Abdurrahman Wahid

The Thought Police

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom WorldwideBy Paul Marshall and Nina Shea (Oxford University Press, 448 pp., $35) I. In spite of its slightly agitated title, this book is mostly a cool and even-tempered human rights report, and its findings go a long way toward explaining one of the mysteries of our time, namely, the ever-expanding success of political movements with overtly Islamic doctrines and radical programs.Some people may suppose that Islam itself, the ancient religion, mandates theocracy. Seen in this light, the vigor of theocratically tinged political movements right now ought to seem normal to us, and maybe even commendable—a fitting renaissance of cultural authenticity in places around the world that, having left behind the indignities of colonial domination and the awkwardness of the post-colonial era, have entered at last into the post-post-colonial age of the return to self. Movements that carry such labels as “Islamism” or “radical Islam” or “political Islam,” judged in this way, could perfectly well drop their suffixes and adjectives and simply adopt the name of Islam itself—an Islam that has exited the mosque in order to fulfill still more sacred obligations in the public square. But Paul Marshall and Nina Shea take a different view. And in order to confer an august authority upon their contrary estimation, they have padded their human-rights report, or perhaps armored it, with learned commentaries by three Islamic scholars, two of whom are recently deceased but all of whom are distinguished.


Abdurrahman Wahid is the former president of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world.  He has written an article with Abdul A'la, associate dean if graduate studies at Sunan Ampel Islamic State University at Surabaya.  I admit it: I saw these two names and the headline, "The Obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian Peace," over their op-ed essay and wondered what it was doing in the staunchly pro-Zionist Wall Street Journal.   Then I realized that I had seen Wahid's name before, and that he was a Muslim heretic about the widely entrenched dogma in the Muslim world around Israel.  The