Saturday, May 22, 2010

Freedom of Expression?


By: Khalid Baig

With the latest in-your-face act of the Facebook, the issue is once again attracting headlines. Should Muslims react? How should they react? Where do they stand on the philosophical issue underlying all this? In the media the issue has been framed as a clash between two camps. One camp stands for freedom of expression. The other wants to curtail it. Needless to say the first camp is enlightened and virtuous. The other is a relic of the dark ages. The clash in other words is between a civilized and civilizing West and Islam that just refuses to be civilized.Once you accept this framing of the whole issue, the outcome is already decided. Are you for freedom of expression or not? It is a loaded question, and just like the yes/no question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" no matter how you answer it, you remain guilty.

Look at the typical Muslim response which begins, "We also believe in freedom of expression but..." It matters little what you say after that. It is obvious that you are trying to add exclusions and limitations to a basic moral value while the other side is asking for no such limits. It is not difficult to see which side will come out ahead.But this predicament is a result of uncritically accepting a false statement about the nature of the clash. For 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 the 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, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, 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.

Blogger comment:

In true Muslim country no prophet should be insulted. True Muslims in their country do not and would not allow anyone to insult Jesus (PBUH). Muslims should not kill some in the west who would insult the prophet but to insult them back, which we call it justice. We should make it clear to express why we hold the prophets highly and make it clear that who are insulting them are not respecting their creator or even has some ethics to read the Quran and know the life of the prophet they are insulting.

Like some in the western leader are busy putting a law to Barka. It looks like they solved all Muslims problems including tyranny and injustices. Yes they solved the poverty in the Muslims countries and now they will also solve the Barka problem. As you see they are insulting Muslims in every way they go. They choose their leaders and their policies and stand against us all the way. The guy who tells the truth like it is suffer for telling the truth.

Muslims do not insult others, but only insult others back which is called justice and dignity. When you fight against injustices and oppression it is not insulting but insulting back. In my web blog site I do not insult people but I insult back. I go against injustices which was the message of Jesus peace be upon him.

For jihadists they are fighting back the oppression. I agree to fight back but not with real attacks but having real power to deter. We all miss the good old days where there were two militarily equal forces the USA and USSR. They had the power of mutual destruction and I mean by that the leaders even themselves can be destroyed. It is not like the president of a country sending troops to die and he is protected by his guards. Like it or not there were world balance at that time. The leaders had to play cautious politics to maintain their own survival. America did not conquer the USSR but the communist system itself was not working like one of their leaders would say the cow of the farmer produces milk more than that of the government.

Muslims should think now to express their despise of any attacks on the prophet without any violence. The best to retaliate for their religion is to bring back their true religion and take over the matters of their lives. To strongly oppose the Muslim corrupt leaders every where in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq...... It is time to bring back our great civilization that the whole world need. Again and again President Obama is not Al Mahdi Al Muntazer and Muslims who are not standing for me will be asked harshly in the day of judgment. There is no doubt we are at the end of time and no doubt Al Mahdi is known well to a lot of people. Call Mubarak and tell him to be brave and tell Muslims publicly that I am not Al Mahdi.

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