Thursday, February 23, 2006

free speech: islam and the west

assalamu alaikum :)


in light of the western world's defense that publishing the cartoons of Muhammad saw was an act of free speech, yesterday the MSA held an event comparing the concept of free speech in the eyes of islam and the west. below is an article from the school paper summarizing the event:

Speaker weighs Islam, West
Both cultures' idea of free speech is important, scholar says

The Daily Cougar

The UH Muslim Student Association sponsored a lecture Tuesday titled "Freedom of Speech: Islam vs. the West?" by Islamic scholar and UH alumnus Ubaid Qazi.

The event was held in response to the controversy surrounding the caricatures of Muhammad disseminated in European media. Qazi argued the conflict is between secularism and moral traditions, rather than Islam and the West.

"The concept of free speech, in its essence, is really a secular humanistic concept," Qazi said.

The western concept of free speech came about in response to governmental tyranny, whereas Islamic free speech is rooted within the teachings of Muhammad. This is an integral concept to understanding the conflict brought on by the cartoons, Qazi said.

"A lot of times people become confused in comparing secular free speech with Islamic free speech because they are not comparing the same thing. You cannot compare a legal framework with a moral framework; it's a separate issue," Qazi said.

Though freedom of speech is one of Western society's mainstays, it is not unlimited, as evidenced by the West's laws against libel, slander or speech that incites violence. The Western concept of free speech within reasonable boundaries is similar to the Islamic concept of freedom of speech, Qazi said.

"(Islam and the West's ideas of free speech are) similar in that Islam gives you a framework saying, ëYou can say anything you want to Ö but these are the limits.' So rather than having court precedents set those limits, the difference in Islam is that we believe God told us, "Look, these are the things you can't do. Don't cross these lines, and other than that, you're free,'" Qazi said.

In contrast to the stereotype that Islam itself is based around laws of subservience and oppression, the prophet Muhammad's teachings encourage Muslims to always question life around them, even if it is heresy, Qazi said.

"The Muslim perspective is, you are free to debate, discuss (or) differ. But the goal is not to insult; the goal is to find the truth, and the highest form of truth is justice," Qazi said.

In the Islamic tradition, freedom of speech is to be used to find truth and justice. Qazi said this concept differs from western societies' idea of freedom for freedom's sake.

"So justice in society is the primary goal of freedom of speech, not simply, ëLet me express myself artistically by dancing nude on a stage.' That doesn't necessarily expand the horizons of society from the Islamic perspective. But if you want to even debate the existence of God, fine. Bring your truths; we'll bring our truths. We can even debate that because the purpose here is to search and seek out the truth," Qazi said.

and Allah Almighty knows best.
masalama, your brother in islam

sheik speare