Freedom of thought and expression and Islam

By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef (shahbaz Nadwi)*

Recently an amateure film,allegedly mocking with the prophet of Islam and abusing him , appeared  in some places,which trigerred a wild response from Mid East and some other Mulism countries. And this once again highlited the much debated issue of freedom of expression and freedom of thought and where Islam stands in this regard.

Freedom of thought and of speech is the most important value of modern age, rightly being called as summum bonum. According to which every man and woman has an unconditional and absolute right to express his or her mind, no matter whether he or she is right or wrong. The only condition they have is that one’s freedom shouldn’t cause a physical  damage to others. No doubt that this freedom has its merits and demerits. And as one has a right to criticise its demerits, so also he ought to appreciate its merits and virtues too.It is regretted to say that we Muslims often have a dobble standred in this regard also,as we appreciate this only when it suites us and not otherwise .

As its merits one can cite that now you can propagate your ideas everywhere you like, as well as you can express your views and outlooks without any hindrence ,and thus criticise peoples,ideas and theories or whatever you want. Regarding its demerits it can be mentioned that since this freedom doesn’t know any limit or boarder, and gives man,say, a free hand to express his or her view with no condithon, so this absolute freedom surely may hurts one’s feelings when it vertually brings things, sound unpleasantory to your religious tast or communal feelings. For example there may come books against Islam,and abusing flims cartoons and caricatures on prophet (pbuh),on Muslims  and on Islam may appear. As it is seen in the West time to time. The point is that the West with its liberal ethos and its belief in absolute individual freedom can’t police things like that. It is logically compelled to endorse them you like it or not. Even if it differ with elements doing such low and shemful deed,it can’t stop them with the excuse that these are hurting a sertain people or a sertain religious community. Simply because , to the West freedom of expression can not be compromised at any cost. This is  how they reason for not taking any action against the blasphamy cases. The questionin is can voilance stops such crimes and abominable acts? Morever could voilance be indorsed in according to Islamic teachings? Which regards the voilance and persecution more abhorant than killing. (see Quran,2:217)

To me, voilance in any case and with any excuse could not be allowed and should not be forgiven also. Muslim clergy, scholars and political elite must understand that voilance almost always has been a conterproductive tool. Today they use it against  the others, to morrow they will find themselve a victim of the unleashed monster of voinlance  brusting upon theme, as it is being witnessed  in Pakistan, wherein the TTP millitants have no compunction to attack an innocent 16 years old girl student; Malala Yosufzai who committed no mistack except to brave their heneious designes, and else where . Insteade for Muslims it would be better if they, using all peaceful meanse ,so to say, enacting  their own high livel political institutions such as OIC,WML,A L and others, could do persue the West, to get  a law  be passed, according to which any blasphamous idea and abusing prophets and religious personalities would be considered a pnishable act, and accordingly a severe punishment could be meted out against the perperator,whosoever he may be.Here it may be noted that very recently and after Mohammad Mursi had assumed the office in Egypt the blasphamy law was applied for the first time since the Arab spring to a Salafi millitant who had burned a Bible. So as freedom of expression could be somehow restrained as it right now is the case in questioning Holocast or raising an anti-Semetic voice in the very liberal, secular and democratic West.  But unless and until  that law is realized the ideal thing to me, is to going with the policy of putting up with, rather ignoring, such things. There is no option for us other than that. Yes, here is the case wherein you may cite that the very democracy and secularism allow us to loud our voices and give vent to our sentiments whenever the most beloved and most sacred thing to us, say, the person of holy prophet(pbuh) is touched by miscrents any where in the world, and specifically in Europe or America. Citing succh exuces you may sound cogent and reasonable, but at the same time you have to keep in mind that you can’t deney the fact that the Muslims all over the world today , thanks to Osama bin ladin, Taliban millitants and the likes, have reduced to be  mere a sentimental and outragious lot,at least in the depiction of world media. Now when they took to streets ,it is very likely that to reing in the burning imotions would become impossible for them and they resort to violance.The result would be killing of an American diplomate in Libya who had personally done no wrong  ,attacks on innocent people in Mid East,Pakistan and elsewhre. And nobody can’t deney that the regretted incedents of this kind are not only unislamic, unreasonable but in fact they are counter productive as well.As they damage the real image of Islam, they harm Muslim’s cradiblity beyound repair. Such incedents in the name of Islam and protaction of  character of holy prophet (pbuh) are a clear impinge on model, set by the holy prophet himself. Because there are many instances reported  in the annals of Sirah literature of abusing prophet, wherein on his part the prophet  always forgave such criminal people ,and who often having  impressed with his gentle behaviour became Muslim and turned from an inveterate foe into a true friend.


*Dr.Mohammd Ghitreef  is the director of Foundation for Islamic Studies ,New Delhi, he can be contacted on:

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