Step 1: Shut down free Speech

An authoritarian ruler must get a grip.

The first policy that he imposes on his people shuts down free speech that expresses dissent and criticism, especially if the speech questions the leader. He takes any questioning of his opinions and decisions as a personal insult of him, the head of state, and therefore a threat to his society.

Muhammad laid down severe restrictions on such free speech. He assassinated many who insulted him. In the Quran, he promises death and eternal damnation if anyone deviates in words and action from Allah and his messenger. In the hadith (Muhammad’s words and deeds outside of the Quran), we read that he kills dissenters and insulters. Later legal rulings, rooted in the Quran and hadith, follow his lead and decree that hard-hitting speech must be stifled. Indeed, the dissenters must die, if they cross the line.

In 1989, Iran’s Supreme Leader issued a fatwa (legal decree) to assassinate Salman Rushdie, a novelist, who wrote Satanic Verses, which includes questions about the angel Gabriel’s role in inspiring the Quran. Now the extremists in the highest levels in Iran have recently renewed the fatwa.

In 2003, legendary American radio host Paul Harvey was asked by Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to apologize for saying that Islam encourages killing. Dhimmi Watch provides the context of Harvey’s remarks. His comments have plenty of Quranic verses to back them up, but his free speech must be curtailed.

In 2004, Britain’s Robert Kilroy-Silk, presenter of a daytime TV show, wrote an article that used harsh language against Arabs. The Muslim Council of Britain denounced the rant and said that action should be taken against him. He has since resigned. The Muslim Council welcomed the news.

In 2005, Radical Muslims do not hesitate to riot if the Quran is desecrated. In honor of their holy book, they kill innocent people. This demonstrates how far radicals will go in responding to perceived insults of their religion.

In 2005, The Muslim Council of Victoria, Australia, brought a lawsuit against two pastors for holding a conference and posting articles critiquing Islam. Three Muslims attended the conference and felt offended. The two pastors have been convicted based on a vilification law in one of Australia’s states. While on trial, one of them wanted to read from the Quran on domestic violence, but the lawyer for the Muslim Council would not allow it. The pastors are appealing their conviction.

In 2005, British Muslims have been campaigning to pass a religious hate speech law in England’s parliament. They have succeeded. However, Muslims may read passages from the Quran that call for harsh treatment of Jews and Christians. Their ability to propagandize has not been curtailed, either. Opponents of the law say that it stifles free speech that may criticize Muhammad, the Quran, and Islam.

[Editor’s and author’s update: The religious hate speech law has finally not succeeded. The bill, which “was aimed at extending the concept of the UK’s race hate laws to cover belief” lost by one vote. “[C]ritics said ministers’ proposals would have made it too wide-reaching.” (Sources: hereand here)]

In 2005, Radio host Michael Graham was fired for connecting Islam to terrorism. The Council on American Islamic Relations called this hate speech. The owner of the station demand that Graham apologized, but he refused. This is the article that started it all.

Why do these Muslims want to restrict unpleasant speech about their religion? Are they hiding anything? Are they embarrassed about something that sits at the core of their religion? These Muslims who would restrict free speech are following their prophet.

Here is how the story of repression of hard-hitting speech unfolds in early Islam. First, some verses in the Quran, analyzed in their literary and historical context, do not promise a happy life for dissenters and insulters. Second, the hadith (reports of Muhammad’s words and deeds outside of the Quran) records reliable traditions that spell out doom for dissenters and insulters. Third, later classical legal rulings, which are rooted in the Quran and hadith, do not promise tolerance for hard-hitting speech, to say the least. Next, we contrast the way of Jesus with the way of Muhammad. Needless to say, even though Jesus was often insulted, he did not order executions or lay down excessive rules against unpleasant speech.

Finally, we explore why the West must maintain its free speech, and we apply our findings to the world today.

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