“US and British pilots whose bombs killed Iraqi civilians were murderers, and actions taken by those two countries during the invasion and occupation of Iraq amounted to terrorism.”
— Dr. Mahathir Muhammad
Former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohammed, expressed his opinion on the US-led war in Iraq, in a speech delivered on the subject of human rights, which led to several British and US diplomats walking out. Later a senior Malaysian official described their actions as distasteful, and stated: "If they (US and UK) claim to subscribe to the democratic process, why can’t they listen?" Indeed, why can’t they practice what they preach, as the rest of the world had to listen to their lies and the spins with regards to Iraq’s WMD capabilities for months, but the diplomats in question were not even willing to tolerate a mere verbal response. This really exposes at the highest level, what the Anglo-US regimes mean by ‘free’ speech and tolerance, essentially it only flows in their direction, no one else’s.
The senior Malaysian official overlooked the fact that this also illustrates their deep-seated racism, concealed in the actions of the diplomats walking out. What Dr. Mahathir Mohammed stated is no different to what many war opponents, like George Galloway, John Pilger, and Michael Moore are expressing at home. But, they are white Anglo-Saxons, unlike Dr Mahathir Muhammad; therefore his words are not tolerable, for his former colonial masters. Any denials of racism here are as credible as the Bush administration’s denial of racism in failing to help the blacks in Louisiana and Mississippi.
While racism is a reality, ‘free’ speech is a myth. The word ‘free’ literally means to be in a state without being subjected to any external coercion. The usage of the word ‘free’ with ‘speech’ is misleading, as one can only exercise genuine free speech where there are no laws, and therefore no constraints. Every society permits their citizens to express themselves within its legal limits, and then they call it ‘free’ speech. The reality is, each society has their own version of ‘free’ speech – it is subjective – and rationally according to each society, the others do not comply with the notion of ‘free’ speech.
In reality, the West has no real interest in promoting their version of ‘free’ speech in the Islamic world. Otherwise, they would not partner up with brutal regimes that openly suppress any form of dissension. As an example, one of its partners in the war on ‘terror’ is the regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. He is known to imprison, torture, and even kill political prisoners, by boiling them to death. When his troops opened fire on civilians demonstrating, they killed over 800 men, women and children, there was no outrage over the violation of ‘free’ speech and human rights, no calls for UN sanctions.
Now contrast that with what the US and UK would do if the regime was Iran or Venezuela, the hypocrites would be jumping up and down like guerrillas making all sorts of noises. Similar forms of suppression of political dissension can also be seen in places like Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Turkey, but by the virtue of being US allies, they are all invisible, except for Saddam Hussein!
Of course, the West faces a very difficult choice in the Islamic world. Do they continue rule with an iron fist, through the imposed dictators, securing their material and strategic interests – or do they promote genuine free speech, allowing representative governments to take power, consequentially they risk losing its grip on the rich resources in the Islamic world.
As the actions of the diplomats walking out on Dr. Mahathir has shown, the West expects the Muslims to capitulate by adopting their version of ‘free’ speech and their interests in the region, which are often cloaked in fancy terms like ‘reform’. Until then, ‘free’ speech will continue to be used by the West as a propaganda tool against the Muslims or any opponents who are perceived as a threat to their material and strategic interests. Not surprisingly, ‘free’ speech is primarily invoked as a license to hurl insults, inflame hatred, incite and justify violence, against Islam and Muslims; the following examples will highlight this point.
a). Satanic Verses
It was not a thesis, nor a piece of scholarly research but written in the guise of a novel to cause maximum offence to Muslims, and the Muslims were expected to tolerate that under the umbrella of ‘free’ speech. Compare that to the ‘tolerance’ shown by the US and UK diplomats walking out during Mahathir’s speech! If I were to walk into a public place hurling vulgar abuse and insults at a particular community, would it be right then to demand from that community tolerance for my words, under the banner of ‘free’ speech. When Imam Khomeini responded to Satanic Verses by issuing a ‘fatwa’, ordering the execution of its author, Salman Rushdie, exercising his right of ‘free’ speech, which was not tolerated by the West! If there was such a thing as free speech then Salman Rushdie and Imam Khomeini should have been given the right to express their opinions; clearly ‘free’ is not so free but one-way traffic.
It was argued in the media that the ‘fatwa’ was an incitement to violence, but conveniently ignored that the fact it was Rushdie who drew first blood and incited violence by carefully constructing his ‘novel’ ensuring that it offended so greatly as to provoke Muslims. I suppose the media have gotten used to inverting cause and effect. They have been portraying the Palestinians and Iraqis as aggressors and terrorists, in their own lands for fighting against foreign occupation. Likewise, they classify the fellow Arabs/Muslims helping the Iraqis to fight as foreigners but not the coalition forces with their beer cans, pork sandwiches and porn, from across the oceans!
Similarly, the media used the Rushdie incident to portray the Muslims as intolerant and incapable of intellectual dialogue, which makes the assumption that Satanic Verses is worthy of an intellectual response in the first place. The Western media forgot their own history so quickly; Muslims are not the ones with a history of inquisitions or burning heretics at the crescent! There is no Islamic literature where volumes of information containing lies, vulgar profanities targeted against other faiths. Even the awful medieval crusades, centuries of colonialism to the modern day crusades did not lead to such materials emerging in the Islamic world. There is a clear demarcation between intellectual discourses and subjecting a group of people to crass verbal abuse, and then the use of ‘free’ speech to halt retaliation, any objective person will see such traits as hypocritical.
b). Incitement to Violence
An American Judge recently ruled that it was the notion of free speech dictated by the first amendment, which gave the right to the newspaper  in Arizona to publish letters calling for the killing of any Muslim civilians, in retaliation for the deaths of any US soldiers in Iraq. So, here ‘free’ speech takes precedence over the incitement to murder innocent Muslims. For sure, if Muslims called for similar acts, they would be automatically locked up in Camp-X-Ray for inciting terror. In fact, just on mere suspicion Muslims get locked up, in accordance with their doctrine of pre-emptive strikes.
c). Mass Media versus the Arab/Islamic Media
If there was genuine desire for ‘free’ speech, the West would have welcomed tiny Al-Jazeerah. to operate alongside the Goliath of the Western dominated mass media. That same media which espouses the valuable nature of free speech, instead showed their intolerance to genuine opposing viewpoints. We see anti-Islamic commentators appearing on the nascent Arab and Islamic media but how often do we see the genuine Muslim activists given a voice in their media. When the western press occasionally give a voice to the other side, they handpick ‘Muslim’ moderates, who are in a permanent state of apologising for Islam, Muslims and their own existence. How are the moderates going to represent the Islamic viewpoint, when they themselves do not subscribe to it fully, nor do they have the courage to express even their own thoughts?
It is the xenophobic newspaper columnists and ‘journalists’ hiding behind their fortified monopoly position within the mass media, fears an open debate. Like little goblins, they prefer to hurl their abuse from their caves and then use the garb of ‘free’ speech to conceal their xenophobic hatred for Islam and Muslims. They are most intolerant while they wave the flag of tolerance. Likewise they construct ‘free’ speech as a one-way traffic lane, as soon as they smell an opposing view, they run like those diplomats walking out on Mahathir or the American diplomats walking out at the UN in fear of being humiliated and in fear of not being able to compose an intellectual rebuttal.
Why do these journalists censor their opponents by not giving them an equal voice and then brag about ‘free’ speech. Surely the best way to expose the Islamic fundamentalists is to give them an equal opportunity in the media, for example, publish a series of exchanges with them and show the world how weak their position is intellectually. After all, are you not all progressive and enlightened, while the Islamic fundamentalists are primitive fanatics! There does not seem to be much enthusiasm for this form of free speech. In any case, such dishonesty from the mass media is a small crime, when one considers that these blood thirsty monsters and criminals are accomplices in building the case for war on Iraq, either by promoting it or maintaining their silence.
Even within academic circles the hypocrisy of ‘free’ speech is very clear. An organisation called campusreportonline.net  complained that, Muslims Student Association (MSA) at Montclair Universities published  my articles. The substance of their complaint is that they do not like what I write, yet they claim on their website  to be guardians against those who violate free speech on campus. So, the ticket to ‘free’ speech is easy, say what ever you want as long as you agree with them or avoid saying anything to upset them! Proving once again that ‘free’ speech is a one-way traffic lane for the US/UK and their like.
d). Banning Islamic Political Parties
The British government are on the verge of banning non-violent Islamic political parties, this has put another nail in the coffin in claiming to have a monopoly over ‘free’ speech. For years, the secular fanatics have been maligning Muslims for lacking the ability to uphold ‘free’ speech by referring to the Rushdie-test, i.e. the Muslims should tolerate vulgar abuse as legitimate opinion.
Now if the Muslims respond intellectually without resorting to vulgar abusive language, it gets classified as incitement to hatred. What the Islamic political parties are saying is not debated; they are not given an opportunity to defend their case, but simply stand accused of encouraging violence. This is all a good story, except when you read that it is the British government that are the greater cause of violence, by invading and killing thousands of innocent people, in distant lands. Like criminals, they are in denial and lie openly without shame and then Blair has the chutzpah to promote actions against terrorism in the UN while he has been terrorising en masse. No doubt many in the British government are still living in their old racist empire, where killing foreigners is acceptable but when any of their own are killed it is murder and terrorism.
So it seems now, the West now want to engage in a ‘discourse’ with the Muslims under the umbrella of ‘free’ speech, by putting a tape across their mouths. This reminds me of the Iraq war, prior to which the West used the UN to strip Iraq of its small arsenal of outdated weapons, and then they launched their war, expecting the Iraqis to fight in uniform with their spears, stones and arrows against F16s, tanks and Cruise Missiles.
I would have expected that same secular-liberal camp to come rushing forward to oppose the ban on Islamic Political parties, on the basis of upholding that ‘free’ speech. It seems however, that their tongues have suddenly become paralysed along with their hypocritical brain cells. Most probably, some are hiding their head in the sand in shame, whilst some are so full of hate and intolerance that they cannot bear the thought of defending Islam and the Muslims. Some are certainly glad that Islamic political groups, who are able to strongly articulate their arguments, are silenced, so that they can interview a moderate who can barely speak English, as representative of the Muslim opinion and as evidence of a ‘free’ speech in the ‘free’ media.
Islamic State and ‘Free’ Speech
Each society implements its own version of ‘free’ speech, but the version implemented in a genuine Islamic state remains constant and fixed. The same can be said for its version of human rights and minority rights. Even if the ruler or the majority in the Islamic State, decides to lets say gas its non-Muslim minorities or quarantine them into concentration camps, they are not allowed to do so by fixed Islamic laws.
In contrast, notions like human rights, ‘free’ speeches, are fluid in the west; can alter any time at the whim of its rulers or the ruling elite, or the majority population. The events from Camp-X-Ray, Baghram, Abu-Ghraib, Bombing of Al-Jazeerah, embedded journalists, to the recent legislations and behaviour of the western governments, clearly illustrate this. For them, the gap between democracy and dictatorship, free speech and censorship, human rights and arbitrary imprisonment and torture, is only a matter of degree and timing.
This is why only the Islamic State can guarantee ‘free’ speech, as the laws are permanent and fixed. For sure the rabid anti-Islamic elements will frown at the title of this essay, but the truth is a bitter pill to swallow. If swallowed like all the bitter tasting medicine, it can provide an excellent cure, but some will not swallow the pill due to their arrogance and pride! The Holy Quran aptly describes those fanatics: “deaf, dumb and blind and they will not return (to the path of truth)” Holy Quran 2:18.