Freedom Of Expression
Dr. Fathi Osman
The main goal of God’s message to humankind is the attainment of justice in all of its fairness.This justice, the foundation of Islam, cannot be achieved unless human rights are secured forevery individual and group in a Muslim state. The member of such a state must be free tochoose just rulers, to observe these rules as they practice their authority, and to stand firmagainst any injustice from them. Primary among human rights are the rights to believe, toexpress one’s beliefs and to assemble to defend one’s group’s beliefs.The rights of expression and information cannot be separated from rights to think and believe.Intellectual and linguistic capabilities characterize human beings, and thus, the right to formand express opinions represents an essential manifestation of human merits and of God’sgifts. The right to express and to be informed should, therefore, be secured by all who arerespectful of humanity or grateful to God. Indeed, if one is allowed to think and believe, but notto communicate with others or exchange views, one’s freedom of thought and belief is actuallyrestricted. As the human being is a social creature, genuine intellectual activity in which athinker considers more than one perspective on an idea and learns the strength and weaknessof it debated, cannot be practiced individually or in isolation. Moreover, the basic condition forfreedom of expression and information is that it extends to different viewpoints; otherwise,expression is merely an imposition of ideas and exercise in brain-washing.Many national and international documents which declare human rights acknowledge the factthat freedom of thought and freedom of expression are intertwined. The Universal Declarationof Human Rights which was issued by the General Assembly of the United Nations inDecember 1948 has dealt with both in two successive articles (18, 19).Freedom of thought and belief is repeatedly emphasized in the Quran:“There shall be no coercion in matters of faith” (2:256)”And had your Lord so willed, all thosewho live on earth would have attained to faith - all of them, do you then think that you couldcompel people to believe?” (10:99)“Said (Noah): O my people - what do you think? If ( it be true that) I am taking my stand on aclear evidence from my Lord . . . to which you have remained blind, can we force it on youeven though it is hateful to you?” (11:28)“And so (O Prophet) exhort them; your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel” (88:21-22).As long as freedom of expression and information is maintained, different views should beexpressed and respected:“Call you (all humanity) unto your Lord’s path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and arguewith them in the most kindly (and convincing) manner (16:25).