After decades of promoting and indulging in Free sex, they have now shifted to endorsing Free Speech. While the popularity of the former was arrested by a certain incurable virus, the latter is growing unhindered across blogs, tweets and discussion fora. What could have triggered this ado? Do a Google search and you can instantly locate the partisans on either side of the battle lines. Fierce looking Muslim youth holding placards reading “Death to those who defame Islam” on the far right (literally) , and liberal, cool, inspired, educated ,intellectuals on the other- The proverbial clash of the civilizations . The community has once again worked itself into a nasty corner. Changing their online status from “Victims” to “Aggressors” overnight- due to their reactive, crude style of activism. Flag burning is permitted in America, because it is a free country, they say. But the flag burners invariably end up, spied and stalked forever or even in orange overalls behind barbed wire enjoying generous doses of water boarding. And even in the strongest bastions of freedom, holocaust denial is taboo. In the recently held UN World Conference Against Racism- Canada, Italy, America and the best of the west announced they would boycott the session if Israel is criticized. A spokesman for Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister, said that a proposed passage, which relates to the situation in the Palestinian territories, contains “unacceptable, aggressive and anti-Semitic phrases”. The champions of free speech went on to drop that passage unanimously. But as long as it is not on the streets and not as outrageous as the placards, America is a free country and its these radicals who are against free speech.
Most write ups for Free speech reveal the Villain in the first paragraph itself. And the heroes are always the ones who provoked the antagonists in the first place. Though I cannot speak on behalf of the whole community, I can confidently say that believing Muslims have never been against “Free Speech”. It is perfectly fine to disagree, discover, debate, decide and then strive to make a difference. But it is just not ok to use one’s uninformed assumptions and prejudices to abuse, hurt and attack the dignity of others. It is said that over 60,000 books were written against Islam in the last century. Go to Amazon and search for “Islam” and see the number of books for and against it. In my last count, I found 4 books FOR and 18 AGAINST. No problem mate. But when someone doles out “classics” calling the prophet a dog and his wives prostitutes, any self respecting community will definitely have a problem with that. For that is Hate speech disguised as Free speech.
Mahatma Gandhi, Prophet Muhammed and Joseph (The husband of Mary) married women aged below 13 years. All three girls had attained puberty and had agreed for the nuptial union. But if you are uncomfortable about the age, please take some effort before shooting off. Read books from sources close to them, ask the scholars and try to understand the context behind the event. If you still feel uncomfortable, go ahead and express it by all means. But make sure that what you say is True, Kind and above all is intended to reform and not to insult and provoke. This is hugely different from degrading them as “lusty pedophiles”. I can express my reservations against girls wearing miniskirts, but if I call them sluts, then I am asking for trouble. The fact that technology makes it easier to make our voices heard (even my blog has over 3500 followers) makes it incumbent upon us to be even more responsible and careful. In a recent poll that I conducted online, I had posed the question “What hurts longer and more- an insulting verbal attack in public or a slap?”. The results are given below and are self explanatory.
Let us go by what the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, then let him speak good (khair) or remain silent.” Disagree by all means, but be true and kind with the intention to reform.
Coming back to the double speak of the enlightened west, Noam Chomsky, summed up the western concept of freedom of speech when he said: “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favour of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favour of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favour of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”
Going by this- forced detentions, banning the niqab & the building of minarets and burning the quran are the best examples of efforts against “Free Speech”, not the angry youth with the placards.
5 responses to “Hatred doesn’t come free.”
The so-called banner holders of free speech have narrowed it down to freedom to malign!!!
Truely said brother.
Hi. A Few thoughts.
1. Firstly. I think the comparison drawing parallels between Gandhi, Joseph and Mohamed is untenable. Here’s why. Gandhi was a visionary in terms of his political and social experiments, but he was just human. At no stage did he or any of his followers claim to be the pall bearers of a divine moral code. The instant there is a claim of divinity; the terms of the debate are bound to change. When the way someone lived his or her life is quoted by his / her followers as the gold standard by which all others shall be judged then it is to be expected that all aspects of that standard shall come under the microscope. Child marriage is wrong. Period. We have not always known this but we do now. Generations past may therefore be forgiven for having indulged in this practice but I believe it is reasonable to expect an all knowing force or his representative on earth to have pointed it out or at least not practiced it himself. The third party in this unfortunate comparison must be excused on the grounds of his mental well-being. I personally don’t think the actions of a man gullible enough to believe his wife when she tells him that God got her pregnant are relevant to a discussion as serious as this.
2. Secondly, I do not see why anyone who is an advocate of the right to free speech and expression has to be burdened with justifying the flawed foreign policy decisions of the United States or the West. In fact, over the past decade, the United States has been guilty of the most dreadful violations of civil liberties of their own people (although the story of flag burning guy ending up in Guantanamo bay seems a little farfetched). However, I would like to use these comparisons to raise another significant point. One that relates to how any article based on a religious standpoint cannot effectively address the issue of free speech which is essentially a secularist ideal. Religious allegiance implies sentimentality towards a text, a code or a character(s). Such sentimentality is misplaced when it comes to understanding the issue of free speech or violations thereof. An true advocate of free speech must be able to see the dangers to personal freedom arising from Sarkozy’s Hijab ban and apply the same principle, without prejudice to Saudi Arabia’s law requiring women of all faiths to insulate themselves (hope to see a post about this from you some day !!!) or put public beheadings at least on even keel with water boarding or accept that the burning / banning of a book, any book, as an intrusion into a person’s fundamental right to propagate / counter an idea. I don’t think religious people are allowed that latitude.
3. Thirdly, Free speech and Free sex are not comparable ideals and I don’t think they are being advocated by the same people. I might be an exception :).
4. Lastly, with regards to the most important and valid point that you make, concerning the limitations to the freedom of speech and the need to use it responsibly, I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact some of the stuff that has been written or said about Islam over the past decade has been derogatory and provocative to put it mildly. And you’re right, any self-respecting Muslim ought to protest, but in the language of the 21st century, not the 6th. And Just as critics of the holy scriptures are asked to read it in its entirety, to contextualize it and not to selectively quote from it, religious folk would also be well advised to apply the same principles when it comes to literature that contradicts their faith. The following quote is from the Quran: “The Jews say: “Uzair (Azra) is the son of Allah,” and the Christians say: “Messiah (Christ) is the son of Allah.” That is what they say with their mouths, imitating the sayings of the former unbelievers. May Allah destroy them! How perverted they are!”. I assume these verses are recited among others during prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem or from others in Bethlehem. How wonderful for people whose every other right has been taken away from them to at least be able to proclaim their faith without fear, without being kind or having the intention of reform. Long live the freedom of speech and expression.
Dear Amith, thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts. I agree with many points that you have raised, especially on the need to protest using the language of the 21st century, not the 6th. I however disagree with certain others. Please find my thoughts on those.
You say that child marriage is wrong. We need to define what we mean by a child here. In certain countries 18 is the marriageable age for girls. In certain others it is way below 18 (Denmark-15, Kenya- 14, Georgia- 14, Italy 16 and so on… and these are not Muslim countries). Hence an American or Indian citizen who can marry only a girl who has crossed 18 can deem marriages in Italy as child marriages and their grooms as lusting pedophiles. Amidst these glaring contrasts I presume that if we need to agree on a universal standard, we would have to go by these conditions.
The girl should have attained puberty
The girl must understand the concept of marriage and must be willing
The girl must have the competencies to carry out the duties of a wife
This must be an accepted Social Norm
In the case of the prophet’s marriage to Aysha (RA), all the above 4 conditions were met. Hence we cannot rubbish it as “Child Marriage”. It was a union between a man and a woman.
Back in those days, especially in the desert terrains, girls used to attain puberty quite early. People used to marry early as well, since many precious lives were lost due to famine, epidemics and war. Hence early marriage and early procreation was a social necessity. Moreover the competencies required for a wife in those days were totally different from the ones mandated today. Therefore entry barriers were practically non existent. Aysha’s (RA) took to teaching the traditions and Hadith of the prophet and due to her young age, the Muslim nation could continue to get accurate narrations and interpretations for a long time after the prophet’s death. This could also have been a factor behind the prophet’s decision.
Yes I do agree that Muslims consider the prophet to be a Role Model. However the Quran itself mentions oversights that he made and unequivocally reprimands him for them. When he used to suggest something, his followers used to ask him- Is it from god or from yourself? His biography cites numerous incidents where he was corrected by his disciples. He had once opined that attempts to cross pollinate date trees was wrong. Upon hearing this, the farmers of Medina stopped that practice and the crops failed. When this was brought to his notice he asked to them accept only the dictates of god and not every suggestion made by him. Muslims do follow most of his traditions (Sunnah) religiously. But most Muslims do not marry more than once, nor do they marry girls who have just attained puberty just because the prophet did so. We understand the difference between what is permitted and what is recommended.
I wouldn’t compare France to Saudi Arabia or the Vatican for that matter. The latter two countries are religious states that are governed by religious norms. Their laws are unapologetically based on religious doctrines. Both subscribe strict dress codes for women. However France prides itself in being at the forefront of Secular Values. The French First Lady can appear naked on the cover page of a magazine. Catholic students can be veiled. But the Muslim Head scarf is banned. You can have church steeples in Switzerland, not minarets of mosques. This is hypocrisy of the first order.