Navigating Boundaries: Islam, Free Speech, and Minority Rights in the West

Protests in London (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

Regarding desecrating the Quran or the personality of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), it is important to move beyond street protests everywhere. Constructive thoughts will allow space for Western decision makers.

1. Presence of Jewish and Christian Personalities. The Quran mentions by name Moses (pbuh) and Jesus (pbuh) at least 75x and 25x, respectively. There are chapters on Mary (pbuh) and on her family. How insane it is to burn the Quran or insult Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)! Ignorance can be so humiliating!! So, what is the point of this form of protest?

2. Size of World Muslim Population Provide Wrong Perspective. Whenever protests originate in Muslim states, the profile of the problem for the West changes, taking a common strategic hue for all. Any toning down appears like a forced face to lesser nations. An inoculation to this unnecessary reaction lies in arriving at a fact-based decision.

3. Rights of Western Muslims as a Minority Community. Muslims in the West are very much in the minority. They should be shown the same sensitivity as the traditional minority populations therein. The latter entities’ political rights are enshrined within the governing system of the West. Language and acts causing emotional, physical, academic, professional, economic, religious and political harassment and estrangement of Western Muslims should stop.

4. Religious Protest and Incitement do not Speak Truth to Power. Not knowing the Quran, biography of the Prophet (pbuh) and Muslim view of Jesus (pbuh) poses a serious disadvantage to Western authorities. Long unchallenged misjudgment about Islam has bred a facile approach in this matter. In case the protest is religious, in a secular system of government requiring even-handedness among religious orders, a denial of permission to desecrate thus in public space is an obvious choice. If the protestor’s intention is to simply get a reaction from the Muslims, then preventing provocation is required.

5. Random Protestor. Should a protestor be allowed to show up one fine day and abuse the Quran or Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) either out of fancifulness or having been unable to creatively assail Islam and Muslims? The protestor’s knowledge of Islam and any previous action criticizing Islam and Muslims need assessment before enabling a protest episode.

6. Irreligiosity Among Westerners. The recent Dutch convert, Joram Van Klaveren, indicated to TRTWorld, the West has become highly sanitized toward religious values. It looks at expressions of sentiments of sacredness as highly foreign Thus, even the most civic minded Westerner struggles to be inclusive with regard to Muslims in such matters. Muslims, being who they are bear the brunt of Western disregard.

7. Misinterpreting Succinctness. It is interesting that a rambling accusation against an entity is dismissed as having a problem. It is like throwing in the kitchen sink to make one final argument! Succinctness is a skill of great virtue then. On the flip side, burning the Quran or trashing the Prophet (pbuh) is so succinct, so total and so absolute, that it too is incredulous! Why? How can a charge sheet be so sweeping as to condemn the roots of one-fifth of the world’s population?

8. Meritorious Use of Freedom of Speech. Highlighting Islamic view of the quality and purpose of Freedom of Speech (Q/6:108): “Do not insult those they call upon besides Allah, lest they insult Allah out of hostility and ignorance. We made it attractive to every community with their deeds…” Further, the Prophet (pbuh) warned: Don’t curse your parents for it is a major sin. He explained, insulting the father of someone will cause that person to insult back one’ own parents (Bukhari: 5,628; Muslim: 90). Still, it is worthwhile sharing arguments made by another critic of Western mind-set 1 Al Andalusi, Abdullah, An argument against Insult being protected under ‘Freedom of Speech’ - i.  With Free Speech being proposed to pursue truth - “gratuitous insult offers no truth!’ ii. Being able and free to insult is not an expression of individuality as Liberals claim because its ‘benefit’ can only be realized by violating the rights of other individuals.

9. Religious Freedom of the Protestor. The Quran declares: "Lakum deen-u-kum walya deen” (Q/109:5) – ‘To you, your religion; and to me, mine.’ Thus, trashing the Quran does not constitute practicing freedom of religious right! So, when Muslims oppose Islamophobic acts, they do not seek to deny the religious rights of the instigators.

10, Irrational Fear of Islam and Muslims. The Quran vigorously defends one’s right to believe as one chooses: "La ikraha fiddeen” (Q/2:256) – ‘there is no compulsion in religion.’ The spread of Islam centuries earlier in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia, and now all over the world, contradicts millennium plus years long flagrant mischaracterization that Islam spread based on fear. So, abusive protests directed at condemning inherent Muslim threat is unjustified.

11. Protecting Western Muslim Minority from Cross-Border Harassment. Only recently, Sweden irresponsibly allowed a Danish politician, Rasmus Paludan, to burn a copy of the Quran in front of the Embassy of Turkiye! The least Western countries can do is prevent cross-border raids on their law abiding, productive minority population groups.

12. Drawing an Equivalence. Following the 2023 Election, the President of Turkiye drew an interesting juxtaposition. If burning down iconic emblems of faith like a Synagogue, Church, or Temple is not an act of Freedom of Speech, why publicly trashing the Quran or the Prophet is?

13. Learning from Muslims. In recent decades, following horrifying, one-sided, false-flag wars, embargoes, coups and outright betrayal with millions of deaths, injuries and PTSD impact against Muslim nation-states neither the Bible nor the personality of Moses or Jesus (pbut) has been once sullied by Muslims. It’s time the West rose to the standard of the oft-despised Muslims.

14. Islamophobia Acting as Strategic Cornerstone. Finally, given certain long-standing Middle Eastern policy bias, Islamophobia and its associated symptoms will be long lasting because it’s reflective of US national defense strategy developed following the Vietnam debacle.

 Note: pbuh/t – peace be upon him/her/them

Shafi A. Khaleda free-lance commentator, is a Labor and Development Economist with substantial contribution to the Theory of Islamic Finance. He also promotes dependency relief for non-Muslims through ’Totally Personal Total Choice - Standing Up To Addiction’, located at


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