After seeing a headline in a local community newspaper this afternoon, it suddenly struck me why Muslims, in their current approach, will always be on the defensive when debating issues of freedom of speech or expression. The headline read something like, ‘Freedom of Speech, or Freedom to Blaspheme’. It was that last word that caught my attention.
You see, when we accuse someone of blasphemy, there seems to be an underlying assumption that they hold dear what we hold dear. Or at the least, they respect what we respect. For this reason, we will forever be mocked by the irreverent few that take much pride and joy in mocking us. Why? I think it’s actually quite simple. We’re so drawn into defending and protecting the rituals of Islam, that we’ve failed dismally to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt why we proclaim Islam to be so beautiful, and worthy of respect.
If I look around and see how entertainers garner respect even by people that do not normally take to such forms of entertainment, I notice that what is usually accompanied by such respect is an appreciation for the effort and skill that goes into that art form that is presented as entertainment. Hardly seems like a worthy comparison considering the mainstream Muslim views on entertainment, but bear with me. Note, I said Muslim views, not Islamic views, which is an inherent part of this problem. We’ve become so obsessed with point-in-time interpretations about what Islam stood for or represented during an era many centuries ago, that we’ve given up the principles that those wise scholars extrapolated their rulings from, and instead turned their guidance into ritualistic observations subscribed to by sects.
How does this play into the hands of those that criticise Muslims for their supposed intolerance, or as some would like to believe, their bronze-aged-myths? Again, it’s really simple. When you become a ritualist, expect it to lead you down the path towards blind following. When you become a blind follower, it’s inevitable that intolerance will set in when others fail to see the merits of your rituals, especially when you’re incapable of explaining the principles and real-world value from such rituals. And that is the problem with most Muslims. They fail to see this connection. Look at the mobs and the out-of-hand protests that violate the very same principles and direct injunction of the same way of life, including the blessed personality that they profess to be defending and it’s easy to see how lost we are as an Ummah.
Fortunately there are an increasing number of informed voices of a youth that appear to be inspired by the truth as they experience it, and as they can rationalise it based on a clear understanding and study of the most pristine sources of Islam that are speaking out against this ignorance. There are many difficult debates to still be had, but the fact that the aloofness of the present-day scholars is now being openly questioned instead of being blindly venerated is a clear sign that we’re finally emerging from the slump of cult-ish behaviour that we’ve immersed ourselves into from fear of getting things wrong.
So freedom of speech, according to its present-day practice, is very likely, and somewhat justifiably, going to be exercised in a manner that can be deemed blasphemous by many. However, they can only successfully ridicule that which we hold sacred if we conduct ourselves in a manner that feeds such ridicule. There will always be irreverent idiots out there that despite the most convincing arguments, will always arrogantly hold fast to their ideologies that justify such condescension and ridicule even where none is justified, but the irony is that they are in fact a reflection of the behaviour of many Muslims today, just with the absence of faith in Allah. Perhaps when those mainstream Muslims realise this, they may just allow themselves an opportunity to think, rationalise, and appreciate the true beauty of what Islam offers them, rather than just stubbornly observing rituals without any consideration or understanding for its intended purpose.
I could continue for hours on end discussing the contradictions between what Muslim claim to stand for these days, versus what their actions reveal, but I don’t think it’s necessary. The fact that we’re fair game for ridicule these days proves this point sufficiently.