Islamic authoritarianism will fade, says Akyol

Mustafa Akyol waves as he prepares to board his flight at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last night.
Mustafa Akyol waves as he prepares to board his flight at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last night.

SEPANG: Turkish-born writer Mustafa Akyol has expressed confidence that the Muslim world will eventually realise how valuable free speech is to Islam.

This follows his detention by religious authorities on suspicion of speaking on Islam without officially recognised credentials.

Speaking to FMT moments before his scheduled flight out of Malaysia, Akyol said:

“Of course I have hope for the future of the ummah and I hope that the authoritarianism that we see repeatedly in different parts of the world today in the name of religion will end.

“Today there are already many Muslims who are liberal. Unfortunately, there are also still Muslim authorities who believe in using coercive force to impose what they understand about Islam.”

Akyol said change was inevitable because the number of Muslims who understand the benefits of free speech would continue to increase.

“We will be able to build arguments and make better defences of our beliefs and ideas rather than punish people.”

He said he based his optimism on his knowledge of Christian history.

“Christianity was even more rigid than Islam for centuries, but Christianity, at least in the West, changed and adapted to the ideas of liberal democracy.

“Now, in the Christian world, you can disagree with different religious interpretations but you don’t punish those who disagree with you.”

He acknowledged, however, that the change he envisioned would come only after a long time.

“It’s a long battle, but being pessimistic would be to give up the battle and I don’t want to do that.”

Akyol, on his fifth trip to Malaysia for a lecture tour, had gone to KLIA on Monday afternoon to board a flight to Rome via Istanbul, but soon afterwards lost communication with his wife.

He was supposed to have boarded a Turkish Airlines flight to Rome at 11.35pm before continuing his journey to Boston. He is a senior visiting fellow at the Wellesley College.