Friday, March 14, 2008

Slander Islam, Get Sued

Recently leaders from “Muslim nations” got together to consider taking legal action against individuals who defame Islam. Correspondingly many groups are considering this matter as something that stands against freedom of speech and expression. Here are some excerpts from the article below:

“Concerned about what they see as a rise in the defamation of Islam, leaders of the world's Muslim nations are considering taking legal action against those that slight their religion or its sacred symbols. It was a key issue during a two-day summit that ended Friday in this western Africa capital.”

“The Muslim leaders are attempting to demand redress from nations like Denmark, which allowed the publication of cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad in 2006 and again last month, to the fury of the Muslim world.”

“Though the legal measures being considered have not been spelled out, the idea pits many Muslims against principles of freedom of speech enshrined in the constitutions of numerous Western governments.”

"I don't think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy," said Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, the chairman of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. "There can be no freedom without limits."”

The article also reports that some sort of “legal instrument” would be created to crack down on such incidents like those created in Europe that criminalize anyone who denies the existence of the Holocaust. The article also states:

“Hemayet Uddin, the lead author of the OIC report and head of cultural affairs for the group said legal action is needed because "this Islamophobia that we see in the world has gone far beyond a phobia. It is now at the level of hatred, of xenophobia, and we need to act."”

While I agree something has to be done, I don’t really know how I feel about this at the moment. I absolutely understand the rage of incidents like the hateful and racist cartoons of the Prophet being widely printed and circulated in Denmark. Any Muslim would be offended by that. But as an artist my very nature is to challenge norms, rules and unjust laws that attempt in any way to curtail my right to be who I want to be and say what I want to say. I would obviously never create hateful images such as those because that is not who I am, the message that I want to give the world and definitely not what I consider an effective means of criticism. At the same time I am very careful about adopting certain “universal human rights” as I have seen how they have been used as a tool to push Western ideals and oppress and vilify others. I guess a part of me does like the idea of safeguarding the sanctity of Islam from hateful, racist and ignorant acts. I’m just not sure if this is the most effective way to go about it. What do you all think?

For the whole article go here.


Huda Shaka` said...

Very important question Yesi...I find myself asking it frequently too. For example, as much as I want to do something about the stupid cartoons, I don't think boycotting all Danish products is the way to go...but I still do it!

Don't know, I think I'm stuck is exactly the same place you are...would be interested to hear what other people have to say.

Affad Shaikh said...

Excellent post. thank you yesi. I want to actually address this issue in a three part series (tentatively) on effective methods/tools that will hold people accountable, organizations.

In my mind, Islamic countries have a role to play and as Muslim communalities in the west all have a role to play and we have to come up with come up with effective campaigns.

It’s possible; however, we always fall back on this idea of apartheid actions. I think we need to be more creative, realistic and focused. I hope to address that so please be on the lookout :) for it on Muslamics

Nur `ala Nur said...

Jazaky Allahu khayran Yesi for this post!

Huda - I'm with you on that one, this is totally random and off topic but - A while back I stumbled upon this website: and it all started out with this journalist from Egypt and her motto was "Don't Hate - Educate." I thought her approach was interesting because it was based on action. Allahu A'lam maybe this would help spark idea's on what project we can do here and now.