The Anti Blasphemy Stance
There is a lot of brawl against the anti-blasphemy law enact in Pakistan in the articulate medium. The beholders of the ‘freedom of speech’ yell out to us that barricading any idea, spoken, written or in form of an image, what-so-ever, is equivalent to snatching away one of the very first human rights, a free-born person is born with - if you put a fence on the thought process it is like choking the entire progress of humanity.
The so-called liberal-humanists cry out to us that any single human life is too precious to be wasted away for age-ridden conservative dogma; then there is an appeal to our pity; how can we see a man or a woman being mercilessly hanged to death for merely uttering a bad word against someone or something that was simply not sacred for him/her, are we not always casually taking against other religions and other ideas.
Another very interesting argument to circumvent the Muslim believer is - if you really believed in your faith so firmly, why would you be bothered by anyone saying anything against it, your agitation and your anger is the sign of your fear, a fear that a new idea might break the facade of religious dogma which is really resting on rusted foundations. You are scared of voices because they attack your irrational beliefs that have only stayed on owning to designs of fear and punishment.
The aim for this essay is to lay bare the fact how different fallacies are being used to attack the Muslim belief, by the masters of propaganda and to present a logical case against blasphemy.
While the ‘freedom of speech’ declarations are enacted by different articles of the United Nations and made a part of the constitutions of several countries in the west and also around the world, its espoused values have had quite a challenging situation from the origins. Several cases, regarding personal privacy and esteem have been recorded in the western courts, which have pushed the ever-adjusting courts to put limitations on libel, slander, obscenity and incitement to commit a crime. The article 19 of the ICCPR goes on to say that the exercise of the ‘freedom of expression’ rights carries ‘special duties and responsibilities’ and may ‘therefore be subject to certain restrictions’ when necessary ‘for respect of the rights or reputation of others’ or ‘for the protection of national security or of public order, of public health or morals’.
Therefore, the indefinable and unlimited version of the freedom of expression can only be dreamt of but cannot be deemed workable. Just like freedom of choice does not make a case for one to kill or rob, so too, freedom of expression does not give allowance to disrupt the privacy, self-esteem, reputation and social structure of the society. But one thing is clear that in the prevailing air of liberalism, where progression and vogue render us clueless and hamstrung to ‘hear everything’, ‘see everything’ and ‘accept everything’, the only ones who have a right to their privacy and sanity are the ones with the power and the determination to make a case for themselves and stand up for it.
It is clear, that the freedom of expression is unable to stand up on its own grounds, whereby it could be harbored as a virtue that could demand of a people or a nation to forsake their social/moral structure, their privacy and their religious values - which bind them together as a peaceful, working society. Nor can it be allowed to agitate the moral conscience of a people, whereby they might be incited to react violently. Such allowance would not only create harm but would also spoil the reputation of that nation in the international community.
Let us now analyze the appeal to our pity; can we ruthlessly give a sentence of death to a human being, on account of something he said or wrote or drew, surely this seems to be an extreme position. But the question is, can the disgust to suffering undermine the disgust to crime, is it morally correct to sympathize with a murderer or a rapist, should his death not be the only way to satisfy the anger of the sufferer and the community. Therefore, this appeal to pity will only have to be weighed with the hugeness or the littleness of the damage contained in the so-called crime of ‘saying something’.
The core of the matter, will then rest upon the assessment of ‘how big a damage can this freedom of expression bring?’ Those who study sociology, the role of religion in human society and the philosophy of the ‘worldview’, know that apart from the extreme minority of the atheists, the genus Homo has rarely ever made it without a religion (a worldview based on some kind of a God). A worldview required to satisfy the subjective needs of mankind, that answers age-old questions such as, ‘where we came from’, ‘where will we end’, ‘why we are here’, ‘what is the ultimate truth’, ‘what are morals’.
These questions are inevitable, they are embedded in the very infrastructure of the thought process and they have to be answered. Forming a worldview is an inherent nature of human society, if you strike off one worldview, another will take its place, but this extreme generalization of reality must take place and that is precisely what religion is. So once we agree that belief of some kind is an inevitable necessity of the human race - nowhere and never will a society be found without it - the choice left then, is not between belief and non-belief but between which belief is the best for mankind.
What a democratic, liberal, secular thinking can demand from us is to respect and accept difference of opinion but it cannot demand from us to forsake our own opinion. Therefore any ‘expression’ that deems one’s revered worldview as wrong, not in way of logical, rational reasoning but in way of insult, disgrace, scandal, slander and infamy has the potential not only to incite public roar but to tear apart the very fabric upon which the social structure of that society has been woven. Thereby, converting a relatively calm and working community into a radical, potentially self-destructible mob with no sense of direction or a shattered one. Is such a crime of disrupting the peace of a nation, inciting the possibility of several deaths or maybe inciting a call for civil war - smaller than murder of a single person? So! so much for freedom; a logical conclusion for freedom could be made here, if freedom of expression is equal to happiness and if freedom of expression is also equal to incitement of bloodshed, then happiness is equal to incitement of bloodshed – would you agree to such a formula!
But a troubling idea still remains; why would ‘saying a bad thing about your prophet’ incite you. If you really loved your prophet, and really believed your religion to be true, why would you bother about what others are saying about him?
This irritant can only be resolved considering the relative differences from nation to nation; not cultural or ethnic difference but difference of the height of the moral grounds upon which each society stands. For one man it might not matter, if the neighbors talk shamefully of his parents as long as he loves them, but for another man this may be utterly un-stand-able, which of the two men is on a higher moral ground. The first man might have turned passive for two reasons, either he thinks that his parents really have problems and he has to live with it or he thinks that he does not have the power to stop the neighbors. The second man might take out his gun because he knows that the neighbors are slandering and that his parents are not wrong and whatever power he finds he is ready to use it. Which of the two has true belief and true love? But if the first man had taken a stance for freedom of expression of the neighbors, wouldn’t that slander become the norm of his neighborhood; to the point that the first man could one day be saying, ‘I always say bad things about my parents, there’s nothing to be angry about that, why don’t you say some bad things about your parents too; that would make you just as rational a person as I am’.
There are also some allegations upon Islam, that fall into context here, but they are all based on fallacy-based arguments. Such as - all religions have been proven to be based on falsehood, myth and irrational belief, its time the Muslims start admitting that their religion has faults too and start rethinking (argument by generalization; if 5 apples plucked were rotten the 6th will be rotten too). That Islam, like all religions demands infallible respect of its prophet, which practically goes to the equivalent of worshipping, as there is no space for reasoning or questioning (putting the cart before the horse; saying that the prophet is taken to be right because he is respected whereas the prophet was respected because he was on the right).Death penalty for abuse of one particular person, gives him precedence over the rest of the people, therefore fractures the notion of equality (casual reduction; death penalty is not for abuse of the single person but for abuse of values of a whole community and incitement). Islam provokes violent nature in its proponents, makes ruthless killing a matter of pride for them (denying the antecedent and affirming the consequent; the reasons for provocation are completely dismissed here, which may have reduced the graveness of the consequences).
To conclude - reverence of great men, who stood for love, peace, and the highest standards of morals, is a focal points of human thought, where all good ideas will accumulate, spread out from and associate to. The greater and the more elaborate, this focus is, the more it will penetrate in the lives of its beholders. Any society that lacks reverence of holiness inevitably falls into the trap of taking whatever is next to holy as its hero; either the people will fill their need of reverence by filling that space with idolizing low-grade things (like scientists are revered by some, but their findings and quotes cannot give a full code of conduct, and their findings are often proven wrong) or they will be left in total skepticism.
While there is no doubt that idealizing a corrupt standard would deeply wound the social/moral structure of a society, as one ill will lead to many others in a matter of time. But at the same time, to blotch an existing ideal of morality, with unproven accusations, at times when such a commodity is rare or simply not found any more, is to snatch away the possibility for any heart to remain pure or good. It is to drag society into a state of skepticism and a low morale.
Moreover reverence is a psychological state of hallow, purity and association that allows the beholder to let his soul bask in the light of all-good, whereby the beholder is able to discover his inner subjective realm as a cherishable possibility; associating with goodness gives the reverent the moral strength to pursue the goals of goodness and set them high. Once that ideal has been snatched away, the hallow will turn into a hollow, a state of depression, towards which the winds of the vile will blow in, from all directions.