At a time when there should be greater effort to promote understanding and respect for different religions, it seems that the exact opposite is happening.
In Islam, freedom of expression is held in high regard. Restrictions on freedom of speech and expression necessarily inhibit the discovery of truth and thus degrade humanity. Islam only restrains speech where the failure to do so would result in harming the cause of truth, which is unseemly or evil when it is obscene, immoral, or hurtful. Evil speech interferes with the discovery of truth and thus violates human dignity. Besides this restriction, Islam explains that no individual has the right to inhibit another’s freedom of expression.
“A believer does not taunt, or curse or abuse or talk indecently.” – Prophet Muhammad
Islam permits freedom of expression, regardless of faith.
In practice, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) strongly emphasised this right.
Once the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) bought a camel from a Bedouin in exchange for about 90 kilos of dried dates. When the Prophet got home, he found that the dates had all disappeared. In all honesty and simplicity, he went to the Bedouin and said quite frankly to him, ‘O man of God! I bought a camel in exchange for dried dates and I thought that I had that many dates with me but when I reached home, I discovered that I did not have that many dates.’ The Bedouin said: ‘O defrauder!’ The surrounding people began to tell the Bedouin off for talking to the Messenger of God in that manner but the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) respectfully said: ‘Let him be.’ (Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal Vol.6 p.268 published Beirut)
This standard, whereby Islamic teachings were witnessed in practice, granting freedom of speech to an ordinary man, and ensuring he was given his due rights displayed the great forbearance of the Prophet of Islam.
If the Prophet of Islam can respect an ordinary man’s right to freedom of expression, then as Muslims how can we object or go beyond these standards set by him?
We believe that we should intensify and multiply our efforts towards the safeguarding of human rights. We must all, individually and collectively, strive to deepen our consciousness of the duties we owe to each other at every level.