Promoting Moderation and Balance

The strong reaction by Muslim masses to the anti-prophet film made by a Coptic Christian in the USA is being viewed by Muslims as part of the clash of civilizations scenario where Muslims perceive their faith is under attack by others, namely Christians and Jews. In Muslims culture, to ridicule a major symbol of their religion such as burning the Holy Quran or ridiculing the Prophet is not viewed as falling within the boundaries of the freedom of speech but an abuse of that freedom of speech.

In Muslim culture as well as in democratic culture, your right of self-expression stops when it clashes with the rights of the others and as such it does not include ridiculing the faith of others. Even in Western culture, the freedom of speech is not totally absolute. One cannot shout falsely “Fire!” in a closed crowded theater and thus endanger the lives of others. Freedom of speech that may incite others into violence and so cause death and destruction is not part of freedom of speech.

Is blasphemy a human right? In the secular West, it is; in the religious East, it is not. In the United States and Europe, citizens have the right to engage in blasphemy, and it is part of the freedom of inquiry and expression. In Muslim culture, it falls outside the boundaries of the freedom of expression and so are those expressions which result in violence, terror and murder.

All acts of killing and murder are against the teachings of Islam. Like the Jewish and Christian teachings, as well as the teachings of all faiths, the taking of innocent lives is against religious teaching. The violence that took place in Benghazi is not part of religion or Islam but is part of radicalism and extremism. Thus we need to promote the teaching of moderation and balance within our communities.

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Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, a Jerusalem-born scholar and peace activist, is director of the American Studies Program at Al-Quds University and founder of the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam. Read other articles by Mohammed.