Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Freedom of opinion and expression is a fundamental right of any individual in a democratic country. Most international laws and United Nations charters recognize human rights, freedom of thought and freedom of information, such as the right to access, transmit, discuss and present information without restrictions or guardianship from one or any of the parties, whether governmental or societal.

Written by: Hazem Qawasmi

Freedom of opinion and expression is a fundamental right of any individual in a democratic country. Most international laws and United Nations charters recognize human rights, freedom of thought and freedom of information, such as the right to access, transmit, discuss and present information without restrictions or guardianship from one or any of the parties, whether governmental or societal. These legislations also enable individuals to express his/her opinion verbally, orally or in writing on any of the audio, visual or written press platforms and on social media websites. Free exchange of opinions contributes to the development of society and human development. Likewise, expressing these views in complete freedom enables the formation of creativity that is required to move society out of a state of intellectual stagnation and obsolete consuming opinions to new vital spaces filled with intellectual productivity in order to discover modern aspects of our vast world that benefit humanity.

Even though there are not any limits for freedoms, there are those who claim that its limit is the sky, indicating that one’s freedom should not violate the freedoms and rights of others or national security and public order. In other words, it is important to not harm others through opinions, which may constitute a threat to others’ lives, security and/or work. However, nowadays, people’s lives are threatened on Facebook and other social media sites, which is considered a criminal act, and those perpetrators must be held accountable by the state’s security services. Writing that threatens the lives of others, such as incitement and contempt cannot be overlooked because they cause societal chaos, spread crime, suppress other’s opinions, and threaten the civil peace.

All ideas and opinions are important regardless of whether they appear strange or conflict with your own set of values, beliefs, and traditions. In terms of freedom of opinion and expression, a person can state his/her opinion, criticize anything and/or question anything, no matter if it is a belief, religion, custom or a specific tradition of society, as long as it does not incite hatred or crime. This applies to writing books and novels or producing films and series. In the modern era, there has been widespread debate in the West about freedom of opinion and expression regarding religions and religious symbols, where there were drawings and movies that ironically mocked Jesus Christ and the Christian religion, such as the film, “The Life of Brian,” written by the comedy group, Monty Python, in 1979. Consequently, several series of violent responses and events from the religious ultra-Orthodox occurred, like what happened when the film, “The Last Temptation of Christ” was shown and bombs were thrown on the showroom in Paris in 1988, causing it to burn down. As for Muslims, we all remember what happened to the British novelist, Salman Rushdie, when he published his famous novel, “The Satanic Verses.” Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a religious ruling in 1989 ordering Muslims to kill the author. Although he died the same year, Khomeini would be chased to this day around world for his novel. While the western world took a long time until its people began accepting opinions contrary to their beliefs, approaching anything related to the Islamic religion is still a burning red line, even if it has nothing to do with the Qur’an or the Sunnah, such as criticizing the companions, the four Imams, the Islamic Caliphate, or even hadiths and religious narrations that don’t have any foundation.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.

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