Freedom of speech: are Muslims excluded?

There seemed to be a contradiction at the heart of an event held last night at The Waterlily, ‘Freedom of Speech: Are Muslims excluded?’ For a start, the title was ambiguous.  Dilly Hussain poses the same question in a slightly different way, maintaining the ambiguity:

When I read the line-up of guest speakers my initial feeling was happiness and the first word I uttered was “Alhamdulillah” – praise be to God that He brought together qualified scholars, genuine community leaders and veteran speakers on Islam to share a panel on such a pivotal subject – does freedom of speech apply to Muslims?

Is he asking whether Muslims are denied freedom of speech in this country? Or is he questioning whether freedom of speech is a Muslim concept in the first place?

This snippet points to the second interpretation:

“Unrestricted freedom brings harm to society. The freedom to insult undermines and harms society. Do not allow our values and standards to be changed. Carry Islam as an invitation. We face a global attack on Islam to change the values that we hold.” Dr Abdul Wahid.

However Azad Ali seems more concerned about Muslim speakers being silenced:

“It’s time we fought back against these divide and rule policies. We welcome our beliefs to be challenged but we cannot accept this underhand attack on Muslim speakers. Mufti Menk was attacked for old statements he made on homosexuality but when Boris Jonson attacked gay marriage in the past and referenced animals it is not treated the same way.” Azad Ali

Dilly Hussain himself brings together both concepts.

Whether it’s insults against our beloved Prophet (saw), the niqab or hijab, the beard, the Islamic stance on homosexuality or polygamy, attacking Islam is constantly justified under the façade of “freedom of speech” and pressure to conform to liberal secular values like Christianity and Judaism has.

In addition, there is a formidable effort by the media, government-funded think tanks and politicians to change core principles of Islam to suit the Western secular model. Millions of pounds and dollars are being pumped to water down and even eradicate concepts such as the holistic application of Shariah, working for the establishment of Khilafah in the Muslim world, unified Ummah, jihad and so forth. As many of the speakers highlighted, when the tables are turned and Muslims speak about those concepts and show support for it, the usual labels are applied and freedom of speech goes out of the window.

As far as I’m aware the speakers at last night’s event were able to express themselves unhindered.  Yes, there have been moves against certain hateful speakers in particular contexts, such as universities.  However this does not mean Muslims are being picked on.  If anything the opposite has been the case; Muslim speakers with extremist views have been tolerated much more readily than speakers from the traditional far right. Nick Griffin had an invitation to Oxford University withdrawn.  UKIP speakers have been ‘no platformed’ by universities. Cambridge University’s Israel Society cancelled a talk by Benny Morris.  Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were not given permission to visit the UK. Atheist students have even been prevented from wearing satirical T shirts. Whatever one thinks of Griffin, Geller and co, none of them has views so chilling as some of the speakers who were exercising their right to free speech at the Waterlily.  Here’s Haitham al-Haddad, for example, calmly endorsing the death penalty for apostates (in an ideal state).

These speakers seem both mistaken and hypocritical in complaining about limits on their freedom of speech, given that some of them would love to impose the most tyrannical restraints on the freedoms of others.  Here is one speaker, Abdur Raheem Green, demonstrating his complete disdain for the rights of non-Muslims who wish to express themselves freely:

The purpose of the jizya is to make the Jew and the Christian know that they are inferior and subjugated to Islam, OK? In the Muslim state, although the Jew and Christian is free to practice their religion, this is allowed, but they can not display their cross and even in the time of Umar they were not allowed to re-construct or construct new churches.

Andy has more coverage of the Waterlily event here.