Religious Liberty Award Will Recognize an ‘Eloquent and Effective’ Advocate

Leading religious freedom attorney, scholar and author Asma T. Uddin has been named co-recipient of the 17th Annual Religious Liberty Dinner International Award.

Ms. Uddin, a Senior Scholar and Faculty at the Freedom Forum Institute/Newseum and a fellow with the Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, has become internationally recognized as an eloquent and effective advocate for religious freedom, says Bettina Krause, director of government affairs for the International Religious Liberty Association, one of the event’s sponsoring organizations.

“Ms. Uddin’s voice and influence is far-reaching—not just through her work in the courts defending people of many different faiths or her scholarly writing and articles, but also her passionate defense of the principles of religious freedom in the public sphere, through her many speaking and media appearances.”

Ms. Krause points to the soon-to-be-released book, When Islam is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom, as an example of Ms. Uddin’s unique ability to make difficult issues accessible for the broader public. In the book, set to be released July 9, Ms. Uddin brings her faith, experiences, and insights to bear on current religious freedom challenges in America and beyond. National Public Radio reporter Tom Gjelten has called the book, “An eloquent plea for tolerance, weaving astute legal analysis with a compelling personal story.”

The Religious Liberty Dinner International Award will be presented to Ms. Uddin on May 20, 2019, at the 17th annual Religious Liberty Dinner, which will be held this year at the Newseum in downtown Washington, D.C. The event brings together diplomats, United States’ government officials, religious leaders, and religious liberty advocates. Past keynote speakers include Senator John McCain, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John Kerry, and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird. This year’s speaker is the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Congresswoman for the 18th District of Texas.

When asked what ideas or convictions have inspired her advocacy for religious freedom, Ms. Uddin points to a verse of the Qur’an: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” (Chapter 49, verse 13).

She acknowledges that it is not necessarily the Qur’anic verse people usually connect with religious liberty: “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256).

“Although, that verse has also been influential for me,” she adds.

“Instead, it is the Qur’anic celebration of diversity as a tool for education and deeper understanding that has been most impactful,” she says. “In a world where many in my local and global community see me as the Other, the importance of this Qur’anic reminder has always been front and center.”

As well as her work with the Freedom Forum Institute/Newseum and the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, Ms. Uddin is also a research fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. She previously served as counsel with Becket, a nonprofit law firm specializing in U.S. and international religious freedom cases, and as director of strategy for the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, a nonprofit engaged in religious liberty in Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority contexts. Ms. Uddin is widely published by law reviews, university presses, and national and international newspapers. She is also an expert advisor on religious liberty to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and a term-member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition to her expertise in religious liberty, Ms. Uddin writes and speaks on gender and Islam, and she is the founding editor-in-chief of She graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, where she was a staff editor at the University of Chicago Law Review.

The annual Religious Liberty Dinner is co-sponsored by the North American Religious Liberty Association, the International Religious Liberty Association, the Seventh-day Adventist world church and Liberty magazine.