Opinion | Columnists

Let’s stop the freedom to abuse

Muslims should work on a universal law through international statutes that make it a clear criminal act when race, religion or ethnicity is so publicly affronted

  • By Tariq A. Al-Maeena | Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 September 23, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

Muslims the world over have been aggrieved; their sense and sensibility attacked by the promotion of a vile video clip grossly insulting their religion and the Prophet (PBUH). Yet, in spite of the illusion of Muslims gone wild, as depicted by the wide coverage in the media of protesting crowds, reaction has been relatively restrained when one considers that there are more than one billion Muslims on the planet.

That does not mean there is no anger. But in many quarters, that anger is beginning to focus peacefully towards responding to the organs that carry such hateful messages rather than resorting to uncontrolled bursts of violence against western countries.

One such movement is being promoted by a Saudi, M.B. who in his message says:

When black people are attacked, they call it “Racism”,

When Jewish people are attacked, they call it “Anti-Semitism”,

When women are attacked, they call it “Gender discrimination”,

When homosexuality is attacked, they call it “Intolerance”,

When their country is attacked, they call it “Terrorism”,

When a religious sect is attacked, they call it “Hate speech”,

But when our religion and the dignity of our beloved Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is attacked,

Google and YouTube call it “Freedom of Expression”!

His message continues: “I respect the US freedom of speech policy on the domestic market although completely against such freedom on a foreign policy basis, especially if it promotes ethnic and religious hate globally. Having said that, Google, which owns YouTube, is surely a promoter of ‘hate’ as they refused to take off the video made on Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)” after the US government had asked them to do so without success. Their management is surely anti-Islamic to say the least. FYI, YouTube has taken down many hated and objectionable videos off its portal tonnes of times!”

He goes on to suggest: “Let us stop using Google and YouTube immediately! I strongly suggest that we use Yahoo! as a search engine and use Hotmail or Yahoo! or MSN for mailing.”

An Egyptian expatriate in Saudi Arabia, A.M., added: “As I was thinking about this despicable (not even third-rate) but sinister YouTube clip and listening to all the pundits while they gracefully deplored the piece, at the same time invoking protection of free speech. Here is the puzzling thing. I know that it is a crime — yes, a crime by law — if a person writes anything questioning the holocaust. Free speech notwithstanding I am sure you have heard about several cases of writers who were indicted and accused for doing so. So why not we, as Muslims, get together and work on passing a law? I know it may take years and years, but one thing that no one can ever take away from us is TIME!”

The laws are already in the books. Although it was pushed primarily to cover the denial of the holocaust, the European Parliament agreed in Luxembourg in April 2007 to Article 1 of the Common Framework Decision which states that:

Each member state shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable:

(A) Publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.

(B) The commission of an act referred to in point (A) by public dissemination or distribution of facts, pictures or other material.

(D) Publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising the crimes ... directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin, where the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a group.

However, do such laws apply to Muslims and Islam? Are they enforced when Muslims are affronted by hate motivated actions? No! Affronts to our religion are quickly dismissed under the “freedom of expression” umbrella. That is why France appears impotent in enforcing its anti-hate laws when Prophet Mohammad [PBUH] is insulted by caricatures that were released just days following the initial furore over the video clip.

Or why another provocative action against Muslims is to be promoted in New York’s subway systems, an advertisement that blatantly carries the message: “In any war between the civilised man and the savage, support the civilised man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” The implications are very clear — Israelis are civilised, while Arabs are savage jihadists. Although the subway authority initially ruled against the running of the advertisements, a US District Court judge ruled last month that it is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Herein lurks the hypocrisy that underlines a lot of anger and resentment. Why is it that historians and academics are immediately brought to trial and face imprisonment when they question some historical aspects of the holocaust? Why is the concept of freedom of speech not invoked then in their defence? Is it okay to continue taking potshots at Islam and Muslims?

It is time for wiser and calmer heads to prevail. Muslims should work on a universal law through international statutes that make it a clear criminal act when race, religion or ethnicity is so publicly affronted. No more freedom to abuse!

Tariq A. Al-Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Comments (2)

  1. Added 15:55 September 23, 2012

    Thank you for writing this piece. Karma in Hinduism was once explained to me by a friend. Whatever you do, however you behave it comes back to you. I am a Muslim but I believe this is something that is universal. How do you feel when someone you love is abused; your mother or your daughter, a deeply beloved? Is that Freedom of Speech? Offense and abuse will breed the same. It is the law of nature. And love will beget love. Freedom of Speech should not be a license to cause hurt. Interestingly this license expires when it comes to the Holocaust. The editorial in today’s Gulf News adds to this. It is strange Suu Kyi is silent on the subject of Muslim genocide.

    Maryam, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 10:55 September 23, 2012

    As the late great Christopher Hitchens would have pointed out, race and ethnicity are given, not chosen. So prejudice on this alone is patently unfair. But religion is a choice, like political affiliation. If it enters the public realm, it can be questioned. All else is a tyranny of the easily offended over everyone else.

    Peter, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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