Why should Americans care about Free Speech in the Middle East?
The purpose of this article is to fill a gap in the literature regarding the role of Ali Ben Talib as a Free Speech advocate during the 7th century. Contrary to Western researchers’ assumption that the movement of Free Speech started during the 17th century, the Fourth Khalifa, Ali Ben Talib was a Free Speech advocate during the 7th century. Talib protected and promoted Free Speech, and he scarified his life for defending it. For example, Talib would have tolerated the pain of the Satanic Verse Novel. His tolerance would absolutely contradict Ayatollah Khomeini’s verdict of killing Salman Rushdie the author of the Satanic Verses Novel (Rauch, 2013, p. 20). Khomeini and the Shia Nations subscribe to Talib’s ideology and rightly considered Talib the fourth Khalifa. The assassination of Talib marked the beginning of censorship and authoritarianism regimes within most of the Muslim nations.
Talib Assassination and the Death of Free Speech
A curious reader of the Middle East Arabic newspapers would encounter ample news of cases of inquisition imposed and unchallenged by the mighty thought policing political power to enforce an ill-suited value of the fearless political savers. These fake savers have the audacity claiming that they follow the Islamic ideology, yet there is nothing further from the truth than their claim. The politicians and the police are Muslims, and they are naïve. Recently one case of murdering is the case of journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (Cascino, 2018; Chaulia, 2018; Resnick, 2018). Contrarily to the news media, neither King Salman nor Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Though neither men needed to order the killing of any person who opposes either the king or the Crown Prince, yet all of the Saudi agencies and apparatuses will eliminate any threat without receiving any order. Contrarily to thought policing and shocking of Free Speech, during a recent news conference, President Trump and CNN's White House correspondent Jim Acosta prompted a verbal dual regarding Free Speech and Freedom of Press (Staradvertiser, 2018; Washingtonpost, 2018). Subsequently, Jim Acosta lost his credential and was not allowed to attend conference in the White House. CNN filed a lawsuit against President Trump. Though Fox network usually be counted on to faithfully support President Trump and his administration (FoxNews, 2018), yet FOX network executives publicly rebuked the White House’s move to block Jim Acosta from entering the White House. Furthermore, the presiding judge reinstated (CNNAcosta, 2018) Jim Acosta’s White House credential. If Jim Acosta were a Saudi’s journalist, he would have been dead as the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
As Americans, we say viva Free Speech and Freedom of Press. Also in Spain, thought policing political power was Torquemada’s prosecutor’s behavior (Chamberlin, 1961). It was manifested when a man lost his life for objecting to the behavior of the ruling party. Another example of thought policing political power is when Fandos, and Mele (2017) reported that the Turkish government security forces and several armed individuals, violently attacked a peaceful group of protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador's Residence in Washington, D.C. A third example is the order by Ayatollah Khomeini, the killing of Salman Rushdie, the author of the Satanic Verses Novel (Rauch, 2013, p. 20).
Khomeini and the Shia Nations subscribe to Talib’s ideology and rightly considered Talib the fourth Khalifa. Khomeini was a Talibist. Talib would have tolerated the pain of the Satanic Verse Novel, and he was against thought policing, constraining Free Speech. Talib warned his supports of the dangers of imposing political rules on the citizens without their consent. Talib knew that supporting Free Speech would promote epistemology and the desire to explore new knowledge. Not only Talib promoted Free Speech for his worst ignorant adversaries, but also he knew that knowledge comes from contrasting competing views. Talib was the leader of discerning Muslim intellectuals for protecting Islam from false ideologies and Islamic zealots. He promoted freedom of thought and Free Speech. The Shia and Sunni Muslims have rules and regulations, but neither of them adopted and encouraged Free Speech as Talib did throughout his life. Talib believed that there is a correlation between the volume of contradicting views and expanding knowledge. An example of the result of contradicting views and progress is the number of Nobel prizes in science between 1901 and 1985. The U.S. won 128 prizes, and Japan won 5 prizes. According to Rauch (2013), Americans produced new knowledge through a direct collision of contradicting views. The low number of prizes could be due to that the Japanese culture prohibits public criticism and only permits praising comments. Excluding the independent Muslims, an educated reader would probably like to know collectively the number of Nobel Prizes in science that the Talibists (Shia), and the Sunni Muslims won. Collectively, they won a few Nobel Prizes in science, but they killed thousands of people who dared to challenge their authoritarian thought policing regimes. In Pakistan for example, they unsuccessfully tried to kill the 21 years old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai for daring to voice her opinion.
The fundamental Islamic questions are why do extremists feel it is mandatory to control Islamic thought? What is the major threat which triggered the need for controlling Islamic thought? Who gave the extremists the right to control the Islamic thought? How do Muslims recognize thought controlling regime? For the rest of the Muslim population, the question that Senator Howard Baker asked during the Watergate hearing is very pertinent for defending Islam against extremists. He asked, “What can one know and when can one know it?” Or how do Muslims defend Islam against the attitude of authoritarian people like Plato and Saddam Hussein? The text of the Quran is independent of the wrong human perception and interpretation. Some Muslims’ interpretations are correct and others' are wrong. Therefore, how can you sort the truth from inaccurate Islamic statements? When is it legitimate for you as a Muslim to claim that you are right and I am wrong? Or When can I claim that I am correct and you are wrong? Can a Muslim Shia and a Sunni discuss their difference through fact-finding instead of using bullets? Is that Talibist trying to convert the other Muslims to be Muslims?
In his book, Rauch (2013) reported that Plato wondered about men who had opinions about things without explaining how they opine. Knowledge must be debunkable, and fallibility must be considered. Additionally, John Locke stated that great men could make mistakes (Rauch, 2013). Rauch (2013) reported that Einstein was intrigued by discovering errors. Einstein consciously searched for his errors in the hope of learning by their discovery and elimination. Even though Talib had the support of the majority for avoiding errors, he was adamant and unyielding to permit the minority of the representatives to air their views. Talib promoted the variation of views, and he encouraged his deputies not to conform to his views blindly. He faced an overwhelming challenge for changing the tribe’s loyalty to the adherence to the election’s rules and results. He tried to replace an authoritarian system with a democratic system. In spite of facing severe resistance from the religious zealots who were the reciters of the Quran, he believed that the suppression of criticism was a deliberate repugnant act. These religious zealots believed that they were the truthful, peaceful Islamic forces and Talib and his troops were liars. They claimed that they were the true followers of God’s orders to fight Talib. The critical difference between the religious zealots’ thinking and Talib’s logical thinking was that Talib allowed the possibility of being wrong with a decision. Numerous times through his life, he indicated that he was a human and he could make mistakes.
In contrast, the Islamic zealots were adamant that they were correct. Talibists (Shia) and Sunni advocates could start a dialog among themselves after each believing in the possibility of having the wrong concepts about the other. Both parties need to utilize other means instead of fighting to solve their disputes. According to Rauch (2013), Khomeini stated that “Islam contains everything” in contrast to his opinion, the first and the second Khalifas assigned to Talib cases to find solutions for problems that were not mentioned in the Quran (Al Sharqawee, 1990a, 1990b). Rauch (2013) indicated that finding and discovering a solution for a new problem is a challenging task and an investigator usually meets resistance and ridicule for his/her new idea and for suggesting a solution. Rauch (2013) quoted Robert Gallo statement which says, “A no-offense society is a non-knowledge society.” Al Sharqawee (1990a, 1990b) stated that Talib established a new process that met with resistance and mockery.
According to Al Sharqawee (1990a, 1990b), Talib energized discussion and debate among his supporters as well as his adversaries. Additionally, Talib believed that allowing his adversaries a chance to state their claims would permit the truth to emerge. Rauch (2013) claimed that the truth and knowledge come from the collision of two or more ideas. Talibists (Shia) and Sunni would benefit significantly from exchanging ideas and debating their ideological differences instead of killing each other. When a society adopts certain ideological concepts and issues gag orders, it does not benefit from Free Speech advocacy. Furthermore, when a government becomes under the control of a certain ideology, terrorizing dissenters become acceptable practices. As a judge, one of Talib’s creative management style was the process of giving a plaintive and defendant a chance to state their cases freely without any pressure. Talib was an extremely knowledgeable and modest man. He said that he was a human and could make mistakes. Contrarily, Khomeini said that “I do know that, during my long-life time, I have always been right about what I said.” (Rauch, 2013) Similarly, an example of absolute conviction was the statement made by Marine LT. Col. Oliver North who stated, “Sometimes you must have to go above the written law.” Similarly, the reciters of the Quran shifted from being Talib’s supporters to his worst enemies due to lack of comprehending the Quran.
Talib's assassination during the 7th century was the beginning of splitting Muslims into Shia and Sunni section. Additionally, an investigator of the current Middle East situation and the fighting between Talibists (Shia) and Sunni could conclude that the fighting is politically motivated; with the conclusion that both sides of the fighting are adamant to continue destroying each other.
The intent of this article is to expand the body of knowledge regarding Free Speech and to provide a new avenue for future research to explore the role of Muslim scholars regarding Free Speech. Currently, one major problem with some Muslims is the lack of understanding the American ideas regarding Free Speech. Primarily, the extent of the meaning of Free Speech among Americans is not clear to a significant portion of the Muslim population. For example, Talib would have tolerated the pain of the Satanic Verse Novel, and his tolerance defiantly opposed Ayatollah Khomeini’s order of killing Salman Rushdie, the author of the Satanic Verses Novel (Rauch, 2013, p. 20). New research about the role of Ali Ben Talib as a Free Speech advocate during the 7th century could expand the body of knowledge regarding Free Speech. Talib would object to the current Islamic Education in the Middle East, an education expert might observe the deficiency of the root methods of teaching Islamic history through passivity that drains the students’ creativity. Talib would have promoted peace between Shia and Sunni by helping both to explore their abilities to put themselves in the position of their opponent who think differently.
Al Sharqawee, A. R. (1990a). Ali Ben Talib, The leader of believers (1st ed. Vol. One): Cairo, Egypt: Gareeb
Al Sharqawee, A. R. (1990b). Ali Ben Talib, The leader of believers (1st ed. Vol. Two). Cairo, Egypt: Gareeb.
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Rauch, J. (2013). Kindly inquisitors: The new attacks on free thought: University of Chicago Press.
Resnick, E. (2018). The Case of Jamal Khashoggi: America’s Obsolete Alliance with Saudi Arabia.
Staradvertiser. (2018). Judge delays ruling on CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s White House credential. Retrieved from http://www.staradvertiser.com/2018/11/15/breaking-news/trump-administration-defends-its-case-against-revoking-cnns-jim-acostas-press-credentials/
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Topics: Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Freedom Of Speech, Shia-Sunni Relations Channel: Islamic Perspectives From America