Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Benedict DeDominicis


Some Muslim immigrants in the United States have difficulty reconciling American free speech rights with the blasphemy component of Islamic law, which often requires death for those who criticize Islam. Little academic literature addresses reconciliation of Islamic beliefs with the Constitutional right to free speech or information on Muslim political participation regarding free speech. Using policy feedback theory as the foundation, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the experiences of Muslim immigrants who practice Islam in a free speech society. Data were collected from a sample of 10 immigrant Muslim imams, scholars, and community leaders in Virginia regarding blasphemy laws, and examination of their acculturation experiences and political participation in the United States where insults against religion are protected. Interview transcripts were coded using attribute, anchor, descriptive, and in vivo codes and then subjected to thematic analysis. Findings indicate that participants shared diverse experiences, but most believed that education and dialogue are the best solutions to blasphemy. Some would accept certain blasphemy restrictions, but others opposed any punishment. All were happy with life in America and had little interest in influencing free speech policies, unless free speech were at risk. Then, some would lobby as groups against free speech restrictions, supporting the policy feedback theory. Findings influence positive social change by encouraging dialogue with Muslims, discouraging anti-Muslim immigration policies and Sharia bans, and reducing fears of Muslim immigrants imposing strict blasphemy punishments. Policymakers, the public, and Muslims would benefit from the reduced Islamophobia.