By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
The series of attacks launched by the Islamist terrorists throughout the world sends the message of the denial of the ‘Right to say’ about the freedom enjoyed in democratic countries. It spreads like a cancer and a challenge thrown to the freedom of expression. Upon scrutinizing the motive of the Jihadists it is obvious that they are a bunch of hypocrites which the moderate Islamists should not fail to condemn such uncivilized activities.
European democratic countries have a remarkable history on the achievement of democracy after the period of Renaissance. Prior to the period of Renaissance, all religions were tainted with blood – killing in the name of God – on account of ignorance. Even in Asia there were religious wars. However with the passage of time, all religions accepted the concept of democracy as it assured the freedom to embrace a faith of one’s choice. Religion is a personal affair and a secondary matter. Freedom of expression places a moral obligation on the Clerics not to blend religion with politics.
The conflict between the concept of ‘Right to say’ and some versions in the Quran such as ‘whosoever join the crusade against Islam, will be protected from hellfire and enjoy eternal bliss’ poses number of issues. These slogans are misleading and amount to emotional blackmailing which in turn has the force of driving the young Islamists to join the terrorist organizations such as the ISIS, etc, who are unaware of their fate. Every Religion asserts that God is great, which assertion is not confined to Islam alone. But other religions do not resort to emotional blackmailing. It is time that the radical Islamists realize that they should not create painful situations and create tension and conflict.
The concept of ‘Right to Say’ promotes freedom of speech and expression’ which is the live-wire of democracy. Islam promotes theocracy which has seen failed States. Freedom of expression is a treasured value. Freedom to mock is crucial to any vibrant democracy. Voltaire was one of the philosophers during the French Revolution, who advocated the concept of ‘Right to say’. As a Philosopher and writer his famous quote was ‘I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your ‘Right to Say’. Here is a case where Charlie Hebdo took on everything without any discrimination. It did not confine to Muhammed alone, but also the Pope and all governments around the world. The concept of ‘Right to say’ as propounded by Voltaire eventually turned out to be ‘Right to offend and the right to insult’ which have become a cornerstone of Western society. It is true that Freedom of Speech should not become a hate speech, but the Right to offend and Insult have become a struggle with certain ideology that cannot fit into a democratic society. The concept of ‘Right to Say’ has the force of not bowing down to emotional blackmailing and have become a culture to debate and discuss everything in a meaningful manner, but discourages to the extent to kill anyone, which no one has the right even in the name of God, other than God himself. A community that follows an ideology that does not respect human values or its criminal behavior have become blind, when even blind people are not blind, upon becoming vigilant about their freedom. If this savage ideology is not checked in time with the ‘Right to Say’ of its evils, the destruction of humanity is inevitable. In the circumstances, ‘Freedom of expression’ becomes a vital component in a civilized society. ‘Right to Say’ implies ‘Freedom to offend’ which must be defended by all means.
Voltaire had his own view of all religions. Voltaire described Mohammed as the founder of a false and barbarous sect and a false Prophet and fanatic. In the same breath he criticized the Church. But Voltaire had great respect for Hinduism and described that the Rig Veda was the precious gift for which the West had ever been indebted to the East. Strangely Voltaire was a vegetarian. Even Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Pluto promoted vegetarianism. All these great philosophers advocated freedom of expression and non-violence. Perhaps Charlie Hebdo would have been inspired with the works of the great philosopher, Voltaire.
The problem with the Islamist community is that they are reluctant to integrate in an open free society. The have been preached in such a manner to feel that they are duty bound by their religious beliefs to apply the prescribed punishment to offenders of Allah. As such an attitude drives them to be self-alienated, one ponders whether such religious extremists are representative of their community. This has been fuelled by the competence for dominance between the Al-Qaeda and the ISIS, which only saw blood spilled incidents targeting people and places of worship of other faiths as well as public places such as markets, bus stands, business establishments, etc in various countries in order to gain attention from their Islamic community. No sooner they call for Jihad (to wage a holy war), it has become a necessity to draw a line between the terrorists and the warriors. A terrorist is a terrorist and not a warrior in a war. A terrorist is an individual whereas a warrior is a part of an Army. God never said to wage a war in his name. It may appear that radical Islamists may be at war with the Western world, just because of their allegiance to Islam and its founder Muhammed (in the context of their view), but, in fact, they have only demonstrated their hatred towards freedom. It is difficult for the radical Islamists to assert whether they are freedom fighters, when, in fact, they appear as terrorists in the eyes of democrats for whom freedom is precious. Democrats value their freedom for which history has shown that a heavy price was paid. People who have valued their freedom will never bow down to terrorism and their ‘Right to Say’ is that no one will be ever permitted to kill other even in the name of God or promote such killings, just because others do not abide by their faith. Freedom of expression takes precedence over religious beliefs in this civilized world. It is this freedom which even allow the terrorists to move about for their illegal activities in the name of God. Freedom to live and embrace a faith according to one’s choice is guaranteed in democratic countries and endorsed by the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Religious beliefs cannot be applied to prescribed punishments as it is contradictory to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Beheading, stoning to death, etc are barbarous acts symbolizing the laws of the jungles. Religious beliefs should be in conformity with the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Religious beliefs should not promote people to be slaves to emotion which has the force of misleading people to the extent of challenging the ‘Right to Say’.
With the rampage of Jihadists in Europe, it becomes a vital issue to determine the ‘Right to Say’ towards the prominent Islamist Terrorist Organization known as Laskar-e-Taiba in Pakistan and the prominent Islamist Terrorist Organization known as Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islam in Bangladesh, though there were protests in Pakistan over Charlie Hebdo. There was also a news item in the Indian newspaper that Islamist terrorists planned to attack the US President Obama when he visits India with suspected links from Sri Lanka. It is still not known whether the flow of blood of Mujahinds in the veins of moderate Islamists prevents them to stand up against such terrorism and condemning such senseless ideologies of the terrorist organizations. Mention should be made that such terrorist organizations thrive in corrupted countries where democracy is flawed. It is a million dollar question to know the contents of the ‘Right to Say’ of the Maithiripala Sirisena’s government for the call of Muslim Administrative Unit by Rauff Hakeem, when the government implements the 13th Amendment, which has tightened everyone.