MPAC DC Director Co-Authors Brookings Paper on Religious Freedom

November 18, 2013

MPAC announced today that the Brookings Institution, an independent think tank and policy institution, recently published a paper titled “Rethinking the ‘Red Line’: The Intersection of Free Speech, Religious Freedom, and Social Change” co-authored by Haris Tarin, Director of MPAC’s Washington, DC, office and Asma Uddin, Legal Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

SEE: “Rethinking the ‘Red Line’: The Intersection of Free Speech, Religious Freedom, and Social Change” (

The publication, which looks at the changing contours of the debate on religious freedom and free speech, especially in the post-Arab Spring countries, was a product of a working group which took place at the Brookings U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. 

Free speech, especially when it impacts religious sensitivities and symbols, has been a contentious issue over the past few years. Incidents, such as the offensive Danish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, blasphemy laws that impact minority communities in Muslim majority nations and Islamophobia impacting Muslim communities in the West, have caused crises impacting international affairs between nations. 

“The topics of free speech and religious freedom are integral in developing a strong understanding of how we live in pluralistic societies,” Tarin said. “This paper looks at the challenges and opportunities particularly in post Arab Spring societies as they develop their constitutional framework on free speech and pluralism.”

The publication examines the Defamation of Religions Resolution, which submitted to the United Nations as a case study to examine different definitions of free speech, alternative standards governing limits on free speech and attempts to bridge competing standards.

The key findings from the publication are:

  1. Due to increasing limitations on freedoms of expression and religion and their impact on social change, any discussion of racial, ethnic and religious intolerance must engage media, civil society and government.

  2. In addressing religious intolerance, moral and social norm-setting actions are more effective and productive than criminalization.

  3. Any general recommendations must be “localized” to address the local context.

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