Islam and the Freedom of Speech

Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion and 1/4th of the world’s population is Muslim.  Islam is not just an Arab religion, Arabs are only 8% of the Muslim world’s population but a global religion.  There are many mosques being built in the West in a time where churches are experiencing a decline and are being shut down.

Being both an American and a Muslim I can see where there can be a dilemma between the idea of freedom of speech and Islamic Shariah.  However, upon further looking into this matter there really should not be a conflict between the two.

Freedom of speech guarantees the right of a person or people to speak out against perceived injustices being done by government or groups without the fear of legal retaliation.  This is necessary in order to allow people to speak their minds which in turn can lead to improvements within the system.  A good example of where freedom of speech is necessary is in Tunisia.  Tunisia is the birthplace of the Arab Spring.  They recently had a new government instilled after spending three years under a transitional government.  This transitional government came about after a short but peaceful protest against the Ben Ali dictatorial regime.  If people spoke out against the government, they would be arrested, beaten, and tortured, never to be heard from again with retaliation against the families of the people who dared to speak out against this vile dictator.  Now Tunisia is getting used to Democracy and what the freedom of speech means.

Recently a Tunisian blogger named Yassine Ayari was arrested for speaking against the Tunisian military.  He had accused military officials of financial abuse.  This case has received international attention and will give the new Tunisian government their first test of Democracy.

Anjem Choudry, a follower of the Khawaraj extremist ideology recently said that Islamic law or Shariah dictates that people who defame the Prophet Muhammad or Islam are to be killed.  This is absolutely not true.  There were people who ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad and he always smiled to them and forgave them.  The Prophet was in the habit of praying for his enemies asking for Allah to forgive them and make them Muslim and if they do not become Muslim then perhaps their children will become Muslim.  People spit in his face and when his companions wanted to kill them he prevented his companions from doing so.

Islamic Shariah traditionally has never applied to non-Muslims just Muslims.  This has always been the case from the Caliphates until the Ottoman Empire.  The Prophet Muhammad said that the Christians and Jews had their own books in which to judge by.

Anjem Choudry also said that freedom of speech or expression is not allowed in Islam.  This is not true either.  There was a Muslim woman who came before the Prophet Muhammad and asked him why the Qur’an does not make reference to women and after this Surat An-Nisa or Women was revealed.  When his companions tried to make the woman not speak out he allowed for her to speak his mind.

Islam is used to fight injustice.  How can injustices be known about and addressed if Muslims are not allowed to speak about injustice.  The freedom of speech is a valuable weapon in speaking about the injustices of the world.

Freedom of speech should be used responsible however.  It should not be used to abuse a people or a belief system, to call people to violence, or to incite hate.  It should be used to improve society and make the world a better place.

Choudry called for a ban against all speech against Islam.  When I see these images of the Prophet or read articles against Islam or the terrorists I remember that the Prophet Muhammad said that he is reflected in the actions of his followers, so if people think ill about our Prophet or Islam then we as a collective people are to blame.  We are defaming and shaming our Prophet and our religion.  When people kill in the name of Islam and this gets press coverage, of course people will think bad about our religion and our Prophet.  We are supposed to be the best of people and be the best of examples, a light to the world, not a scourge.  We should compete with other religions in seeing who can be the best to the other like Allah commands in the Qur’an.  We are not living up to who we are supposed to be.  Allah will not change a people until they change themselves.  This is a lesson of self-reflection and in order to improve Islam’s image to the world it starts with each one of us Muslims individually.

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