Lifted from Aftenposten.no
An unrestricted right to freedom of speech
Blasphemy. Even I have grown up with thoughts of committing violence against those who insults the Prophet Muhammad.
Abid Q. Raja Liberal politician. Currently residing in New Delhi, India
Published: 01.okt. 2012 6:00 Updated: 01.okt. 2012 09:49
While, in his address to the UNGA, Barack Obama said he will defend everyone’s right to hurt him, several heads of state from various Muslim countries have called for international limitations to free speech. President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, my parents’s native country, went furthest, calling for an international ban on blasphemy
Admittedly, I did write in Morgenbladet some time ago, that I would support a ban on some types of blasphemy, as some sort of symbolic gesture. I was right in my assertion that to mock the Prophet Muhammad would lead to major social upheaval around the world in our time. But I was wrong to suggest that for the sake of the Peace, such utterances ought to be banned. It has taken me some years to realize that freedom of speech – precisely for the interests of the society – should be unlimited.
Today, when a drawing can get people killed and put world security at stake, it is important for non-Muslims that they understand the “Muslim” mindset. Let me start with their own demons: Up until I started college, and well into my studies, I had strong dislike of, sometimes hatred of Americans, Jews, Indians and gays. Why? Not because I had ever experienced something negative with any of these groups. I hardly knew even one American, or a Jew, an Indian or gay person. My antipathies towards them were nevertheless strong. It is simply down to the upbringing of Muslim boys.
The biggest satan
What did I learn from discussions when I was a 16 year old lad, when America went to war against Iraq for the first time? Obviously, that America is the great satan! That the U.S. is the Muslims’ greatest enemy. They want to hurt us, they will marginalize and kill us. And who runs the U.S? Obviously, the greatest Satan of all is run and owned by the Jews. Therefore, the Jews are also the enemy of Muslim. Gays were something outrageously disgusting, having sex with each other, even if God had clearly stated that such a behavior merited death. This was our childhood learning we learned already in early childhood. And as children of Pakistanis raised in a Pakistani setting, hating India and Indians, comes naturally.
As children we boys are taught that if someone insults the Prophet, then that person is fair game. He must be apprehended, beaten, shot, killed.
When this is the rhetoric you are being served as children and youth, then non-Muslims must understand that it is not strange if you grow up to hate Americans, Jews or gays, nor should be be considered strange if one is willing to kill if the prophet has been insulted.
These attitudes are imbibed together with mother’s milk, especially for boys. Intentional? At least subconsciously. It is a tacit knowledge transfer between generations in meeting other Muslims in mosques, at kebab shops, visiting the native country of our parents, as an observer of adult discussions, or, as a participant in the discussions themselves.
Coming to terms
But eventually, children and youth grow up. A civilized society thinks that we are thus able to make up our own thoughts and opinions. But to free oneself from such hateful baggage is not an easy task. The hatred has been engraved. One has been indoctrinated. Intentional? No, more like unconsciously. And clearly, as a Muslim minority we know implicitly what you should not say in front of “white” and “non-Muslims”. I’m saying too much here.
Today, I know many Americans, Jews, Indians and gays. No one bothered me or did me wrong. I have no reason to hate anybody. I know also that a single person’s stupidity should not lead to hatred of an entire group. And, I have learned that the public debate to limit freedom of expression is to limit human development.
A law professor said something wise to me: Humans need protection, God can look after himself. As a moderate, adult Muslim, I think that the Muslim prophet is beyond harsh criticism and mockery. The Prophet does not need me, Zardari or a Muslim mob to defend himself. Least of all does he need an Arfan Bhatti and his boys in Norway.
Battling with inner voices
Not everyone can rid themselves of their demons. I – as a liberal Liberalist still have to confront my own inner voices. If you have had an inner voice, which for 18 years has been inculcated to hate “Western values” you cannot turn your back on it easily.
To succeed, we need to realize that this is about an integration policy from cradle to grave. Today Norwegian children grow up being taught all their childhood and youth to hate the so-called great satan and the Jews, and who will be willing to kill if somebody mocks the Prophet. Our society has been either ignorant or deliberately chose to ignore. Both approaches are foolishly naive.
Disturbing children’s minds
I have reflected on the prejudices and myths, and my son is in her first school year at the American school here in India. I consider it unthinkable that my little Adam of almost five years will grow up with hatred toward any group or people. But how easy would it not have been for me, as a father, to influence my own son or my nephew or neighbor kid to grow up with hatred. The bottom line is parental responsibility, then, the role we adults play in our children’s lives. A charismatic leader of a mosque or society could easily influence a child’s mind with his rhetoric. Unfortunately it happens all too often.
Will respond with violence
Very few Muslims have seen the cartoons or the much talked about film about Muhammad. The same applies to Muslims in Norway. But we know this: Every time someone mocks the Prophet, Muslims around the world will respond with violence and demonstrations. For a long while yet. Maybe our entire lifetime. It pains them to see their Prophet mocked, but it should be much more painful to see that a movie can get innocent people, including a U.S. ambassador killed.
But the most painful of all would be if we, out of fear for our lives and peace of mind choose to limit our freedoms, to compromise our core principles will ultimately help to tear down what we have built up.
This very frank and wise reflection from one of our most promising politicians helps to put the shameful bomb attack on the Malmø Synagogue into a more somber perspective. Abid Raja, an energetic and strong contributor to the Norwegian public discourse – along with ever intellectually stimulating free thinker, Sara Azmeh Rasmussen, who published a Muhammed drawing of her own, have the courage of conviction to challenge inherited concepts and arrive at independent conclusions. Unfortunately, in Norway, several leading politicians, seem to lack this fundamental ability to stand out in a crowd.