Human Freedoms in Islamic Societies

Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef*

During the first lockdown in 2020, I read many fiction nonfiction books in English and Urdu. One of them was, Among the Believers by reputed English writer, the Trinidad based of Indian origin, Nobel laureate V.S Naipaul. Naipaul in his rendering sounds a bit Islamophobic and unfriendly to Islamic societies. In this sense reading him may be an unpleasant one, yet his writings reveal some facts too. His narration is spun around his journeys into some Muslim lands such as Pakistan, Iran, etc, and the personal experiences of meeting, dealing, and conversating with officials, mullahs, gentlemen, and general people and what insights and meanings he derived from these encounters.

One of his derivations is that Muslim societies lack basic human freedoms and are still being governed by the troika, which Iqbal the philosopher-poet, complained and termed it in his Persian poem as Muslim personality is ‘’crushed by the trio, the kingship, the clergy and the priesthood” اي كشته سلطاني وملائئ و پیری)

I also had chances to travel to Iran Pakistan etc. Reading Naipaul reminds me of my journey to Iran. I recall when we were still airborne, our airplane bound to Tehran was nearing its destination, and when it was announced that we are approaching Tehran soon, I noticed a flurry of movements especially among the female travelers, a few amongst them were Muslim, some non-Muslim women, and some westerners. All were resetting their dresses and sporting headscarves. When we finally landed, I understood the reason, that strict dress code for the women prescribed by the Iranian regime. It was president Ahmadi Nejad’s reign.

The question is that our mullahs are very vocal that Islam is all for individual freedom, human rights, women’s dignity, etc, then why impose on citizens or on foreigners a dress code approved by mullahs, ayatollahs, and clergy? Iran is supposedly referred to as a successful model for Islamists of all hues and colors in the world but the factual position is telling another story.

Recently I have read an autobiographical book by Iranian Nobel laureate and noted human rights activist Sheren Ebadi’s Until We are Free” She has been a human rights activist throughout her life. When ‘’Islamic Revolution” came into the country she welcomed the move because she was working against the ruthless “shah” and his cruel police state. She was a judge at that time. Now Islamic regime sacked her from her portfolio, for she as a woman doesn’t fit to the post, as a rule, judge, or any big public office in the views of mullahs, no matter how much high her quality was. After that, she continued her human rights work voluntarily and raised her loud voice against the flagrant violation of human rights by the regime.

First, the revolutionaries tried in vain to buy her, invoking her loyalties to the nation and Islam, premising on that human rights activism is a western creature to defame the Islamic revolution. When she received the Noble prize, her voice became much louder and she is heard around the world, becoming a posing threat to them. They shut her office for human rights and prevented her from providing any legal help to the victims of the regime. In coming times, she would be compelled to flee the country saving herself and her two daughters’ lives. Notwithstanding that, the Iranian intelligence agents did not stop here. They continued her harassment, mental torture, killing intimidation, ban on her entry into Iran and arrest warrant against her, and vicious propaganda by state television that she was a traitor playing in the hands of the West.

The most obnoxious and vicious tool to torture her mentally they contrived was that they forced her faithful husband to utter this bizarre blame against his beloved wife in front of tv cameras which would be duly aired at the vantage point. Then they would manage a forced divorce from her husband after 32 years of loving and intimate relations. The hidden hands of the regime chase her even in London, while at home the establishment had confiscated her house, family property even her Iranian passport, and so on.

Now anyone can see if this is what a model Islamist regime might do with a Nobel laureate as a punishment on self-imagined and only its perceived crimes, imagine what punishment they may give to ordinary citizens. This is the story of a model state for many Islamists around the world. I wonder what would happen if they one day would come to power in more countries? Possibly they will repeat the heinous examples of the dreadful ISIS caliphate as it is seen in Afghanistan under the Taliban today to an extent. The world is afraid because in their first innings the Taliban not only closed all schools and girls’ schools, in particular, but also destroyed the monumental Buddha statues at Bamiyan. They executed at random harsh Islamic punishments without fulfilling due process of law, for they do not believe in the modern judicial system, they only believe in prompt and instant justice. Which ironically turned out in many cases that sodomy addict mullahs and their proteges had been executing punishments on adulty by stoning the culprits to death! As one of such incidents was stated in ‘’The Kite Runner” by Afghan novelist Khalid Husseini.

Saudi Arabia houses the two holiest shrines of Islam; the Kaaba and Madina mosque, which is why it is very near and dear to every Muslim heart. It is unfortunate that it also witnesses the worst kind of religious imposition in the form Mutawwah institution and also in persecution and curbing of dissent, torture, and killing in cold blood of all political adversaries.

Now crown prince M.B wrongly is thinking that by holding open consorts building new cities like Dubai and opening new open markets for tourists he will be successful in presenting a good and humane image of his kingdom before the world. Never, the world has seen the true and dreadful face of his despotic autocracy in the clandestine brutal and inhuman killing of the US-based Saudi Journo Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi secret agents in the premise of the Saudi embassy in Ankara.

Coming back to Pakistan, it is quite clear what is happening there in the name of blasphemy laws, as extrajudicial mob killing is every day happening there.

Religion is not something to be policing on. Because in its core religion is a matter of heart, it purifies inner self first of all, then pervades all the aspects of human life, so you cannot purify heart by punishing, intimidating, and bullying. It could be done only with love and selfless service, as done by the holy prophet and his companions and the great Sufis around the world.

Rumi and other great Sufi’s teaching is that religion in its core is the love of God, love of his beloved messenger, and love of all fellow human beings. Love arose from the heart voluntarily and from within, you cannot impose love on somebody from without. If you impose your creed, your faith, and your religion on others by force you will end up wright havoc on a human being and imbibe duality in his personality, creating hypocrisy and double standard in human behavior with demonstrating by their deed what they do not believe in their heart, and surely hypocrisy is the worst kind of human qualities as Quran call it. The hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the fire. (4:145)

I have no problem if you keep a very long beard, or sports headscarf to cover your body from head to toe voluntarily, though I may not agree with that ideologically. Because it is your free choice, yet the movement you try to impose your choice on me I must be alarmed. To me, it is a brazen violation of Quranic injection لكم دينكم ولي دين (To you be your way, and to me mine,109:6)

and لست عليهم بمسيطر (Thou are not one to manage(men’s)affairs,88:22)in which the basic human freedoms enshrined for everyone.

Muslims normally bitch about the West that there is exaggerated individualism and collectivity has no room there. The equal complaint I have concerning Muslim societies is that there is normally no freedom for a man and individuality is of no importance. The end result is that the man or woman does no longer evolves at all. The potentials are strangled. Genius humans have to flee to the west due to the lack of a suitable environment. Therefore, Muslim nations are suffering from a brain drain now.

Without delving deep into our grim situation and without rethinking some relevant aspects of Islamic fiqh we can not hope for a true Islamic Renascence.

*Research Associate with the Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India, AMU Aligarh.

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