All praise is due to Allah Who has balanced human interaction between the scales of “Rights and Obligations”. May His choicest salutations continue to descend on our Master and Leader who fulfilled his obligations to fellow man yet rarely demanded his own rights.
“On the Day their tongues, their hands, and their feet will bear witness against them as to their actions.” (24:24)
Freedom of speech has recently dominated international debate and discourse pursuant to the provocative reprinting of the caricatures by seventeen newspapers in Denmark. The reprinting of the cartoons came in the wake of three individuals who were allegedly caught plotting the murder of the cartoonist. According to the newspapers the reprinting of the cartoons was to ‘show solidarity’ with the cartoonist and to reaffirm their ‘right to freedom of speech and expression’.
The right to freedom of Speech does not Make all Speech Right!
No one has an absolute right to free speech! The overwhelming concern regarding freedom of speech is its impact on the public good which overrides personal freedom. It is therefore unlawful to cry “fire” in a theatre, or even make a “bomb” joke at an airport. Most legal systems have certain limitations to ‘freedom of speech’ which include speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence against a person or group of people based on their race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. These limitations are meant to guard against the use of hate speech particularly in multicultural societies.
Islam however also emphasizes the need for civil limits to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is therefore not a license to be deceptive, ill-mannered or to be provocative. Civil limitations include abusive, rude, dishonest and deceptive speech. Nabi Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “A Believer can never be a fault finder or one who is prone to curse, nor is he abusive or rude.” (Tirmizee) Muslims are equally forbidden from mocking or jeering at religious symbols or icons.
Denigration of religious symbols or icons
The Holy Quran states:
“Do not revile those (beings) whom they invoke instead of Allah, Lest they revile Allah out of spite and in ignorance; thus have We made alluring to each people their own doings…” (6: 108)
The prohibition of reviling anything that other people hold sacred even though it is in contravention of the oneness of Allah is addressed to all believers. While Muslims are expected to argue against false belief of others, they are not allowed to abuse the objects of those beliefs since abusing the symbols or icons of other faiths often tend to provoke a hostile reaction. Islam further forbids any depiction of all Prophets, be it the depiction of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad. (Peace be upon them all) What freedom or value is upheld by insulting another man’s faith? Islam is valued and practiced by 1.3 billion people contrary to Europe’s minimal attachment to Christ.
Blasphemy against the Prophet is not new but has a thirteen century history in Europe. Islam has never been truly studied or understood by the self perceived superior western world. Darwin further alienated the west from the “creator”, reducing man to an evolutionary product of “natural selection”. Hence, religion and sacredness died in Europe and secular materialism marginalized God. Europe lost understanding and respect for other faiths. Europe’s enlightened rationale is: “if I can curse my God, I can curse yours.” Samuel Huntington, author of “Clash of Civilizations” describes western hegemony as: “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”
The cartoons are not about freedom of expression. This is the freedom to spread hate by desecrating a religious personality who is revered throughout the world. The inflexibility of free-speech fundamentalism is often racism wrapped in politically correct jargon.
Selective Adherence to the Mantra of Freedom of Speech
Is it not inconsistent for European governments to criminalise private speech that is anti-Semitic, including speech that denies the Holocaust, yet they refuse to criminalize the private publication of the cartoons, on the basis of freedom of speech?
Why did the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen hold an immediate press conference with Jewish leaders who were offended by a Muslim organization’s distribution of “anti-Semitic” flyers? He apologized and condemned such action. Yet, he refused to apologize to the Muslim world for the barbaric treatment of a personality revered by one third of the world’s population.
This is not the first time nor will it be the last blasphemous attack on our Master and Leader. In fact this was the sunnah of all the previous Ambiyaa. Allah says:
“Nothing is being said to you O Prophet of Allah but was said to all the Ambiyaa before your time” (41:43)
We need to ask ourselves how much of this negative perception stems from our own actions and dealings. It is our actions and not our words that determine who we are. Are we ourselves doing a disservice to Islam? To what extent do we dispel these negative perceptions when dealing with non Muslims? Are we at all spreading the message of Islam and educating non Muslims about our faith?
May Allah Ta’ala deal with those who besmirch the noble integrity of our Master and Leader and may He grant us the ability and strength to defend his noble character and person.
Source: Jamiatul Ulama South Africa