Ridiculing Islam under the Veil of "Freedom of Speech"

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Under the veil of “Freedom of Speech”, the media has been used and is being used to ridicule Islam. This is a willful wrong-in French-délit-an offence that negatively affects someone’s reputation. In order to prevent such willful wrong, laws have to be promulgated similar to those of Laws for Semites. As per their origin, Muslims are no different than Semites. Muslims have to think from brains, and not from their hearts to fight this battle. Tolerance and diplomacy will be the key to success.

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Islam has been made a target since its inception. The non-followers have not left behind any opportunity to ridicule or disgrace it. History has witnessed several blood baths in the past, and more may be in offing. However, in the recent days the media and the cliché “Freedom of Speech” are being used aggressively to ridicule Islam. Especially the printing of Cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him) by Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten-short form: Jyllands-Posten, and literally the Jutland Post, its reprinting since then. Even at the highest level, the Pope himself made a quote that was a misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Islam. Now comes the film made by Mr. Geert Wilders, which is a clear indication that the West is prepared to put on stake its relationship with Islam and Muslims. The Germans and the French have also announced their support for this venture. This proves that there are some forces who are working towards inciting hatred for Islam and orchestrating clash between the Muslims and the West. Jyllands-Posten, Mr. Wilders and others are just pawns in their hands. Islam is being ridiculed in the name of “Freedom of Speech”, which has become rampant.

The people and media abusing “Freedom of Speech” maintains that they have the right to print the cartoons (and whatever else it likes), and make any films, saying that Islamic fundamentalism cannot dictate what Danish newspapers are allowed to print. This opens a Pandora box for the exact meaning of “Freedom of Speech”, and to ascertain whether it has any boundaries or not. If it is boundary less, then the boundaries need to be made, to avoid such incidences, or if it has some boundaries, they should be respected.

The modern democratic system and the society in the West have given rise to freedom that it feels should be acceptable to everyone. This freedom gives right to an individual to make a conscious decision, but at the same time does not offer any boundaries in terms of morality and values. Freedom of choice has been seen in terms of nudity and vulgarity that may be acceptable in some societies and considered as freedom. However, when we consider “Freedom of Speech” that is regarded as an integral concept in modern liberal democracies, it is understood to outlaw the censorship. Although free speech is supported by international human rights proclamations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, but they fail to implement the set boundaries for it.

The concept of “free speech” was put forward by philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), who was a French political thinker and historian. He championed liberty and democracy. He observed that:

  • it is easier for the world to accept simple lie than a complex truth
  • people may be hesitant to speak freely not because of fear of government retribution but because of social pressures.
  • when an individual announces an unpopular opinion, he or she may face the disdain of their community or even be subjected to violent reactions.

Tocqueville also made some famous quotes based on his theories that reflect the West in his era. Based on the relevance of current situation of the world, following are few of them:

  • "We are sleeping on a volcano… A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon." (Speaking in the Chamber of Deputies, 1848, just prior to outbreak of revolution in Europe). This is also true now. We are sleeping on a volcano, and the storm is on the horizon. Not due to Communism, but due to globalization.
  • "There are at the present time two great nations in the world–I allude to the Russians and the Americans–All other nations seem to have nearly reached their national limits, —–. At present, probably, there are two nations, the Muslims and the non-Muslims. All the others have reached their national limits.
  • "The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money."
  • "Muhammad professed to derive from Heaven, and he has inserted in the Koran, not only a body of religious doctrines, but political maxims, civil and criminal laws, and theories of science. The gospel, on the contrary, only speaks of the general relations of men to God and to each other – beyond which it inculcates and imposes no point of faith. This alone, besides a thousand other reasons, would suffice to prove that the former of these religions would never long predominate in a cultivated and democratic age, whilst the latter is destined to retain its sway at these as at all other periods.

This is what the West thinks in general about Islam and the Muslims. It is this democracy that Tocqueville had proposed that Jyllands-Posten printed the cartoons, and they were reprinted. With the same pretext Mr. Wilders has also made his film on the holy book of Islam. It is not the democracy to blame, but the people who abuse it, as there are no boundaries set esp. for ridiculing Islam under the cloak of “Freedom of Speech”

Therefore, based on Toccqueville’s views on democracy, the world moved on to implement his theocracy. However, under the current situation, the right to freedom of expression is not considered unlimited. Under the international law, restrictions on free speech are required to comply with a strict three part test: they must be provided by law; pursue an aim recognized as legitimate; and they must be necessary (i.e., proportionate) for the accomplishment of that aim. Amongst the aims considered legitimate are protection of the rights and reputations of others and prevention of defamation. "Defamation" is the term generally used internationally, but under civil law and legal terms it encompasses two basic concepts i.e. slander and libel. Under the English and American law, and systems based on them, libel and slander are two forms of defamation (or defamation of character), which is the tort (breach of contract) or delict of publishing (meaning to a third party) a false statement that negatively affects someone’s reputation. Delict is a French word and a legal term, which, in some civil law systems, signifies a willful wrong, Delict as a willful wrong that the media and people have committed to ridicule Islam.

“Freedom of Speech” if used for the benefit and in the interest of a community, can:

  • promotes the free flow of ideas;
  • limit the ability of the state to subvert other rights and freedoms;
  • endure a system of checks and balance, therefore, good governance;
  • promote a marketplace of ideas, which includes, but is not limited to, the search for truth; and
  • encourage an individual to discover himself, thus helping him in the self-actualization process.

These reasons encourage us to promote “free speech”. They provide a widely accepted rationale for the recognition of freedom of speech as a basic political or civil liberty. However, this liberty needs to be checked and should remain within the parameters set by the Civil Laws. As per Theodore Roosevelt, 1908, —- no paper published here or abroad should be permitted circulation in this country if it propagates anarchist opinions. Jyllands-Posten, Mr. Wilders and others have promoted development of anarchy, not only for Denmark but also abroad. With the publications of the cartoons, several deaths took place and economic loss was sustained in the area where protests took place. Even it affected Danish economy for a short time. Keeping this in consideration, there is a likelihood of violence and anarchy like situation once Mr. Wilder’s film is released. However, Mr. Wilders himself and even the Dutch Government’s official statement is helpless because of “Freedom of Speech”. The Dutch Government’s official statement posted on March 05 reinforces this and further states "——– Taking into account the Dutch constitution the government sees no possibilities to prohibit the film before broadcasting. After the film has been broadcast, the government will investigate the possibility that Mr. Wilders has committed criminal offences and the Public Prosecution Service will take a decision whether or not to prosecute."

The phrase “Freedom of Speech” is in their way to take any proactive measure for the adversity that the release of film may bring to all of us.

The people and the media in the West are abusing the phrase “Freedom of Speech” to their ulterior designs and motives. They could be:

  • Insult and create hatred for Islam. The West is weary of Islam, and fear that it will overtake their concepts and ideologies. Therefore, all attempts are made to disgrace it and put a lid on its spread.
  • For name and fame of the media and person/s.
  • To watch the reaction of Muslims for any future major event/crises/chaos.
  • Reduce Immigration of Muslims in Denmark and other Western countries.

However, these ulterior motives, if true will not serve the purpose of democracy and peace in the world. If the West wants to build harmony and grace with Islam and Muslims, it must promulgate similar laws as those dealing with anti-Semitism. These were enacted to prevent the Jews from the verbal and physical onslaught. Muslims are on similar cross roads as the Jews at a time when these laws were enacted. But, who will take lead? Apparently, the West does not seem to be interested. Probably, the Muslims have to fight this battle lonely, and they will win only if they can unite, follow the preaching of the Prophet of Islam and have faith on Allah.

Traffic light rules are made to stop accidents. When a car crosses red light, it either gets a ticket or meets an accident. Boundaries have to be set up for all the acts that we do in our lives. Boundary less deeds tend to create accidents. Freedom of speech is good, but it should not become an insult to others. The printing and reprinting of the cartoons and the film by Mr. Wilders will be considered as a willful wrong-in French-délit-an offence that negatively affects someone’s reputation. The reputation of a person, who is the leader of more than 1.3 billion Muslims in the world-in case of Cartoons and that of a book in case of Mr. Wilders. This willful wrong could be a way of prosecuting the criminals. A proactive approach is needed to prevent such acts. In order to prevent willful wrong, laws have to be promulgated similar to those of Laws for Semites. As per their origin, Muslims are no different than Semites.

People in the past have also insulted Islam, and will continue to do so. If the Muslims have to fight this war being waged on them, they have to unite, both economically and politically. While fighting this ridiculing of their religion, they have to think from their brains and not from hearts. Any ensuing damage will be damaging for them. Tolerance and diplomacy will be the key to success.

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