World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is Vital to American National Security

November 7, 2008

Trouble spots like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and Palestine, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Russia, and China have some sort of religious component. Looming behind national issues is the problem of regional Islamist extremism and transnational Islamist terrorism. In all of these sectors, religious tensions, ideas, and actors are of great geopolitical importance to the United States. Yet, argues Thomas Farr, U.S. foreign policy is gravely handicapped by an inability to understand the role of religion either nationally or globally. There is a strong disinclination in American diplomacy to consider religious factors at all, either as part of the problem or part of the solution. Farr offers a closely reasoned argument that religious freedom, the freedom to practice one's own religion in private and in public, is an essential prerequisite for a stable, durable democratic society. If the United States wants to foster democracy that lasts, it must focus on fostering religious liberty, especially in its public manifestations, properly limited in a way that advances the common good. It is essential, says Farr, that the United States takes an approach that recognizes the great importance of religion in people's lives.

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