It seems that today the right to freedom of expression has turned into a duty to defile and desecrate Muhammad’s name. It would be impossible to vandalize freedom more viciously than this.

Muslims detect a whiff of vilification and conspiracy, and see it as an act of hostility. They believe that a collusion and conjunction between secularism and fundamentalism lies latent therein.

May God and reason protect us when secular fundamentalism fans the flames of religious fundamentalism (which occasionally styles itself ‘religious zeal’) and stirs up disorder and rioting. [*]

Is it any wonder that the good-willed people who strive to bolster the pillars of dialogue grieve when a mindless turn of a pen drowns all their struggles and efforts under a deluge of violence and enmity ?

The ungifted publishers of those unsightly designs (in Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, etc. publications) must now be ashamed and penitent when they see all the wounded hearts, the tearful eyes, the agitated spirits and the injured souls that writhe in pain and tremble in the face of that atrocious act of disrespect.

Freedom of speech is to be respected because human freedom is to be respected. And human freedom is to be respected because human beings are to be respected. Now, if the blade of freedom slashes the garment of human sanctity, is this naked blade worthy of sharpening ?

Freedom of expression is not the only right that human beings possess ; nor is it the highest right. And if it is not balanced and restrained by people’s other rights, human rights, as a body, will be left disfigured and mutilated.

Freedom is not a personal steed, but a collective race. Anyone who extinguishes the light of rational contest by violating the rules of the game will leave neither reason nor freedom standing intact.

The etiquette of speech is the etiquette of silence too. And anyone who benefits from the right to freedom of speech but refuses to give silence its due will have only travelled half the distance to the rightful truth.

Two things make a mind ill-fated

Silence when words are called for

And words when there’s call for silence

And did anyone ever say that freedom of expression licenses freedom of action ? And are disparagement and provocation not two actions rather than two utterances ?

Today, about a quarter of the inhabitants of the globe’s inhabited quarter are Muslims, who daily cry out the immortal name of Muhammad from mosque turrets and whisper it in salutation and praise in their prayers. This name is Muslims’ most cherished possession. It is the celestial wealth and capital of the Ahmadi [Muslim] nation. It is the auspicious banner of the Islamic world’s pride, intelligence, aspiration, thought and honour. It is the representative and symbol of all the two worlds’ pure and noble spirits. ‘To utter Ahmad’s [Muhammad’s] name is to utter every prophet’s name.’

The disparagement of this name is the disparagement of a vast civilization which has been modelled on the holder of the name. It is the disparagement of the thousands upon thousands of devotees who gain their identity and learn their spirituality from him. It is the disparagement of the hundreds of religious scholars and mystics who have been and are nourished by him. It is the disparagement of the pride, intelligence, love and faith of a huge segment of humanity.

But there is nothing to fear. The burning of this aloes-wood, whether by the fire of ‘freedom’ or by the fire of ‘zeal’, will make the wood’s perfume spread throughout the world. Nevertheless, is setting things ablaze the etiquette of freedom and religiosity ?

Source : Dr. Soroush site.

Translated from the Persian by Nilou Mobasser

[*] As I was writing this piece, there was painful news that embassies had been set alight in Damascus, Beirut and Tehran. I realized then that these extremists had succeeded in provoking those extremists. We must express our condolences to the world of Islam for this success, which is the failure of moderation and tolerance. Muhammad, peace be upon him, who was the teacher of freedom and zeal has now become a victim of the cruelty of freedom-spouters and zeal-peddlers who throw dirt in the face of liberty and slash the garment of religiosity.

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