German-Egyptian scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad said in an August 8, 2019 interview on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.) that in order for the Arab world to honor freedom of religion more, a compromise must be reached stating that freedom of religion cannot be separated from the freedom to criticize religion. He also said that the "Catholic marriages" between public sentiment, political rule, and religious authority must be broken up. Abdel-Samad explained his statement, saying that since Arabs view religion as the only thing that defines identity, they see challenges to religion as personal attacks rather than as new ideas. He further explained that the political leadership in the Arab world should draw legitimacy from things other than public sentiment and religious authority, and he said that the religious authorities "pounce like rabid dogs" when religion is challenged because religion is their source of income.
Interviewer: How can we bring the Arab world to a place where we can really honor the freedom of faith or differences of opinion in matters of religion?
Hamed Abdel-Samad: We must reach a compromise stating that the freedom of religion cannot be separated from the freedom to criticize religion. We must reach a compromise stating that the concept of blasphemy against religion or God is itself an absurd and blasphemous notion. We must break apart the various "Catholic marriages" in our Arab society – the marriage between public sentiment and political rule, and the marriage between religious authority and political rule. Most of our people are obsessed with religion. They simultaneously suffer from narcissism and from an inferiority complex. They see religion as the only thing that defines their identity. Therefore, when we criticize religion, they do not see it as presentation of ideas, but as a direct attack on their identity and their right to live. The political leadership is not democratic in most of the [Arab] countries, so it uses other sources for its legitimacy – public sentiment and the religious authority. For the religious authority, everything sacred constitutes a source of income. So when we criticize religion, its texts, and its symbols, we are threatening their source of livelihood. This is why they pounce on us like rabid dogs. So we must break apart the marriages between politics, religion, and public sentiment.