Signing on to uphold the Freedom of Speech

Thanks to Hesham Hassaballah of God, Faith and a Pen, I heard of this statement initiated by Sheila Musaji and Shahad Amanullah condeming violence against those who express their right to freedom of speech. I am very proud of this endeavour and honored to add my signature to it.

In the time of the prophet (may the peace of Allah be upon him), many were the people who mocked, insulted, taunted him. All he replied was to say ‘listen to these words’ and convey the message that had been given him, i.e., the Quran. He never got angry, cursed in response, or was even impatient. Remember the well known story of the man who urinated in the mosque.. how others got angry, but the prophet said, ‘let him finish and we will wash it later’. He also said he likely does not know what he is doing…and treated him with honor and spoke to him about it after wards, such that the man learned his error. There is a parody here with what is going on today. Most people who want to carry out acts that desecrate the Quran, insult the prophet etc are doing this out of ignorance. It is our imperative, we who have the Quran to guide us, to educate them. And let us do it in a way that treats the other with honor and respect.

The Quran clearly states ‘repel evil with good (41:34)’. Also we know that ‘none of you truly believes until he loves for others what he loves for himself’ (Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him). As we love to be treated with dignity and respect, as we love to be honorable upright people, let us also treat others with dignity and respect, and work toward helping those who engage in acts that denigrate faith understand that doing so only robs them of their own honor and dignity.

Another point, the prophet only asked of Quraish the freedom to speak with people. He asked for nothing else. He did not ask that Quraish remove their harsh boycott, that they stop the torture and persecution of Muslims. Perhaps he knew this was an inevitable reaction on the part of Quraish to his teaching. Whenever he could, he helped in action the early Muslims who were suffering, and indeed he also suffered with them. But his one continuous request of Quraish was to be allowed to speak freely. If we ponder on this, we understand the great importance of free speech and we realize that we must work to protect it.

Here is the statement below. I encourage you all to sign on to it and publish it widely.

Jazakum Allah Khairan.

A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.

The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).

Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.

We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.

We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.

SIGNATORIES:

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, PhD, Director, Minaret of Freedom Foundation
Prof. Akbar S. Ahmed, PhD, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University
Prof. Parvez Ahmed, PhD, Fulbright Scholar & Assoc. Prof. University of North Florida
Wajahat Ali, playwright, journalist, and producer of “Domestic Crusaders”
Sumbul Ali-Karamali, JD, LLM (Islamic Law), author of “The Muslim Next Door”
Salam al-Marayati, Pres., Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
Shahed Amanullah, Editor-in-Chief, Altmuslim
Hazami Barmada, Pres, American Muslim Interactive Network (AMIN)
M. Ali Chaudry, PhD, President, Center for Understanding Islam (CUII)
Robert D. Crane, JD
Mona Eltahawy, journalist
Prof. Mohammad Fadel, PhD
Farah Brelvi, Board of Directors, ACLU-NC
Hesham Hassaballa, M.D., author, journalist, blogger – “God, faith, and a pen”
Arsalan Iftikhar, author, human rights lawyer, blogger – “The Muslim Guy”
Jeffrey Imm, Director, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.)
Prof. Muqtedar Khan, PhD, author of several books, Blogger – “Globalog”
M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, writer, blogger – “Crossing the Crescent”
David Liepert, M.D., blogger and author of blogger and author of “Muslim, Christian AND Jew”
Radwan A. Masmoudi, PhD, President, Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID)
Melody Moezzi, JD, MPH, writer and attorney
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, author of many books of poetry
Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim (TAM)
Aziz H. Poonawalla, PhD, scientist and blogger – “City of Brass” on Beliefnet.com
Hasan Zillur Rahim, PhD, journalist
Prof. Hussein Rashid, PhD, blogger – “Religion Dispatches”
Robert Salaam, blogger – “The American Muslim”
F R Zahir, blogger – “JoyManifest”
Tayyibah Taylor, Editor, Azizah Magazine
G. Willow Wilson, author of “Butterfly Mosque” and “Air” graphic novel series

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