Thursday, 20 May 2010

Understanding Freedom of Expression

One of the regular visitors to this blog has asked me a question that must also be in the minds of many others:
"I get stuck- when non-Muslims say that a cartoon is just a cartoon, and why are you taking it seriously. You can draw images of us and also of our gods.To them i reply that Islam teaches love and respect to all religions and prophets. But... they keep saying that draw our cartoons and we will publish them."
No, they will not. Ask them to read the laws regarding libel and patents that exist in their country. Unrestrained freedom of expression has neither been advocated nor found desirable anywhere in the world so far. There are always certain limits even in US. The issue is how to define those limits.

Here are a few examples:

  • Facebook itself deleted the official page of People's Resistance, a broad-based Pakistani group formed for a peaceful struggle for restoration of judiciary sometime ago. I am told that not only their page got deleted but they even received warnings from FB administration just because they had invited for an event involving protest in favor of judiciary in their own country. Read more on Teeth Maestro

  • When Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie was published, Pakistani filmmaker Shehzad Gul responded by making a film called International Guerillay that depicted Salman Rushdie in a negative manner. While Rushdie's book had been allowed to circulate in UK, the film was initially banned because Rushdie could have filed libel suite not only against the film producer but also against the British authorities! Read details on Wikipedia.

  • Recently, there were news about Megan Fox taking some legal action against an advertisement of baby milk that used just her first name "Megan" in a funny conversation (you can search it on the Internet).
So, the freedom of expression does not mean that everything goes. Now, it may be that most people in the West do not mind if their prophets and deities are mocked, so it has been allowed in their law. Many people in the East seem to mind that (and it's not just a Muslim thing: Christians sought ban on Da Vinci Code movie and Hindus protested against the exhibition of paintings by M F Husain disrespecting Hindu goddesses.

Why people in the West are more tolerant about ridiculing religion (when they are not equally tolerant about defamation of living citizens) than in the East may be because whenever a civilization is going down it shows these kinds of symptoms - it was the same with ancient Rome, the later Mughal Empire and so on. 

So, the bottom line is that while the contemporary Western societies seem to be in favor of protecting only their living citizens through laws against defamation, most Eastern societies today seem to be extending that cover to religious personalities long dead also. Again, this is not an essentially East-West thing: Western societies in their better days were also like this, for instance about 150 years ago when "the sun did not set on their empire"!

In this situation, what we all need to learn - the West as much as the East - is that in a world that has practically become a global village, one cannot go on behaving like the village idiot anymore. We need to show some ettiquettes.


ReeBz said...

Sir i agree with you, but this will happen only in one case. i.e "when you are talking to somewhat mentally matured people" when the other person is totally illiterate and a robust than his answers will be totally different.To them, what i have noticed is, that, they don't respect any prophet, not even their own Jesus Christ.One person asked me that i should also make humiliating cartoons for all the gods including the hindu ones and the other religions' spiritual personalities.if they will be creative enough he will publish them.
I wish i could shut their mouths somehow, but some one has rightly said :"Jawab-e-Jahilan bashud khamoshi"
One thing made me really happy here i.e "because whenever a civilization is going down it shows these kinds of symptoms - it was the same with ancient Rome, the later Mughal Empire and so on."This is somewhat comforting to read,that I'm not the only one who thinks so!

Finally, i know there are laws even in US and there are laws about freedom of speech.
Here it is:"According to the dictionary of "Oxford University Press"- "Oxford guide to British and American culture", Freedom of speech is :"The right to express any opinions in public.This right became part of American law under the "First Amendment".If the opinions expressed are false or damage a person's reputation,however that person can take legal action under US law.In Britain people are free to express most opinions,but it is against the law to express some ideas,e.g ideas that aim to cause RACIAL hatred."

But if US had any respect for these laws,She would order FB to ban and remove those filthy pages.

Connie said...

Shall we try to notice when fear and loss of energy may feed our anger? This includes me - because I do take your part and have solidarity/empathy with YOU in all of this this...

My biggest fear right now is that such an immature act on the part of those without understanding of others may fuel unnecessary isolation.

I don't want to become separate, isolated from you...

Surely this forum will lead to more understanding and respect for all and even more unity on a deeper level...

Just keep in mind there is very little uniformity among many in the West...we are not at all one entity...those who are loudest and most immature/hateful are often very few of us...many of us wonder why we must keep living with this kind of association/representation and despise this as you do...

Many here too are just trying to survive and barely can keep up if at all with own struggles. Finding time to make cartoons or to talk about this topic if known could find no time even if wanted...

Some of my friends are trying to help the displaced Muslims and others from all over the world here in daily ways of raising money, shelter, food, transportation, schooling, even getting scholarships...Other friends and groups work night and day from my state and nation to LIVE every day for those hurting around the world - including from YOUR world..even when personal economy shrinks and shrinks...

Most Christians even don't see eye to eye...and MOST Americans are not really practicing Christians in any certain way,..some have given it all up having the same aversion as many of you to cultural and rigid interpretations which sometimes have led to voting for more war...and isolation...

Those I know of who are actual followers of Christ are also peacemakers in history and now and basically Love and respect what You Love and respect - practice Jesus teachings from Sermon on the Mount - if resistant without violence yet often NON resistant which is not the same as tolerating the evil.

Last night as I was praying about my response, not knowing where to receive confirmation, I turned right to this from within my scripture:

"Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called"

But your way may need to differ a little...Who am I to say?

And if this conversation helps all of us to not only respect one another and all the true Prophets and Allah more and others also who don't fall in that category even, then all the better...

IF this helps us together to find ways to hear and love better all our poor and powerless all the better. We can't lose our energy and ignore our many displaced fellow humans who've ended up many in the West and are expanding in number there with nowhere to go..surpassing even Sudan last year...(in part at least from the choices our own nations have made- probably my own nation being most at fault)

Nor can we ignore all the imprisoned...

Then each to our own way of "figuring out" our best response or no response and to nevertheless to do the best work we each can with our own lives as each of you are daily seeking to do.

I love you each here at RR and TRUST you and we together with the help of the One Spirit among us we will find the best path to take in this and countless future steps alone and together always...

IF not back soon, this is not because of the conversation but because I have a family event which may involve several weeks...

ReeBz said...

I wish all of us can be like you.
But you are here among us, since long. We never provoke might know it.But we better know how to deal with the trolls.
Everything has limit.You can see i made a very simple post,i didnot abuse anyone or used words of hatred for anyone.
But i dunno what is annoying your fellow Americans that they are even demanding the removal of my blog just cause of one picture which of course is not harming them?
Where is my right of freedom of speech?

I wish All Americans were like you! peaceful and calm!