On Freedom of Speech and Rights of the Muslim Minority in Western Democracies
– By: Shafi A. Khaled Source: Islamicity
Feb 15, 2023 s
Peace and Blessings of God on anyone taking the time to read and contemplate the thoughts below. Regarding wasting the Quran or desecrating Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)1, it has become necessary to move beyond protests by Muslim states and street protests within the West. Here are some constructive thoughts that allow space for Western leaders, prosecutors, judges, as well as for academicians and academic administrators.
1. The Quran mentions, by name, Moses (pbuh) and Jesus (pbuh) at least seventy-five and twenty-five times, respectively. There are also chapters on Mary (pbuh) and her family. If the Quran is desecrated then these honorable people, often very dear to the abusers of the Quran themselves, are dishonored as well. How insane! Ignorance can be so humiliating! Should this not matter to Western leaders who care for the Bible and its actors?
2. Muslim immigrants to the West, those born therein, and those who converted are a religious minority. They should be afforded the same sensitivity as other minority groups in the West. Simply because the worldwide Muslim population is vast, the rights of Western Muslim minorities should not be abridged by summarily linking together the two entities. The latter entity’s political rights are enshrined within the governing system of the West. Thus restrictions on language and acts that cause emotional, physical, academic, professional, and political harassment and estrangement of Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, Jews, LGBTQ, and others should apply to such actions against Muslim minorities as well. Insulting, othering, and minimizing these minority groups is seen as racism, antisemitism, sexism, and homophobia, etc. Why is similar oppression of Muslim minorities (belittling them or symbols of their faith) undeserving of being addressed as Islamophobia?
3. Whenever protests originate in Muslim states, the profile of the problem for the West changes, taking a common strategic hue for all. Any toning down appears like a forced about-face and a surrender to a lower standard of governance of the colonies. So, year in year out, there is no meeting of sensible, fairness-oriented minds between both camps. An inoculation to this unnecessary reaction lies in arriving at a fact-based decision.
4. Let us now examine the expression “freedom of speech.” Those in authority allowing this act to go forward, under their protection, must first read the Quran2, the biography of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)3,4, and the Muslim view of Jesus (pbuh)5,6 in order to make a proper comparative analysis. It appears that long unchallenged misjudgments about the Quran and the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) have vaccinated Western leaders, leading to their facile approach in this matter. It is a widely overlooked component of the political education of Western leaders. At the same time, an interview of the protestor must be taken to discover the reasons behind his protestation. In case his protestation is religious, in a secular system of government, requiring even-handedness among religious orders, a denial of permission and protection to burn the Quran or desecrate the Prophet (pbuh) in public space would be an obvious choice. Moreover, the protestation is wanton should the accusations being leveled at these Islamic symbols happen to be unfounded. If the reason for such an egregious act is political, then ‘the Protestor’ should clarify exactly how his act is politically justified. If it appears that he intends to get a reaction from the Muslims by disrespecting their religious beliefs, then he should not be allowed to go forward because the intention is to destroy social order and peace. It is simply an act of provocation. There are many laws in the book that either prevent or prosecute instigators of that type.
5. Nobody should be allowed to show up one fine day, then either out of fancy or being unable to do anything constructive against Islam and Muslims as a political statement resort to abusing the Quran or the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). So, his knowledge of Islam needs to be assessed. He should be asked what other things he has done to present his dislike for Islam, Muslims, the Prophet (pbuh), and the Quran. Once he has exhausted those means, only then, such an option can even be considered.
6. On Muslim-West relationship, a degree of introspection has to be brought to bear in the West! As the recent Dutch convert, Joram Van Klaveren, has indicated in an interview to TRTWorld, the West has become highly secularized and sanitized toward religious values and sensitivities. Consequently, it looks at expressions of such sentiments of sacredness as highly foreign, suspect, and unrelatable. Now, since Muslims appear to be at the forefront of worldwide religiosity and sense of holiness, they are bearing the brunt of Western disenchantment and disregard. Thus, even the most civic-minded of Western people struggle to be inclusive with regard to Muslims in such matters.
7. It is interesting that when an accuser rambles on with his charges against an individual, a situation or a system, he is dismissed as having a problem. It is like throwing in the kitchen sink to make one final argument! Succinctness is a skill of great virtue when criticizing anyone or anything. On the flip side, burning the Quran or disrespecting the Prophet (pbuh) is so succinct, so total and absolute that it too is incredulous. Why? How can a charge sheet be so sweeping as to condemn the rai·son d’ê·tre of the entirety of one-fourth of the world’s population.
8. Muslim view of the quality and purpose of freedom of speech is highlighted by the following quote from the Quran, “Do not insult those they call upon besides Allah, lest they insult Allah out of hostility and ignorance. We made attractive to every community their deeds…” (Quran 6:108). Further, the Prophet (pbuh) warned his companions not to curse their parents for it is a major sin. When the companions asked how that could happen, he told them not to insult the father of another man, causing him to retort by insulting their own fathers and mothers (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 5973). Still it is worthwhile to share two points among many made by another critic of Western mindset: 1) With Free Speech being proposed to pursue truth – “gratuitous insult offers no truth” 2) Being able and free to insult is not an expression of individuality as claimed by Liberals because its ‘benefit’ can only be realized by violating the rights of other individuals.7 So, if one must curse, one must do so in seclusion, i.e., utterly privately. Clearly, Muslims understand the role and the limits of Freedom of Speech very well, wouldn’t you concur?
9. We also have the Quran saying, “Lakum deen-u-kum walya deen” – ‘to you, your religion; and to me, mine’ (Quran: 109:6). However, this type of abuse by a ‘protestor’ does not constitute practicing any type of religion! Thus Muslims are not ignorant of the religious rights of political opponents. When they oppose Islamophobic acts, they do not seek to deny the religious rights of the instigators.
10. If such acts are fear-driven, be assured that the Quran vigorously defends the right to be religiously contrary to Islam by saying: “La ikraha fideen” – ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ (Quran: 2:256). Humans are ‘Ashraful Makhluqat’ i.e., the most honored of creation, freedom of choice supersedes freedom of speech, invariably protecting faith. The spread of Islam much earlier in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and now all over the world once more contradicts the centuries-long flagrant Western propaganda that Islam was spread by the sword.
11. Recently, Sweden allowed a Danish politician, Rasmus Paludan, to burn a copy of the Quran in front of the Embassy of Türkiye! On what ground does a foreigner gain a greater right to protection over Muslim minorities of Sweden? Almost three years ago, on March 15, 2019, an Australian named Brenton Tarrant, also a foreigner, gunned down fifty one Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. In the second case, it was an unannounced brutality. In the case of Sweden, the man was welcomed to spew his vile nature and impoverished knowledge and understanding! The least that can be done by Western countries is to prevent cross-border raids on its law-abiding, productive minority population groups. Sweden had a face-saving means to avert this circus. Irresponsibly, it failed to do so.
12. Now, one very startling and devastating probable justification for Islamophobia suggests that it is unlikely to go away any time soon because it serves as one of several elements of a strategic undertaking that is accepted with a nod and a wink by Western governments. Consequently, it not only goes essentially unchallenged by the media but it is also facilitated by their silence as well as by their widespread muzzling of alternative views even on commentary pages while the Muslims are accused of not speaking up. Following the Vietnam debacle, the USA decided to develop its ability to fight wars remotely, neutralize the media, and get the population behind it and keep it there, or at least acquiesce to its involvement. Thus, cruise missiles, JDAMs, drones, and stealth aircraft were developed. By reducing the number of boots on ground, exposure, injury, and death of soldiers could be minimized. The high rate of death and injuries was one of the factors that caused the United States government to lose support of the public. Next, having embedded journalists co-opted their freedom of movement and independence in newly unleashed wars in Muslim countries. Sitting knee-to-knee with colonels and generals stymied the zeal of journalists to report back the truth with passion, purpose, and independence. So, the US population could be kept in the dark. Finally, angst against Muslims, undervaluing them as a people, raising the specter that they commit heinous acts abroad, and within their own population especially toward women and minorities, etc. have caused western people to unquestioningly allow the United States government and its allies to repeatedly sow cancerous wars in Muslim lands. Thus, as long as the United States and its allies continue to hound Muslim countries, Islamophobia and its symptoms will remain.
13. In recent decades, the western powers have played a significant role in harming Muslim countries. For example, they have instigated horrifying, one-sided, unprovoked wars. They have placed embargoes and staged coups. Lies have been told to justify wars against Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and other places. These wars have led to millions of deaths, injuries, and PTSD. Muslims are aware of the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, the brutal ‘Three Mile’ Highway of Death, and the experimental Muslim internment camp in Guantanamo Bay. In addition, the constant harassment, confiscation and killing of Palestinians, the unreported use of hundreds of tons of spent nuclear fuel rod-bombs, and the gradual but sure constriction of Türkiye. After all of these harassments, neither the Bible nor the personality of Jesus (pbuh) has been once sullied by ‘terroristic, close-minded, heavy-handed, usurper’ Muslims. This must mean something to those in the West who consider themselves to be free, fair and intelligent. Time has come for the West to rise up to the standard of the oft despised Muslims.
1pbuh – peace be upon him/her
2Mustafa Khattab et al., The Clear Quran: A Thematic English Translation of the Message of the Final Revelation (Book of Signs Foundation, 2016).
3Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based on Earliest Sources (London: Islamic Texts Society etc., 1983).
4Michael H. Hart, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History (Petaling Jaya: Golden Books Centre, 2003).
5 Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (London: The Westbourne Press, 2013).
6Tarif Khalidi, The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature (Bredbury, England: National Library for the Blind, 2003).
7Al Andalusi, Abdullah, An argument against Insult being protected under ‘Freedom of Speech’ – https://abdullahalandalusi.com/2012/10/26/a-basic-argument-against-insult-being-protected-under-freedom-of-speech/
The author, a free-lance commentator, is a Labor and Development Economist with substantial contribution to the Theory of Islamic Finance. He also promotes dependency relief for non-Muslims through ’Totally Personal Total Choice – Standing Up To Addiction’, located at www.tptChoice.org.