Marshall and Shea, both of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, have connected the dots between human rights violations in Islamic countries, as a result of rules against insulting Islam, and the dangerous consequences to individual liberties in the West as it increasingly adopts similar policies.
The authors undertake the Herculean task of surveying incidents of people being charged (formally and informally) with apostasy, blasphemy, or other forms of "insulting" Islam. Through the use of copious case reports (organized by region, country, and type of target), they paint a grim picture of the ways in which limits on "anti-Islamic" speech are used in Muslim-majority countries to persecute religious converts and minorities (including those within Islam), to silence religious and political reformers, and even to settle personal scores. They then explore efforts to export such restrictions to the West, covering a range of topics including the Danish Muhammad cartoon incident, so-called defamation of religion at the U.N., hate speech prosecutions in Europe, and acts of violence. Numerous reports of specific incidents illustrate how much ground has already been lost.
The authors argue that placing limits on speech deemed anti-Islamic—whether called blasphemy or defamation of religion—"is incompatible with the freedoms that define democracy and individual human rights." Their recommendation is straightforward: Since it is clear where this is headed, resist. But seeing the situation plainly requires some knowledge of religion, differentiation of enemies and allies within Islam, and, most of all, a recommitment in the West to foundational principles.
Well-written, detailed, and well-organized given the breadth of material, Silenced is an important read for policymakers and citizens alike as it demonstrates how limitations on Islam-critical speech in violation of individual rights in the Muslim world provide a warning of what could come to pass in the West.