ed pieces for the mass press, we have educational programs, and we have a web site and a blog. On our web site,, you’ll find virtually all our academic papers and links to about half of our op-ed pieces.”

Answering Skeptics
Imad ad Dean Ahmad Minaret of Freedom Institute
Acknowledging that there might be some skeptics who will say that as admirable as the mission of the Minaret of Freedom is, it’s an outlier and it’s not really representative of Islamic culture, politics, or economics, Ahmad said he would “first grant them a point in that, in the degree to which we are passionately devoted to the cause of liberty we are not in the mainstream, in the same way that the libertarian movement in America is not the mainstream of America.”

With that said, however, he added that, “if you look at the mainstream of the Muslim society, you will find that it is very compatible with our views, they’re just not as consistent as we are, in the same way as American society is very inclined towards liberty but just not consistent about it.”

Ahmad pointed out that he and his colleagues at the Minaret of Freedom Institute do not look for easy answers.

“The issues we deal with, we deal with in a nuanced manner,” he said. “We do not try to make things simple, bipolar, yes-or-no.”

Keeping that in mind, he concluded, he would encourage readers “to go to our web site and get an opportunity to study the nuances.”

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on September 11, 2010. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

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