Monday, January 26, 2015

What is freedom of speech? Opinion or bullying and mocking?

Guest post by award-winning, bestselling author Samreen Ahsan 

Our world is trending on controversial hashtags these days: be it #JeSuisCharlie, #PeshawarAttack or #IWillRideWithYou. We all have our own opinions and thoughts—but what exactly does “freedom of speech” mean?

Is it having the right to express an opinion on something that you observe or read, or is it the power to criticize someone on the basis of their religion, nationality or colour?
To me, it is simply the power to generate your idea and raise your voice for justice.
I’d like to emphasize that I’m not here to criticize any theory or ideology. Everyone in this world has the right to believe in their own ways and no one has the right to mock them. God gave us the freedom of making our own decisions and taking charge of situations. He never asked us to rely on Him for every act. True, there are certain things that are in His hands (like our life and death) but on the journey from life to death, He has given us the power.
And what are all we doing here with that power? Just passing discriminatory remarks about each other and bullying in an immature way. Sure, it boils your blood if someone bullies your faith or ridicules your religion, but does that mean you should take out the sword and cut his throat?
I believe that everyone has the right to form his expression, yet I also believe that if you know something will offend a certain group, why take that path? There are other ways to make your magazine it necessary to choose the sensitive path? Make it more controversial just to get fame or some buzz?
Religion has always been a sensitive topic. Be it Jesus, Moses or Muhammad, I don’t think anyone should criticize someone’s belief system or the way they respect someone. Freedom of speech does NOT mean criticizing and mocking! It means you have the right to give your opinion on any matter without ridiculing someone’s ideology. And how do you do that? Work on the idea of think-before-you-speak.

On the other hand, I also believe that one should not react to someone’s criticism. I’m a practicing Muslim—why didn’t I react to Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons? Does that mean I don’t love my Prophet or I’m not sincere about Islam? NO! I believe no matter how much any other person criticize or mock, they cannot ruin Muhammad’s honor and dignity. He was chosen to be the last prophet and the religion and revelation of God is completed in him. So if someone picks Muhammad as a topic of criticism, it’s his mindset and his mindset own problem.
If I respect Jesus and follow Muhammad, I don’t expect the entire world to think the way I think and respect the way I respect. God is the one who gave us free will, so He is the one to give us freedom of expression. Everyone has the right to make an opinion. And this mocking won’t harm my faith and my honor toward Muhammad. It’s how God picked him. No one can cause dishonor because God honored him. We are not the ones to avenge Muhammad because his dignity is NOT going anywhere. He was and is a most noble man ever created.
The Quran says:
“We prescribed for them a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, an equal wound for a wound”

but it also says:
“if anyone forgoes this out of charity, it will serve as atonement for his bad deeds. Those who do not judge according to what God has revealed are doing grave wrong.”

When we are taking revenge—are we sure if it is eye-for-an-eye, or are we taking the entire head with it? When you try to form an opinion about Islam or Muslim practices, do you have an idea that incidents can occur as a backlash? Mocking Muhammad, hurting people’s belief for NO reason, in the name of “freedom of speech” or for the sake of fun, is not a mature act.

I’m a proud Muslim, I’m NOT oppressed. My religion gives me the right to practise how I want and how much I want because it has taught me that I will be going in my own grave and will be responsible for my own deeds. No one has the right to drag me to the mosque and pray five times. I’m responsible for myself.

Anyone can stand up and take out a sword; anyone can raise the voice and bully the other. We are not thinking about the collateral damage resulting from these revenges. Our governments are spending millions of dollars on nuclear weapons, ready to kill each other, while people around the globe are dying of exposure or the lack of food and clean water. It’s a shame to all of us!
We all have to live in this world till the Day of Judgement so why not make it a more tolerable and peaceful place to live in? When our house is burned, we don’t curse the fire or reason behind it. We try to either extinguish the fire or save what we can.

Being a Muslim, I condemn all these acts these Jihadists or unknown people are doing in the name of Islam. This is NOT Islam. Islam means peace and Jihad means fighting the demon in you first. Muhammad was dishonored during his time in Mecca and Medina, but he never raised his voice to kill anyone who disgraced him. There was NO blasphemy at that time.

Muhammad always stayed on this Quranic verse: “To you be your religion, and to me my religion”. And I think we should all follow this verse, whether Muslim, Christian, Jew or any other faith.

Remember, there’s a very fine line between an opinion and bullying. What is your freedom of speech?
Samreen Ahsan is the award-winning author of the "Silent Prayer" series, A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Answered, paranormal stories based on Islamic concepts.


History, art and literature are her passions. "I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

"Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing–and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities."

Samreen Ahsan lives in Toronto, Canada.

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