Issues

YOUR FREEDOM ENDS WHERE MY NOSE BEGINS

By Dr. Darakhshan Anjum

The problems of action and its reaction, attack and counterattack, attack and self defence or attack in frustration arise when an egotistic person or community ridicules the religion, feelings, values, norms and  culture of another. Every person has the right to express his or her thoughts and beliefs so long as he / she remains within certain limits. None is entitled to disseminate falsehood or to circulate reports which may outrage public decency, or to indulge in slander, innuendo or to cast aspersions on others. No one shall hold in contempt or ridicule the religious sentiments of others or incite public hostility against them. Respect for the religious feelings of others should be obligatory. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has set an example by his behaviour for all generations to come. His values and teachings are not for certain period only, or for one particular society. How can anybody ridicule him whose excellent character, great behaviour, generosity, truthfulness, patience and kindness are praised by scholars all over the world? If anybody ridicules him just to hurt the sentiments of his followers, they should remember that the person or religion they are ridiculing has not ridiculed their feelings, their sentiments and their religion. Islam is the religion of peace as the Qur’an says: “And don’t insult those they invoke other than Allah lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge” (6: 108).

Speech is a basic means of communication for exchanging ideas. but is not for disgracing others or, to ridicule them. Freedom of speech does not mean to hurt others with one’s venomous tongue. Such portrayal provokes terrorist attacks and develops gap between religions. The concept of freedom of expressions needs to be better defined. There should be reasonable restrictions on it. It should be borne in mind while expressing anything outrageous that it might hurt the sensibilities of others.   

 On the other hand, terrorist attacks are also not justified. Attackers should seek the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). When in Taif people harassed, ridiculed and physically hurt him, he did not react. Instead, he patiently prayed for them and wished them well as well as their coming generations. Human values do not permit us to ridicule or disgrace anyone. Islam teaches patience, modesty, kindness and restraint. Regarding diversity of religion the Qur’an says: “To you be your way, And to me mine” (109:6).

Islam gives the criteria for a believer for judging all of his / her behaviour and conduct. It determines his / her relationship with other individuals and with society as a whole. Pride and arrogance in any aspect of conduct are not accepted. No individual is superior to another, except in his degree of faith and good deeds. Terrorist attacks are not and never justified as Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance. The types of writing and other of portrayal in the name of freedom of expression that offend, insult, harass, disgrace and hurt the sentiments of others are not and will never be acceptable.

The wirter is Post Doctoral fellow,
Dept of Islamic Studies, Aligarh Muslim University

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2015 on page no. 2

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