Opening Remarks for Report Launch Ceremony;
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION GIVES ONE THE RIGHT TO INSULT?
By; Sahibzada Sultan Ahmad Ali (Chairman of MUSLIM institute)
On June 16th, 2015 at Islamabad
بسم اللہ الرحمٰن الرحیم
Honourable chief guest, Panelists, Excellencys, Diplomats, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
Asalam o Alikum & Good Morning
On behalf of the MUSLIM Institute, I warmly welcome you all to the report launch ceremony of online debate on “freedom of expression gives one the right to insult”. This report contains statements of debaters, featured guests, moderator and comments from floor given during all the three sessions of debate i.e. opening, rebuttal and closing sessions. I am thankful to all of you for sparing time and joining us on the invitation of MUSLIM Institute.
As you are aware that our Institute is already working on various diverse issues confronted by the Muslim world and the world at large; the debate project has been started to encourage positive and healthy discussions on the same. It aims to develop an understanding and tolerance to different avenues, dimensions, arguments and opinions of people from different walks of life, and thus promoting an exploration of mutually agreeable grounds that may foster further research work. The debate on freedom of expression has provoked a myriad of interesting ideas and workable material for policy makers as well as for researchers. We have observed very encouraging responses from the participants and featured guests; with a lot of constructive and intellectual arguments expressing multi-dimensional point of views.
Ladies & gentlemen!
Right of freedom of expression is necessary for wellbeing and progress of societies but only if it is exercised with responsibility. Some expressions and acts by individuals or groups which insult or hurt a community can cause widespread emotional anguish, flare hatred, social unrest, and ethnic tensions that may lead to violence. Therefore free speech needs to be regulated.
The beliefs and norms present among different societies should be respected by all humans without giving up the right to disagreement and acting in accordance with individually held beliefs and values. Muslim community has faced a lot of problems and difficulties in recent past due to many blasphemous incidents in the name of right of freedom of expression.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Double standards on freedom of expression and all these kind of issues are not confronted by Muslim community alone, but unfortunately Muslim Community has been affected worst. The need of hour is that we should raise our voice in such a manner that we can present the issue in a humanitarian way rather than restricting it to one faith or community. It is actually a matter of human dignity and social dimensions are also with it. The beliefs and norms of societies and cultures that have been cherished and celebrated for centuries and even millennia, should be regarded with mutual respect and deference.
Therefore disgracing or humiliating others with the consequence of stoking hatred, discord and intolerance between communities should be punishable. This standard should be adopted universally and promoted through globally established laws and qualifications to free expression, in order to ensure and further respect for the beliefs and norms of others, whether they be minorities or majorities, towards promoting greater harmony, fraternity and mutual acceptance in our societies.
Ladies & Gentlemen!
Neither there is, nor there can be, any escape from this issue nor we can just deal with it in isolation. We have to discuss it intellectually on international level, do research on different aspects related to it and find the common grounds for its regulation so that we can convince people of other communities and thus prepare ground for international consensus on it and hence prevent the possibility of blasphemous acts becoming legal anywhere.
As Dr. Brian Klug has discussed in the debate that any international document, convention, charter or declaration explaining human rights has not included ‘right to insult’ among human rights; therefore it cannot be called as a human right and rather it could be a source of violence among humans.
One interesting feature of this debate is that both the debaters, defending the motion and opposing the motion and all the three featured guests don’t belong to Pakistan or Asia and also they are not the Muslims by birth. Ms. Lauren Booth is only featured guest who is converted Muslim grown up in the free western environment whereas all other four participants are standard bearers of western freedoms and are associated with top most credible educational institutions of United Kingdom and United States of America. By this debate and arguments of participant scholars, the result is visible that freedom of expression does not grant right to insult. Thus it is not only demand of Eastern traditions and values, not to accept right to insult as part of freedom of expression instead the intellectuals of west, that is champion of full freedom, also do not include right to insult in freedom of expression in order to maintain the unity among humans and close and sustainable relations among them.
I hope this report will become a reference for researchers and policy makers for further work and formulation of policies regarding regulation of freedom of expression. I look forward that distinguished guest speakers of today’s ceremony will enlighten us with their fruitful thoughts.
I thank you all once again for joining us in today’s ceremony.