“Weaponization” is all the metaphorical rage these days when it comes to the rights of religious freedom and free speech. Critical uses of the metaphor are legion: most people tend to use it when they want to describe the deployment of these rights as “harmful”–or as somehow like physical assault. But sometimes people speak of “weaponization” in positive terms. Recently I read a law review article in which a law professor at a prominent school was speculating about whether it was possible to “weaponize” free speech to advance the politically progressive causes he favored (he did not think so).
And here is a new book that speaks of religious freedom as a weapon, but also in positive terms: Weapon of Peace: How Religious Liberty Combats Terrorism (CUP) by Nilay Saiya.
Religious terrorism poses a significant challenge for many countries around the world. Extremists who justify violence in God’s name can be found in every religious tradition, and attacks perpetrated by faith-based militants have increased dramatically over the past three decades. Given the reality of religious terrorism today, it would seem counterintuitive that the best weapon against violent religious extremism would be for countries and societies to allow for the free practice of religion; yet this is precisely what this book argues. Weapon of Peace investigates the link between terrorism and the repression of religion, both from a historical perspective and against contemporary developments in the Middle East and elsewhere. Drawing upon a range of different case studies and quantitative data, Saiya makes the case that the suppression and not the expression of religion leads to violence and extremism and that safeguarding religious freedom is both a moral and strategic imperative.