2015 / 07 / 16
In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.
The vision of Sheikh al-Habib for the future in regards to the relation between freedom of speech and the freedom of beliefs.
Sheikh Yasser al-Habib sees that the redrawing of the understanding of freedom of speech and the right of the freedom of religion can at no cost be constricted by frightfulness due to the terror-strikes that have been occurring in the current period. It is correct that these events have imposed upon everyone to research the reasons behind the taking place of these events in order to find the possible solutions one may take to avoid similar attacks taking place upon humanity in the (near) future. However, what is observable is that the direction of most of these discussions and researches impose some constraints upon either the freedom of opinion or the right to the freedom of religion and that is on account of fear of the renewal of such terrorist incidents.
If fear manages to take control of the thinkers and the decision makers, then that will without a doubt lead towards mistakes being committed towards the future of humanity. That is when hasty decisions are made or legislation that take us further back in time, are legislated. Or even when irrational statements are released that may give moralistic justifications for violent incidents. For example, the saying of Pope Francis when he said that ‘every religion has its honour and that it is impermissible to insult it or to provoke its followers by degrading that faith for you will be like the one who insulted another's mother, and in those circumstances you should expect a punch!' (His speech following the Charlie Hebdo Attack)
Sheikh al-Habib says that this type of speech is presented in a way where the speakers try to find a middle-ground between freedom of speech and religious hate crimes. They do that by suggesting that you are granted the freedom to criticise religions and beliefs and insult them however you like. However, there is a limit and you should stop expressing your opinion when you detect that there may be violent counteractions to your opinions. So when you find that your critical word may cause severe irritations to the followers of a certain religion, to the extent where they may become violent, then that is where your freedom of expression comes to a halt and you should express no further criticism. Or else you shall be guilty of breaking the law of expressing hatred towards other religions.
Sheikh al-Habib ridicules such statements saying: “It is like the owners of such statements, say to the followers of religions: If you do not wish for your religion to be criticised in the slightest of ways, then you should always express the most vehement forms of irritation and right away resort to threats of violence. For then you will be made out to be the victims and the one who merely expressed his rights of freedom of speech, shall be the wrongdoer in such cases. Because he did not calculate the consequences and should have stopped criticising! This is how the violent are encouraged to be violent. What is extrinsic is that some of the lawmakers and politicians adopt this absurd hypothesis.
Conversely, there are invocations made to interfere with religious principles and pressure put upon the religious clerics to take part in the so called: ‘Religious enlightenment and amendment’. That is to dismantle the religions from anything that could clash with freedom of expressing opinions and anything that could lead to violent crimes or to disrobe the religions from everything that does not coincide with the fundamentals of the modern world. These invocations also failed. Not because there were no attentive ears from the religious clerics, because some did respond to such calls. Rather because such invocations ignore clear facts and jump past the reality that is within the historical, religious traditions which makes these invocations more like calls for distortion.
In the midst of this chaos two additional observations appear. The first noticeable observation is that many of the suggestions do touch the core of the adversity because the suggestions do not go hand in hand with the modernised way of thinking of humanity alongside the circumstances of this day and age. The second observation is that there are misunderstandings and civilisational inscrutabilities that lead to an exaggerated sensitivity between the party that is adhering to its religion and the party that is adhering to its right of freedom of expressing its opinion. Based upon that, Sheikh al-Habib finds that there is a need for wide, balanced borderlines in order to treat the current state of affairs and suggests applying the following ways in order to solve the current state of affairs:
1 - Believing and understanding that the world is going through a civilisational race between 'Religion' and 'Freedom of expressing opinions'. We must not restrict neither of the two and rather allow them to establish themselves automatically after the outcome of this civilisational race. Even after that we should not place any restraints upon the frame of neither of the two nor limit them by restricting them with laws. As the two are continuously progressing and changing as time and thoughts progress and change. Something which may not seem suitable or 'normal' today could be perfectly normal tomorrow and vice versa. The religious characters will automatically be forced in every era to accustom and adjust themselves to the reality. Likewise, the others will be forced to do the same when they are freely practicing their rights to criticise and to express their opinions. Eventually, it is the reality that dominates over everything. However, trying to interfere with the reality and manually change it is what is going to cause the opposite of what is aimed for. We see that opposite affect taking place today when many of the Muslim European youth are joining the terrorist group 'isis', because they are feeling that there is an interference into their religious daily lives and constraints are forced upon them, like the banning the headscarf from educational centres in France for example. This makes some of the Muslims feel oppressed and feel that their private, religious rights are not being cared about. This type of feeling, with time, turns into anger and hatred against the country they are living in and that pushes some individuals in the community to the most extreme forms of radicalisation. This is why we are seeing a rise in the numbers of the radical right wings in Europe, because people are feeling like they are being banned from speaking. So when some governments enforce restrictions upon the heads of the radical right wings and bans them from speaking and even bans them from entering the country (like what happened with the Dutch Geert Wilders when he was banned from entering the U.K. in 2009), then this will make many think that the governments, due to the pressure of the Muslims, have begun to abandon the main social gain in Europe, which is Freedom. This in turn, makes more people sympathise with and be pushed towards the heads of the radical right wings.
2 - This does not mean that we have to stand on the sidelines even if this 'race/battle' between religion and the freedom of exercising opinions starts to show unpleasant signs. Nor does this mean that we should be indifferent towards what may seem like incipiences of a crime. Here is where the power of the law and regime interferes. For example: We can allow the Muslim, under 'the right to the freedom of religion' to not conceal his beliefs regarding the criminalisation of the one who insults the Prophet Mohammad (Blessings be upon Him and His Progeny), for which the punishment is execution. However, it is upon this Muslim himself to speak about such matters academically and in the abstract as such reports are actually present in his books of beliefs. However, if the limit is crossed and this 'Muslim' is calling for such 'religious punishment' to be put into practice then this should not be dealt with lightly in any circumstances! Like that, we would allow and open the door for another 'Muslim', under the pretence of 'The right to the freedom of religion', to express or present Islam as a terrorist religion. So when he is speaking about such subjects, he should make clear that he is merely speaking about it in an academic way. However, when the limit is crossed from the opposite side and every Muslim is treated as a terrorist who needs to be extradited from Europe merely for believing in this Religion, then this also should not be dealt with lightly in any way or form.
3 - People have to be encouraged to debate and discuss academically and to push that forwards no matter what fury that leads to. Because that is what will remove the irritations from the Religious clashes with the Freedom of expression. This will also aid in the elimination of the misconceptions and the ambiguities and will renew the views and understandings. For example, if the terrorist incidents are discussed in a serious way then it shall be discovered that most of these attacks, in their true state of affairs, are not committed because of religious motives discharged from other main factors at all. Rather, the motives are political and social motives that have been imposed through wars, politics and economical affairs. This was then coated with a religious coating just so that the ardent, will become more fiery and enthusiastic. Because he will then be pushed by his passion for religion as he is longing for Heaven.
Likewise, if the organising of a serious discussion was accomplished regarding the Islamic Religious compilations that justify violence and exemplary punishments, then it shall be discovered that there are many compilations that have been created by some of the Prophet's companions and some of his wives to belie upon The Prophet Mohammad (Blessings be Upon Him and His Progeny), like Abu Bakr, Omar and Aisha who had political roles that required from them to create and fabricate some teachings so they could accomplish their personal goals. There is for example the testimony of the Imam Al Sadiq (Peace be upon Him) who is the grandson of the Prophet and his lawful successor. The Imam says in that testimony that the reports/narrations that have violent features to them have been created by 'Malik son of Anas' in order to please the tyrannical rulers of the 'Umayyad' tribe.
Moreover, with the serious discussions that are away from irritations and the above mentioned punishments that restrict this, the Muslims themselves can discover that the drawings of the French paper 'Charlie Hebdo' do not enter under the frame of Narrations that criminalise the insulting of The Prophet Mohammad Blessings be upon Him and His Progeny. That is because these drawings have not been drawn with the intention to insult, rather it was meant as a 'joke' in a way that is quite normal for the Western Civilisation. Even if we, as Muslims, do not accept such things and feel apprehension from it.
4 - When the protection of the principles clashes with the looking after of the interests, then we must sacrifice the latter. Because sacrificing the principles of a certain belief is a price too high for us to pay. Not only because we lose our self respect, but this will also have general consequences. Sacrificing the temporary gains or interests is quite accepted and a matter which is easily compensated. However, the principles that we lose cannot be compensated easily after the destruction that that shall bring upon our civilisational built, which usually also has dangerous consequences even upon the general benefits of humanity. For example, today we are paying the price of Europe, then being represented by the 'British Empire', for their supportive stance towards the creation of the regime of 'Al Saud' in the Arabian Peninsula, with their obvious violations of the principles of Democracy. Why did London back the creation of the backward and bloody Wahhabi regime in the Arabian Peninsula by sacrificing the principles of Democracy and the principles of freedom? The reason was the looking after their then, newly discovered interest, petrol. And the simplicity of dealing with a 'family government' that can make its own decisions rather than dealing with a government that has been elected by the citizens whose parliament may hinder for them to make a profit from its wealth by claims of nationalisation. Because of the British support, the strength of the regime of Al Saud was intensified and with it, the danger of the Wahhabi doctrine - which gave birth to the Jihadi, terrorist doctrine - was also immensely greatened. So if Britain then stayed committed to its principles and did not sacrifice them and rather sacrificed its temporary interests in order to hold on to its principles, then it would have been possible for the emergence of a just, democratic government in the Arabian Peninsula which may have accomplished the interests of all sides fairly. The most important of interests that could have been gained, was the warding away all of this evil from humanity. The evil which resulted out of placing a regime, power and wealth into the hands of the Wahhabi, Saudi. Because of that we had to deal with the creation of all of these different terrorist movements that we know today. Even those in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 70s, were financed, raised up by and received their education from the Wahhabi civilisation that originated from Saudi.
Britain fell in the same mistake again with the United States when they decided to overthrow the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh. Its only crime was that it was striving to obtain control of its own wealth and petrol resources by bringing an end to Britain's control over the Iranian wealth. Mossadegh was overthrown and replaced by Shah and that increased the anger and hatred amongst the Iranian people towards Shah, London and Washington and the feelings of animosity spread to the monarchs and the Westerners. This continued until Khomeini managed to take advantage of all that by announcing his revolution that overthrew the monarch and established a backward, suppressive and tyrannical regime that till today is a main source of destruction for the world. If London and Washington in the 50s adhered to their Democratic Principles and sacrificed their temporary interests instead of clinging on to their preference of petrol as much as they clung onto it, then the regime that governed Iran till today would have been a just, democratic regime that can accomplish the interests of all parties in an acceptable manner. Again, the most important of interests that would have been achieved is that the world would have been spared all of the evil that came into existence due to the establishing of this arrogant, murderous regime in Iran.
The one who chases after his interests and for his interests leaves his principles, shall soon pay the price even from the interests he left his principles for to gain. It will not be easy to compensate these losses or to deal with the calamities that arise from sacrificing ones principles for the sake of their interests.
Hence we say that when the protection of the principles clashes with the looking after of the interests there is no doubt that we must sacrifice the interests! We must look beyond the tip of our nose, because sacrificing the temporary interests is something which could be bared, but the sacrificing of the principles is not. Because the principles are the greatest of interests if we looked far with concentration. In this context we cannot do but to discredit all of these failed politics that empower and allow such backward regimes to represent such ideologies that threaten the world peace as much as they threaten the freedom of humanity. The western backing of such regimes will undoubtedly, always create inflamed, conflict-filled environments that devalue the freedom of expression and the right to the freedom of religion, in the name of religion! The consequences of such mistakes will not only worsen the state of our condition in Europe, but it will do so to state of the entire world.
His Eminence, Sheikh Yasser al-Habib.
Translated by the English department @Fadak TV, Khoddam/The Servants of al-Mahdi (Peace be upon Him) Organisation, London. 07/07/2015.