With the latest in-your-face act of the Facebook, the issue is once again attracting headlines. Should Muslims react? How should they react? Where do they stand on the philosophical issue underlying all this?
In the media the issue has been framed as a clash between two camps. One camp stands for freedom of expression. The other wants to curtail it. Needless to say the first camp is enlightened and virtuous. The other is a relic of the dark ages. The clash in other words is between a civilized and civilizing West and Islam that just refuses to be civilized.
Once you accept this framing of the whole issue, the outcome is already decided. Are you for freedom of expression or not? It is a loaded question, and just like the yes/no question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" no matter how you answer it, you remain guilty.
Look at the typical Muslim response which begins, "We also believe in freedom of expression but..." It matters little what you say after that. It is obvious that you are trying to add exclusions and limitations to a basic moral value while the other side is asking for no such limits. It is not difficult to see which side will come out ahead.
But this predicament is a result of uncritically accepting a false statement about the nature of the clash. For the real clash is not between those who are for and those who are against a freedom. Rather it is between two different freedoms. On the one hand is the freedom to insult. On the other is freedom from insult. Whether it was the Satanic Verses of the 1980s or the Cartoons of 2005 and their endless reproduction since then, if they stand for any freedom, it is freedom to insult. Pure and simple. Muslims, on the other hand, have stood for and demanded freedom from insult. Nothing more. Nothing less.
These are certainly opposing values. You can be for one or the other. And the question does arise, which one is a better value.
To see that let us imagine a society that truly believes in the first as a cherished moral value. It celebrates freedom to insult and guards it at all costs. Every member of it enjoys this freedom and practices it regularly. In a business everyone insults everyone else. The boss is insulting the employees, the employees are insulting the bosses. The salesmen are insulting the customers. The accountants are insulting the creditors. Everyone is enjoying the great freedom to insult. The same is true of the home. The parents are always insulting the children. The children are constantly insulting the parents. The spouses are incessantly insulting each other. And in doing so they all stand on the high moral ground because freedom to insult is such a fundamental freedom on which the society is built.
Actually contrary to the claims of the pundits if the Western society was truly built on this "cherished moral value," it would have perished a long time ago --- consumed by the fires of hatred and negativity generated by this freedom. No home, no neighborhood, no village, no business, no organization and no society can survive for long if it makes freedom to insult as a cornerstone of its freedoms. Clearly most who advocate this freedom do not practice it in their daily lives. But they are making an exception in the case of Islam and Muslims. The driving force behind this is not any great moral principle but a deep rooted hatred born of ignorance.
Software professionals sometimes use a term called beature. It stands for a bug turned into a feature. A bug is a defect in the software. A feature, on the other hand, is a desirable attribute. A beature is a defect that is presented (thanks to slick marketing) as a feature. Freedom to insult is also a beature. It is the growing sickness of Islamophobia in the West which is being presented as a high moral value, packaged by the slick marketing departments as freedom of expression.
Well, whether or not freedom to insult is a Western value, Islam has nothing to do with it. It lays emphasis on its exact opposite: the freedom from insult. It values human dignity, decency, and harmony in the society. The freedom of religion it ensures includes freedom from insults. While it does not shy away from academic discussion of its beliefs and showing the falsehood of non-Islamic beliefs, it makes sure that the discussion remains civil. In those discussions it wants to engage the intellect of its opponents; in contrast those who itch to insult their opponents are interested in satisfying their vulgar emotions. Thus while its most important battle is against false gods it asks its followers to refrain from reviling them. (Qur'an, Al-anam, 6:108). It also reminds them to stay away from harsh speech. "Allah loves not the utterance of harsh speech save by one who has been wronged." (Qur'an, Al-Nisa, 4:148). Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, who is being reviled by the scum of the world, taught Muslims to never let the low moral standards of their adversaries dictate theirs.
As a result of these teachings Muslims can never even imagine insulting any Prophet --- from Adam to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Even when they ruled the world, Muslims treated the religious leaders of non-Muslim also with respect - even during battles. In the Baghdad court Jewish and Christian scholars engaged in open discussions with the Muslim savants. Needless to say they had not been attracted by the freedom to insult but its exact opposite. Freedom from insult is a fundamental value that assures peace and harmony. It leads to healthy societies. And Muslims are very proud of their impeccable record here.
What is true of a home or a village is also true of the world as it has become a global village. Now, more than ever before, the world needs the harmony and tolerance that can only be assured by the freedom from insults.
Each society has myths. Hindus are no exceptions and nor are muslims. They have their myths. Ramayana, probably good deal of it is myth. Who knows what part is true about a story over 4000 years old.
when the same is done to islam, moslems are up for nothing good.
so if they can freely criticise other religions, the same applies for islam.
Rather than insulting and mudslinging other religions approach of Respect for All must be adopted.
A true free society is that where "I follow religion I believe in and practice without interference, and others can follow (or not follow) any religion without any interference from my side". Society based on respect rather than insult will be long-lasting and will bring structure rather than contradictions.
You are wrong that Muslims have no confidence in their religionMaybe you are not aware Islam is the fastest spreading religion in the West, while people are leaving christianity by the drone, especially with all the raping and torture of children by priests.
I know you monitor Muslim website to spread lies and misinformation, but you should not be ignored be exposed.
Unfortunately, insult is a relative term. What may be an insult to you may be normal behaviour of others. Why do muslims always feel insulted, but Buddhists don't? Because Muslims have no confidence in the strength of their religion or its convictions, and want to impose by Force. In US, we insult Jesus and Christianity all the time; christians pay little or no attention to them, because they are convinced of the strength of their religious convictions.
Insult is a feeling and nothing else. If you don't want to be insulted, then don't feel insulted. It is that simple. Just ignore. Life is not wine and roses; we don't like awful lot of things, but learn to live with them. So, learn to live with Freedom of Expression. The more you oppose Freedom of Expression, the more and stronger Freedoms will be used. Don't like it, too bad. You are in the Wrong Country. US (and now West) are built on those Freedoms and they are not going to give those freedoms back to some brain dead protestors and street hoodlums.
Prophet Muhammad was not the only messenger that he portrayed in his previous South Park cartoons. If making a caricature of a spiritual leader is a crime, then he attacked virtually all religious beliefs. Prophet Muhammad was never singled out.
The fact is, it was only the Muslims who had a problem with him making a caricature of someone so revered in their faith. And to go against this disruption, he asked the global community to join him in this fight against an attack on freedom of speech and expression. So most people joined him not to simply insult, but to make a statement. (Of course there will always be those who only want to insult, but they are simply ignorant and it is best to ignore them.)
Also, in regards to the original Danish cartoonist five years ago, there was no need to give him death threats and eventually murder him. Is a cartoonist Islam's biggest threat? Is it not important for Muslims (and all people) to concentrate on what is important, such as the Palestinians who have been dislocated from their homes? Or the Afghan, Sudanese, Iranian women who are treated as inferiors? How about we fight for something worth fighting for?
If Muslims continue to respond in such barbaric forms that eventually lead to catastrophe, such as the death of dozens of people related to The Satanic Verses, then of course we have to expect a fear of Islam. The moderate Muslims should not simply ignore the acts of extremists and say "they are not following the real Islam." They claim to be following Islam, and it is the Islam that the west is witnessing today.
Believers (Christians) are exempt from the blames of the unbelievers (non-Christians) when they converse on the guidance of the principles of their faith.