This is about Freedom of Opinion - when it is expressed in Speech - and Islamic law, especially the Laws on Apostasy.
Aside from certain speech like endangering the existence of the Islamic state, slander, racism or insulting the holy icons of religions, especially Islam, where it comes to giving an opinion, I cannot help but see that a person must be free - absolutely free - to believe what s/he finds to be proper, to express it to his/her family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and anyone s/he meets, to argue his/her case in the hope that others agree, and not to fear punishment.
(Please bear in mind that when I say absolute free speech, I do not count those exceptions set aside at the start. Absolute means Absolute in giving an opinion.)
This is not for the sake of liberal values, but for the sake of Islam and Truth. If anyone argues for any - any - limitation on Absolute Freedom of Speech (aside from those special exceptions), they should answer this question: in the absence of the Imam, who is to be the arbiter of when a given opinion transgresses the limitation?
Any arbiter, even if it is the eminent scholars, would be fallible. Is considering music halal, kufr? What about teaching philosophy? Is expressing that the Imams have wilaya takwini shirk? Would it be kufr to believe in wahdat al-wujud? Is a rejector if the Imamat a kafir worthy of being silenced? What about someone who believes that hijab should not be enforced in the absence of the Imam? What about someone who verbally opposes an Islamic Government in the absence of the Imam? What if someone believes that the Prophet received revelation from his subconscious in the form of the archangel Gabriel? Is that Kufr deserving death or silence? How about believing that Adam and Eve were descended from apes? Should all these people be silenced? Some of them? Which ones? By force?
Now, let us consider the time when the Imam is present. Aside from those exceptions, wouldn't any fear of punishment only create a society containing underground hypocrites who are silenced yet conspiring against a state that kills their minds from expressing their conclusions only because they deviate from the established line?
Argumentation only makes sense when one is free to reason through and accept or reject the conclusions. Otherwise, the argumentation is just pretence. A disbeliever in Christianity would find it preposterous if the Church allowed it to convert after a session of argumentation, only to be forced to accept afterwards, regardless of their convictions. It would delegitimise the Church. A disbeliever in Islam would feel exactly the same.
Wouldn't many people be confused as to why Islam either kills the ideas it rejects or, if it resists, kills the ideologue in the hope of killing the idea? Wouldn't some who are religiously weak, uncertain - or have doubts - feel that Islam fears other ideas? And isn't fear a sign of inferiority? Wouldn't this push them to distrust Islam?
Isn't this the difference between Truth and Falsehood that Truth demonstrates itself by evidence, rational proof and clear arguments whereas Falsehood seeps through emotions, illusions, brute force and sophistry?
Wouldn't Islam - by being brutal against dissent - appear too similar to Falsehood?
Wasn't Truth the first to request Absolute Freedom of Speech in the midst of pagan Falsehood, when the latter persecuted the Truth? Wouldn't it be hypocritical and immoral for it to silence Freedom of Speech the moment it has come to power?
Don't all generations - including the future generations - have the right to listen to the Prophets, read their arguments, reflect on their wisdom, and choose like free human beings, a freedom bestowed to them by God? Doesn't this freedom mean accepting the possibility that they may beg to differ? Can we dictate what our children must believe or die?
And finally, isn't the Qur'an most adamant that Muslims are to argue beautifully, listen to all speech, and decide that which is the best? Isn't the Qur'an in its Meccan verses requesting the pagans to listen, not to arrogantly turn away, and not to persecute? Isn't the Qur'an in its Medinan verses patiently tolerating the scheming munafiqun? Isn't the Qur'an eerily silent about punishing apostasy?
Yet, the death penalty for apostasy is a reality. We have it in the Sunna. My question is this: except for the tiny exceptions set aside at the beginning, does it really make sense for anything else?
I find it more damaging to Islam, Truth and peace of mind for Freedom of Speech not to be Absolute.
Edited by Jebreil, 10 April 2012 - 07:49 PM.