Stands >2006 Stands >The Stand of  10 Jamada I 1427H /June 6, 2006 A.D.


Freedom of speech

Sayyed Fadlullah: The best way to confront a deviated thought is to let it express itself , and enable the people to see its points of weakness

Asked in his weekly seminar the following question: What are the limits of freedom of expression in our societies?

The Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, said

In the beginning, we might ask ourselves the following question. Why was religion sent to man? Did it aim at performing the rituals in a traditional way that has no spiritual meaning? Or did not it mean to open up on Allah, the most Exalted, and life? Our understanding is that religion came to release man from his internal prison, and from being subjected to all idols including human ones. It came to open up on freedom by opening up on Allah, the most Exalted, and through Him on the entire universe.

Thus, Islam gave man his intellectual freedom, to let him live his humanity through this freedom. Islam also guarantied the freedom of expression, criticism and accountability but in a subjective and scientific manner that turns them into fundamental elements in evaluating the experience and correcting the course. That is why understanding the religion is a matter of inspiring the thought that guides it. It does not lie in the rituals that some people practice automatically without a deep sense of the meanings and the spirituality it opens up on. Religion represents the vitality of the spiritual, human and intellectual values that open on the absolute, life and the entire universe. Its value lies in that it opens up on freedom, so that he will not become rigid and will not be overwhelmed by what the others say regardless of how superficial it may be.

We believe that you cannot be free in thought, unless your mind could grasp life in its entirety and unless you open up on the cultures arts and sciences of the world, especially with the erosion of values that humanize the thought and gives it its vitality, responsibility and justice, which is the basis of religion.

And since justice is the basis of religions, it is but just to give the other the chance to explain his ideas, and be compared and judged by yours. This is why Islam has given the other this freedom, and did not monopolize the truth even in the issues of faith that include God, the Messenger, the Hereafter etc… God asked the Messenger (p.) to conduct a dialogue with the unbelievers to find out who is right and who is wrong; with each having complete freedom of expressing his thoughts, but it expected the others to recognize the truth once it is established.

That is why we always insisted on rejecting any oppression of the thought of others, in view of the basic Islamic rule of justice and refusal of wronging of any human being even if he is polytheist. Moreover, we strongly believe that the oppression of any thought does not undermine it. On the contrary it might turn it into a martyr that people sympathize with.

Thus, the best way to confront the thought of others is to let it express itself, in order to enable the people to discover its fragility.

But we have always made a distinction between the freedom of expression and that of cursing and slander, since if we believe that thought should be free in scientific research in the various fields of knowledge, including the human sciences, we should also acknowledge that the freedom of speech should abide by the general ethical rules. Leaving things turn into chaos especially in precarious political and social environment might lead to devastating results.

In this respect, our problem with several Western administrations lies in that the laws they passed to organize the freedom of expression are biased in that they consider insulting the Muslims and even their Prophet(p.) a part of this freedom, while any objective criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic . And we have seen several Western writers and officials pay the price of criticizing Israel under the pretense of abusing the freedom of speech.

On the other hand, we have, in our Arab and Islamic world, and especially in Lebanon, that enjoys a wide range of freedoms, to benefit of this atmosphere to run a constructive dialogue among all Lebanon’s sects, in order that the Lebanese youth would understand each other. But we should not allow sectarian incitement that takes the country back for many decades, instead of learning from our wounds and sufferings.

Furthermore, I feel wary from certain distortion attempts whether international or otherwise that aim to undermine the moral and spiritual values of the resistance especially that of liberation and fighting injustice. This is very dangerous, because it will spread in the Arab and Islamic world calling on the Muslims to reject any kind of resistance. We have to be very careful, very wise and prudent, when we try to confront these attempts, since the situation is very sensitive and any arbitrary move could backfire.