On the ‘clash’ between freedom of speech espoused by the west and by Islam:
The real clash is not between those who are for and those who are against a freedom. Rather it is between two different freedoms. On one hand is the freedom to insult. On the other is freedom from insult. Whether it was the Satanic Verses of the 1980s or the Cartoons of 2005 and their endless reproduction since then, if they stand for any freedom, it is freedom to insult. Pure and simple. Muslims, on the other hand, have stood for and demanded freedom from insult. Nothing more. Nothing less.
These are certainly opposing values. You can be for one or the other. And the question does arise, which one is a better value.
To see that let us imagine a society that truly believes in the first as a cherished moral value. It celebrates freedom to insult and guards it at all costs. Every member of it enjoys this freedom and practices it regularly. In a business everyone insults everyone else. The boss is insulting the employees, the employees are insulting the bosses. The salesmen are insulting the customers. The accountants are insulting the creditors. Everyone is enjoying the great freedom to insult. The same is true of the home. The parents are always insulting the children. The children are constantly insulting the parents. The spouses are incessantly insulting each other. And in doing so they all stand on the high moral ground because freedom to insult is such a fundamental freedom on which the society is built.
Actually contrary to the claims of the pundits if the Western society was truly built on this “cherished moral value,” it would have perished a long time ago — consumed by the fires of hatred and negativity generated by this freedom. No home, no neighborhood, no village, no business, no organization and no society can survive for long if it makes freedom to insult as a cornerstone of its freedoms. Clearly most who advocate this freedom do not practice it in their daily lives. But they are making an exception in the case of Islam and Muslims. The driving force behind this is not any great moral principle but a deep rooted hatred born of ignorance.
Software professionals sometimes use a term called beature. It stands for a bug turned into a feature. A bug is a defect in the software. A feature, on the other hand, is a desirable attribute. A beature is a defect that is presented (thanks to slick marketing) as a feature. Freedom to insult is also a beature. It is the growing sickness of Islamophobia in the West which is being presented as a high moral value, packaged by the slick marketing departments as freedom of expression.
Well, whether or not freedom to insult is a Western value, Islam has nothing to do with it. It lays emphasis on its exact opposite: the freedom from insult. It values human dignity, decency, and harmony in the society. The freedom of religion it ensures, includes freedom from insults. While it does not shy away from academic discussion of its beliefs and showing the falsehood of non-Islamic beliefs, it makes sure that the discussion remains civil. In those discussions it wants to engage the intellect of its opponents; in contrast those who itch to insult their opponents are interested in satisfying their vulgar emotions. Thus while its most important battle is against false gods it asks its followers to refrain from reviling them. (Qur’an, Al-anam, 6:108). It also reminds them to stay away from harsh speech. “Allah loves not the utterance of harsh speech save by one who has been wronged.” (Qur’an, Al-Nisa, 4:148). Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessing be upon him), who is being reviled by the scum of the world, taught Muslims to never let the low moral standards of their adversaries dictate theirs.
As a result of these teachings Muslims can never even imagine insulting any Prophet — from Adam to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Even when they ruled the world, Muslims treated the religious leaders of non-Muslim also with respect – even during battles. In the Baghdad court Jewish and Christian scholars engaged in open discussions with the Muslim savants. Needless to say they had not been attracted by the freedom to insult but its exact opposite. Freedom from insult is a fundamental value that assures peace and harmony. It leads to healthy societies. And Muslims are very proud of their impeccable record here.
What is true of a home or a village is also true of the world as it has become a global village. Now, more than ever before, the world needs the harmony and tolerance that can only be assured by the freedom from insults.
[taken from Khalid Baig’s ‘Freedom of Expression?’ written in 2010 but still very pertinent even today]
As food for thought I would request readers to listen to this heart wrenching and touching lecture by Shaykh Zahir Mahmood titled European Depictions of the Prophet (PBUH)
- Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp9nVK63aU8
- Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73EozqG_WCE
- Part 3 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNz7PUAdvNU
- Part 4 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEv1duk7GTI
- Part 5 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFQTUaeUxHw
- Part 6 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfWIKYo5vpI
The Prophet of Allah (PBUH) was demonized unchecked for over 10 centuries, and the Muslims were busy in their own dominions.
The question we have to ask: why was he (PBUH) demonized back then as well? Did we Muslims do anything unjust to the non-Muslims so as to result in such defaming and insults? We brought Islam to them to make their lives better and we did not force Islam upon them so there is no blame upon us.
So was he (PBUH) insulted simply because he was the standard-bearer of Islam and that the non-Muslims who defamed him (and nodded their heads in approval of this defamation) deeply detested Islam?
However one slogan scrawled on the walls of the embassy, which is near Tahrir Square where Egyptians revolted against Mubarak, says: “If your freedom of speech has no limits, may you accept our freedom of action.”
There is your food for thought.