Expression Outrage

We live in one of the most advanced times the human civilisation has ever seen, and this modernism is attributed, as much, to fundamental human rights as it is to the technological and economical prosperity. The West practically dictates everything to the rest of the World.

From lifestyle options to political processes, we owe most of our decisions and thought making process to the dictates of the West. And what is more, the West has set the benchmark of modernism and civility which the rest of the World must definitely follow.  Naturally, we were very quick to adopt what is considered the ‘trademark’ of civility – the various ‘freedoms’ that the charter of Human Rights guarantee to the population of the world. Freedom is in the nature of the man who was born free; unfortunately freedom needs a political clause in the constitution to be enforced and to be fully enjoyed by the people. However, freedom and its pursuit is no’t as easy as it may sound, neither is it as enchanting as it may appear on the first look.

Man exploits! And that exploitation is not confined merely to the resources at his disposal but stretches out to all the rights he enjoys and the freedoms that are granted to him, in this very modern and civilised world of today. Hence, it should not have come as a surprise when the Muslim population reacted strongly to the Danish cartoons; neither should it have been a shock to the Muslims when the Danish first published those cartoons. Both were exercising their freedom of action, freedom of thought, freedom of publication and freedom of expression. In their pursuit to inculcate what they define as the highest level of a ‘moralistic’ life, the powers have become rather selfish and judgemental. To live up to the ‘media inspired’ image of a civilised society, they pay no regard to the sentiments of the masses. They have freedom and they must uphold and establish it. Hence, the protests of Muslims not only seem unreasonable, but also barbaric and uncouth. So what, if a witty mind made fun of someone who lived a very long time ago? So what if the creative intellects can not draw the line between healthy criticism and poking satire?

Muslims are now a part of a ‘civilised’ society and that’s the price they must pay. They should respect others’ freedom of expression. However, I am not justifying the cartoonist’s actions. What he did under the pretext of ‘freedom’ was downright unacceptable and hurtful. And when the cartoonist was arrested for his actions, the political parties criticised it and the attempt was even viewed as a hindrance in the path to attaining the highest levels of freedom. Such a reaction is both shocking and disgusting. It points out, quite clearly, the disregard the Dutch have for the sentiments of the Muslims and their incapability to respect the Muslims’ freedom of belief.

The freedom is justified when it protects their actions and advocates their wishes, but the same freedom could mean hurting a large portion of the world’s population and that is of no significance to the society that proudly boasts the highest standards of civility. Freedom is one of the most sacred virtues in the world and it needs protection of our conscience. Freedom does not mean every action is justified, on the contrary it enjoins, upon those who observe it, an obligation. The obligation to respect the other person’s freedom of existence; the obligation to accept their choices and to tolerate their actions. Unless one is ready to accept, the entire point of civility of the ‘moralistic’ lifestyle is lost. Unfortunately those who are the pioneers of this civility seem to be overlooking this very thing!

Kulsoom Khawaja

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