I know it’s politically incorrect to point out, but show me one truly healthy and successful society run according to divinely mandated religious rules based on the idea that its god is better than any other — or where extremist religious groups intimidate and wage war against fellow citizens, sometimes using terror and violence. I thought Turkey might be an exception. But Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent my-way-or-the-highway behavior makes me wonder.
The societies that have proven the most durable and successful over time (all of which are outside the Arab world) are those where the realms of god and man/woman remain separate, where institutions are inclusive, and where freedom of religion, but perhaps even more important freedom of conscience, prevails. Indeed, freedom of expression is a critically important element in realizing human potential, inventiveness, and creativity. And it must be respected and safeguarded by the state, not restricted by it. Go into Times Square and, unless you’re threatening public order, you can say just about anything you’d like about Judaism, Christianity, or Islam without fear of arrest or worse. Don’t try that in Tahrir Square.