The Religious Zealots Vs. Freedom Of Expression
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
Translation: May veneration be presented to the exalted one who is a Buddha and who has achieved enlightenment by himself righteously. X3
The Religious Zealots Vs. Freedom Of Expression
For this piece I will discuss the danger of religious faith taken quite naturally for many, as a tool of censorship toward those who do not believe as they do. All religions I suppose can theoretically fall prey to this dictatorial attitude, but Christianity and Islam historically have always had a rather persistent knack for doing so. After several centuries of being beaten down by the age of enlightenment and after a long and hard won struggle, Christianity for the most part has accepted its place within the frame work of the separation of church and state(1), which allows our secular institutions to help keep it’s lunatic tendency of stoning to death, or setting on fire at the the stake a heretic(2) for the time being safely at bay.
Lets take a look at this video and then have a discussion…
The point here is this, there is a difference between an individual having rights (in this case, the right to freedom of expression) and an idea or ideology having rights that supersede those rights of the individual. Imagine that, an ideology or any ideology that is immune from being criticized or spoken of or referred to in any way that might be deemed offensive for fear of offending someone. What good is the right to freedom of expression, when others aren’t allowed to benefit from it if they wish to do so?
It isn’t enough for the Muslim in this video to not watch what they find offensive, but to make sure no one else gets to watch it either. This is because in Islamic religious culture, Islam is placed above anyone’s right as a person regarding free expression. Islam is not to be offended.This may sound reasonable to some, until we start to ponder just who it is who gets to be the ultimate arbitrator of what should be considered offensive or not. In just about any Muslim country on this planet, this is why the making or showing of a movie like this would put you in jail for a lengthy jail sentence if not most likely hung from the neck or stoned in the street somewhere. This is why the man in the front row states “…Why didn’t you stop the movie?” “If you would have stopped the movie then this couldn’t have happened” This is why it never occurs to him that he could have just gotten his big ass up and walked out, like anybody else who may not have liked the film, if he didn’t want to watch it. This is why towards the end of the video when a woman exclaims “This is not freedom of expression don’t you get that?” in protest to what they have done by stopping the film, she is heckled and shouted down by that same man and the rest who objected so dearly to the showing of this film. It is the nature of humanity to be creative, some of it we may like and some of it we may not. When we suppress that creativity we suppress our own human nature. That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be allowed to express how they feel about someone’s expression, after all freedom of expression is a two way street, but it’s the forced censorship that we need to be very concerned about.
Have any heard the saying about how the jokes always funny… until it’s told about you? Just the same, tolerance is a great word for many, until it’s time for them to be tolerant.
Once it becomes o.k. to censor something based on someone’s feelings being hurt, then more and more do we live in a society where we teach by example, the lesson of intolerance being a good thing as long as its wrapped in the feel good blanket of tolerance. We then teach intolerance in the name of tolerance.
Think about that the next time someone tries to convince you that anyone’s religious culture can be comparable to a democracy. This statement from me may surprise some knowing that I am a Buddhist monk, but understand, that when you enter a Buddhist temple you don’t see many Christian bibles lying around or much of the Qur’an either. There is a reason for that, a Buddhist temple isn’t the public library and neither should it be. Now, are religions like Christianity or Buddhism compatible with a democracy? Yes they are. For Christianity though, it was like a long and drawn out forced marriage that Christianity finally made peace with,(3) and for Buddhism it comes more naturally, because the Buddhist approach allows more for questions and analysis(4). We have nothing to fear from questions and analysis or criticism as others posture high sounding words as ‘respect’ or ‘culture’ merely as an excuse for fearing such analysis and criticism. Perhaps this film was the producers way of addressing what many perceive as a general homophobic attitude inherent in Islam. Islamic religious culture has adapted where it has been a necessity to do so, but still seems to find much of this talk of democracy and freedom of speech unsettling.This video is only one of many possible examples of that fact. So…when someone tells you that this isn’t real Islam, ask them just who is it that decides just what real Islam is, and exactly how is it that it is decided? With the absence of an internationally recognized Caliph for the world Umah (Muslim community) we would for the most objective answer have to look at the Qur’an and al hadith if not the sunnah, which would include the biography of Muhammad their prophet as well. The main text of course would be the Qur’an. The Qur’an is not written in chronological form, but in traditional form as the Uthmanic recension. (5) The Qur’an Surra 2:106 teaches the concept of abrogation where a later “ayah” or “revelation” supersedes a former one of that same topic.(6) There are NO violent “ayah” that are superseded by a later peaceful one, it’s always the other way around. As Islam developed it became more violent and less tolerant. When someone talks of “historical context” that would mean basically “that was then and this is now”. Lets think shall we? Is this a historical document that has at least parts that are outdated? The Qur’an itself will tell you this, otherwise the concept of abrogation would be meaningless! Or, is this all the eternal word and teaching of an eternal creator and sustainer God? You can’t have it both ways! How can “God” have changed his mind before… but never again? Certainly most Muslim who are familiar with the concept of abrogation as taught in the Qur’an would consider the final product after any ayah have been abrogated, the eternal word and teaching. I’ve had a response to a discussion of the violence in the Qur’an of “well, it’s all ‘just’ war doctrine(7) , then and now!” But who gets to decide just when something is a “just” war or not? The Qur’an, and al hadith that’s “who”.
Something that I will now discuss here as I believe it relevant to the over all discussion, is an Islamic apologist approach to abrogation. An example of this is the Islamic apologist by the name of Dr. Joel Hayward who in an article titled “The Qur’an and War: Observations on Islamic Just War” acknowledges the concept of abrogation taught in the Qur’an but then seems to want to dismiss it by writing:
…”Consequently, doctrines or concepts within the Qur’an emerged or developed in stages throughout that period, with some early passages on inheritance, alcohol, law, social arrangements and so on being superseded by later passages, a phenomenon that the Qur’an itself describes in Surah 2:106, which reveals that when Allāh developed a concept beyond its first revelation and he therefore wanted to supersede the original verses, he would replace them with “better” ones.”
“This pattern of conceptual modification or development does not mean that Muslims see the Qur’an as purely contextual, with all its scriptures being relevant only to the time and place of the individual revelations. The Qur’an itself states in several Surah that Allāh’s words constitute a universally applicable message sent down for “all of mankind” and that it was “a “reminder” (with both “glad tidings and warnings”) to “all” of humanity. With this in mind, Muslims believe that to ignore scriptures on the basis of a that-was-then-this-is-now reading would be sinful.”
He then goes on further:
“For example, according to British scholar Dr Zakaria Bashier (author of many books on early Islam including a thorough analysis of war), all the beautiful verses throughout the Qur’an which instruct Muslims to be peaceful, tolerant and non-aggressive are Muhkam verses, i.e. definite, not allegorical. They are not known to have been abrogated, so they naturally hold. No reason exists at all to think that they have been overruled.“
The question here now becomes a very simple one, and that is whether or not the Qur’an actually teaches the concept of abrogation or does it not. With all due respect to the opinions of Dr. Joel Hayward and Dr. Zakaria Bashier, should the teaching of what is written in the Qur’an carry the most weight here, or what they would rather believe about any of it? The fact of the matter is that neither one nor anyone for that matter have ever given any scriptural substantiation for making such statements, nor for the position that abrogation is something to be selectively applied, or the criteria for making such a selective judgement as to which ayah should succumb to abrogation and which should not.
This is an interesting article where I believe much is ignored and denied concerning the history of Islam and where typical apologetic assumptions about today’s Muslim community are made. I find it rather interesting that people like Dr. Joel Hayward give their rendition of historical context where it suits them to try and explain something away, but then will just as quickly seek to deny historical context when it clearly does not. This is a good example of the double talk required when one is an apologist for Islam.
An example would be this, as quoted above “This pattern of conceptual modification or development does not mean that Muslims see the Qur’an as purely contextual, with all its scriptures being relevant only to the time and place of the individual revelations. The Qur’an itself states in several Surah that Allāh’s words constitute a universally applicable message sent down for “all of mankind” and that it was “a “reminder” (with both “glad tidings and warnings”) to “all” of humanity. With this in mind, Muslims believe that to ignore scriptures on the basis of a that-was-then-this-is-now reading would be sinful.“
Later on in the same article though, when he gives an effort to put into context the infamous ayah or “verse of the sword” as he refers to it, with his rendition of historical context, he of course would seem to forget all about this assertion. This is because the word ‘all’ is being used as a qualifier: “This pattern of conceptual modification or development does not mean that Muslims see the Qur’an as purely contextual, with all its scriptures being relevant only to the time and place of the individual revelations”…. therefore historical context is appropriate to consider when it’s advantageous to him and others of this sort, and not appropriate to consider when it is no longer of any such use.(8)
Hold on to your seats, because we’re not finished yet!
In the same article, prior to any of the before mentioned:
“While Muslims hold the Qur’an to be Allāh’s literal, definitive and final revelation to humankind, they recognise that it is not intended to be read as a systematic legal or moral treatise. They understand it to be a discursive commentary on the stage-by-stage actions and experiences of the prophet Muhammad, his ever-increasing number of followers and his steadily decreasing number of opponents over the twenty-three year period which took him from his first revelation to his political hegemony in Arabia”.
What an incredible statement!
As far as a legal treatise is concerned, Sharia law is reliant on both the Qur’an and hadith, although the Qur’an in importance would have to carry the top spot.
This is because scholars may argue as an example whether or not a particular hadith is to be considered genuine or deserving of one classification or another, however the Qur’an is the Qur’an and as such is to be viewed as the rock solid Islamic authority.
Now consider this, according to Dr. Joel Hayward, 1.6 billion Muslim don’t consider the religious standard of authority for their faith the Qur’an to be a systematic moral treatise but merely a discursive commentary!
This is the type of foundation that someone such as Dr. Joel Hayward has to build their Islamic apologetics on. Can you imagine the response you would get if you went to any religious person and told them that their religious standard of authority whether it was the Christian Bible or the Qur’an or whatever it was, and told them that it wasn’t a systematic moral treatise but merely a discursive commentary?
As he mentions in this article, many Islamic scholars may agree with Dr. Joel Hayward, but without any scriptural substantiation it is all simply worthless. It is instead a game where they all get to sit around and quote each other…instead of quoting the Qur’an or al hadith to justify the claims discussed being made. For those other areas of this article where a verse or two is quoted, I would humbly suggest that the reader have a copy of the Qur’an available, to compare what he says about a particular verse and what it means to what the Qur’an actually does or does not say.
I am sure that if the Boko Haram (to name only one of many violent Islamist groups) or any of their murdering ilk world wide, who enjoy killing Christians and Jews and Hindu (among many others) and burning the churches and houses of religious observance of those they consider to be infidel, were to be somehow convinced that they should stop the wholesale slaughter of such innocents, they would understandably want to see some sort of Islamic scriptural substantiation and therefore a truly Islamic justification for such a claim that the few peaceful verses found in the Qurán have not been abrogated.
Remember… there are NO violent “ayah” that are superseded by a later peaceful one, as mentioned, it’s always the other way around.(9) Lets remember this when someone tells you how something is or isn’t the “real” Islam, as we ponder the fact that many Muslim really do take their Qur’an and al hadith very seriously.
The point to be taken here is that those people whom you see objecting to this film and therefore finding it necessary to create a “security issue”, are only showing the lighter and more kinder reflection of that fact.
Subjectively any Muslim or Christian or Buddhist has the right of course to consider what being a Muslim a Christian or a Buddhist might mean to them, but that doesn’t make it the objective scriptural approach. Let’s remember that every religion has it’s own scriptural standard of authority. I know that these are difficult issues for many to face, but I believe that there are many who do so every day. The more that the rest avoid these issues by pretending that they don’t really exist, or that only the “bigots” and “haters” ever have such discussions, the more there will be the persecution of all types of religions and ideas. A sadistic persecution aided and abetted by a self denial of the seriousness of the war of ideas, and what some will do to make sure you and others know just how presumably right they are. Look at it this way, when they went to see this movie, were they all unaware of what was on the menu that day? I’m sure that the fact that this type of movie could or would being shown that day was no total surprise to anyone. It was an event honoring the concept of freedom of expression. Therefore it is safe to understand that those who objected to this movie being shown were there to stop it. If this were not the case and they all just so happened to stumble into this auditorium unaware of the potential, we can safely assume that if asked whether or not they support the killing of innocents in the name of the religion of Islam, they would reply that of course they do not, and I would believe them.
Now if they object to innocent people being slaughtered in Allah’s name, which in case you haven’t noticed happens all over the world now, from Russia to China to Japan to just about everywhere, where is their “outrage” if the killing of what would commonly be perceived, as innocent men women and children is such an affront to what is promoted as the real peaceful Islam? Where are the Muslim “moderates” who oppose all sorts of violence, from the type of violence shown here to the more murderous in Islam’s name? It’s true as Dr.Joel Hayward alludes to in the above quoted article, that most are not involved in a violent war with the infidel everyday (although this certainly does not disqualify it as the most scriptural correct method as there can be understandable reasons for this such as, a lack of knowledge of their own Qur’an or to wanting to follow their own good moral conscience instead), but where are their protests and outcry’s of objection to what we are to believe is such a dear insult to their understanding of a peaceful Islam? Either A. They don’t care, B. They covertly support such violence, C. They are experiencing an incredibly intense form of selective perception styled self denial of this unsightly fact.D. Fearful of being ostracized from their Muslim community or of course, much worse, most of the majority of 1.2 billion peace loving Muslims world wide have been totally intimidated into being too afraid to raise any objections. E. A combination of the above. The notable commonality of the different examples discussed in this article remember, is in forcing others to appease them for what they think should or should not be acceptable, and the willingness to use violence to do it. So…if a non Muslim should dare discuss any of this we are routinely criticized with the usual name calling and such, for talking about what many Muslims (to assume the best for most, considering our options) are too afraid in one way or another, to talk about and voice their objection to.
So when people declare “Well, not all Muslim are like that” etc. this does not in any way address the issue at all. Of course not all Muslim are like that! If even most Muslim were like that than with 1.2 to 1.5 billion Muslim in the world, there would be many more dead bodies lying around, don’t you think? O.K., lets think about the different inquisitions of Christianity as just one such example that history has to offer us. How many millions through the years have been killed with Christian persecution?(10) Not many people do you hear saying “Well, heh, you know, not all Christians are or were ever like that”! Why? Because they know that the immediate response would understandably be “…and that has exactly what to do with what is being discussed”? Of course most Christians were just peaceful people who didn’t want to murder or torture anyone, but that was pretty irrelevant to all the vicious murder and sadistic torture going on.
If I had lived during the middle ages in Europe, I’m sure that the Roman Catholic church would have been looking to burn me alive.
I wish you all the spiritual best!
Bhikkhu Aggacitto a.k.a.
References and Notes:
1. Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity published by Simon & Schuster 1976 / PART SIX: Faith, Reason and Unreason (1648-1870) This is an interesting book, in the chapter that I reference the author gives a discussion that outlines the struggle between the Anglicans and the Protestants that helped to gear Christianity toward the gradual acceptance of a more secular state.
3. Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity published by Simon & Schuster 1976 / PART SIX: Faith, Reason and Unreason (1648-1870)
5. http://www.qran.org/q-chrono.htm or the archived page:
6. Qur’an 2:106 : “Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things? Also: Qur’an 16:101 : And when We change (one) communication for (another) communication, and Allah knows best what He reveals, they say: You are only a forger. Nay, most of them do not know.”
7. http://christopherhurtado.com/just-war-or-just-rhetoric-a-critical-analysis-of-al-qaedas-arguments-for-jus-ad-bellum-and-jus-in-bello/ or cached/http://christopherhurtado.com/just-war-or-just-rhetoric-a-critical-analysis-of-al-qaedas-arguments-for-jus-ad-bellum-and-jus-in-bello/ Although this deals in part with al Qaeda’s claim for a just war, it gives a good overview of the just war doctrine as it pertains to both Christianity and Islam.
8.This article can be found here: http://panggilantauhid.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/the-quran-and-war-observations-on-islamic-just-war-by-dr-joel-hayward/ or the archived page: http://www.webcitation.org/6QjUKDj2Z
9. Check the claim out for yourself: http://www.qran.org/q-chrono.htm or the archived page:
10.http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/gbg_inquisition.htm or the archived page: http://www.webcitation.org/6RLjkirP7