While in Asia during July 2017, Professor Scharffs was a guest lecturer at the Law Faculty of the University of Muhammadiyah in Malang, Indonesia. The lecture, attended by the entire law school community, addressed the topic, “The Role of Religion and Religious Freedom in Responding to Religious Freedom.” In this lecture, Professor Scharffs noted that while religion and religious freedom can both be used to foment violence in the name of religion, both religion and religious freedom play important roles in responding to and creating resistance towards violent extremism. The lecture was convened and hosted by Muhammadiyah Law School Dean Sulardi and University Vice Rector, Professor Syamsul Arifin.
Professor Scharffs identified four ways that religion can help respond to extremism, including seeking better interpretations of our own religious traditions, the influence that religious majorities can have on the culture of freedom of religion and belief, the significance of religious freedom as a religious doctrine of various religious traditions, and the role that members of religious majorities can have in protecting the rights of religious minorities. Scharffs maintained that not only can religion provide us with important resources to combat extremism, religious freedom itself can effectively help to counteract violence and violent extremism. These include sensitivity to the challenges that arrive when governments identify too closely with one religion, the misuse of blasphemy laws to persecute minority believers and dissenters from the majority religion, and the importance of moving beyond thinking of religion and security in terms of tradeoffs.