2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the Islam & Liberty Network!
When I attended its founding meeting in Istanbul back in 2011, the events of the Arab Spring were dominating the news. I realised that 2021 (by some accounts 2020) also marks the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring. This is why we are organising a small conference on January 14th, 2021 in Tunisia, the country where it all started.
In fact, thanks to the generous support by our partners Atlas Network and Friedrich Naumann Foundation, we will be launching a paper on the situation of street vendors in Tunisia.
This gives me pain to know that following the self-immolation of Bouazizi in 2011, such tragic incidents have multiplied. I am very sure that the citizens of Tunisia did not risk their lives and properties and threw away a corrupt government to experience more misery.
While it is the only country which managed to guarantee a stable and a liberal democracy, it is yet to undertake meaningful economic reforms. It still remains trapped in socialist ideas where politicians keep selling state-centric solutions of economic problems. I heard the echo of a popular myth, “Why can’t the government just employ everyone who needs a job?”.
In fact, without a radical shift in the economic policy, the country may not fully appreciate the revolution. This may actually increase public anger and reverse the benefits that the Arab Spring has brought in terms of a freer and inclusive society.
This is not just about Tunisia. Our message for economic freedom, open trade, smaller governments and low-rate of taxes is for all Muslim-majority countries where we operate. Before policies change for good, we need to change the intellectual climate.
We are not only concerned about economic freedom. We actually remain equally concerned about religious and political freedom in our societies. That was the main message of our 7th Conference ‘Islamic Case for Religious Freedom’ held in Jakarta in 2019.
We expressed that most of the Muslim majority countries need to guarantee more religious freedom, which will become the basis of peace and prosperity.
While commenting on the democratic foundations, we expressed hope in our 5th Conference held in Malaysia in 2017, that the theoretical debate on the compatibility between Islam and democracy is now over. A vast majority of Muslims already live under some form of democracy. It is time to examine the implications of these democratic transitions for the future of these societies.
We need to ask ourselves the following question: despite constitutionalist democracies, are our societies more prone to despotism?
While raising this question, recent political events in Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan come to mind.
As Muslims, we should acknowledge that 80% of the refugee population in today’s world is either composed of Muslims or related to Muslim majority countries. We need to create a future where no one is forced to leave their countries for safety and livelihood. That requires certain conditions that can create economic freedom and minimize corruption in these countries.
The work of Islam and Liberty Network remains of foundational nature. We may not be able to see immediate policy impacts of our work. However, what is important for us is the spread and the adoption of the ideas of freedom within the Muslim majority societies.
This needs careful calibration of these universal values against the moral bounds defined by Islamic belief. We remain confident that none of these values- economic liberties, democratic freedoms and religious pluralism- go against our belief. For us, they are natural consequences of our beliefs and our understanding of the Islamic civilization.
I find some encouraging signs during my last four years as CEO of the Islam and Liberty Network, as captured in this presentation.
We have got a long, winding road ahead of us..
On behalf of the ILN Board, Management, Advisors, and Fellows, I wish you a healthy, peaceful and prosperous new year.
CEO Islam & Liberty Network Foundation
The Islam & Liberty Network exists to explore and promote a Muslim case for freedom. We consider the words freedom and liberty to be interchangeable.
By freedom, we mean:
Our mission is to apply serious intellectual efforts to demonstrate that Islam and a free society are compatible. Poor quality thinking can only be changed by better thinking. We promote change with our annual programme which includes an international conference, a regional residential workshop, opinion articles, and podcasts.
Islam and Liberty Network (L) Foundation is legally organised as a non-profit Labuan foundation registered in Malaysia and is governed by an international board of directors, all of whom except for the part-time CEO give their time freely. Founded in 2011, it is a platform for researchers, academics and public intellectuals to explore and promote a Muslim case for religious, economic and political freedom by disseminating knowledge and developing human resources. We are funded by like minded foundations and individuals.
All of our work focuses on three distinct but related themes and is rooted in the Islamic sources. They are: Religious Freedom (freedom of religion and faith, expression and practice); Economic Freedom (open markets, voluntary exchange, and low taxes); and Political Freedom (liberal democracy, rule of law and limited government).
*These figures have been updated as on 15th March 2023
Annual International Conference
Our main event is an international conference bringing together scholars from around the world to discuss Islam and liberty over two full days, where 15-18 high-quality papers are presented and debated with a diverse audience.
Featuring a wide array of topics for scholarly debate and public education.
Islam and Liberty Summer Workshop
A three-day regional residential workshop, featuring our core faculty and guest speakers giving lectures, workshops, and seminars for young researchers.
The ILN Voice: Podcasts & Webinars
Promising lively discussion on topical issues surrounding Islam, society, and economy presented by leading experts.
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