Je suis Muslim: Declaration of free speech or warrant to criminalise?

In an attempt to discuss how Muslims should respond to insults against the Prophet ﷺ and the criminalisation of Islam and Muslim activists, yesterday saw a vibrant panel and packed audience attend the Manchester leg of the nationwide conference entitled, “#JeSuisMuslim: Our Prophet, Our Honour”, writes Sairah Yassir

As the CTS (supposed “Counter Terrorism and Security”) Bill is currently being rushed through parliament, coupled with the continuous Islamophobic, and hostile attitudes espoused towards activists who challenge the status quo, this conference could not have come at a more opportune time. “Whilst the world celebrates the 800th year anniversary of the Magna Carta,something which in one poll was ranked as prime example for “British values”, it is currently under threat [1],” Jehangir Muhammad, CAGE representative, warned. “After the CTS Bill is passed next week, there will be two cartas in place as a result; the Magna Carta and a Muslim Carta”.

Although all speakers originated from diverse backgrounds, all analysed, shone light and offered practical solutions on the history, selectivity and hypocrisy of so-called “freedom of speech” and “British values”.

Left to right: Imran Waheed (HT), Abdurraheem Green (iERA), Abdullah al Andalusi (MDI), Moazzam Begg (CAGE), Sharif Hafizi (activist), Mohammed Jahangir (speaker)
Left to right: Imran Waheed (HT), Abdurraheem Green (iERA), Abdullah al Andalusi (MDI), Moazzam Begg (CAGE), Sharif Hafizi (activist), Mohammed Jahangir (speaker)

Speaker Jehangir Mohammed reminded us that “Freedom of speech”, though brandied and packaged as if it was and is Western establishment sacrilege, has a deeply entrenched history of speaking truth against the power structure and its supporters – not as it is currently believed to create division and oppress minorities. Movements led by the Levellers, Workers’ Rights campaigners at the Peterloo Massacre, anti-fascists and even Socrates, the darling of so-called “free speech” enthusiasts, prove to be embarrassing revelations of how British and other Western establishments have historically silenced free speech endorsers for challenging the status quo. They too, were named the fundamentalists of their time, muzzled by endless enforced legislation such as “The Seditious Libel Act [2]”, “The Libel Act [3]” and “The Treason Act [4]” – acts which saw pamphlets banned, public meetings barred, arrests, corporal and penal punishment etc. condoned so as to curb legitimate government criticism. Socrates himself accepted to drink poison due to the aftermath of his trial regarding claims made against his “impiety” and “influencing the youth”. He however, despite the controversial trial, was afforded a jury – something which Muslim and anti-establishment activists have not most recently and will not most likely be afforded after the CTS Bill is passed. David Starkey, who acclaimed journalist Mehdi Hasan lately coined as “Katie Hopkins with a PhD”, recently stated that “Islam is in the dark ages”, more than a century since Socrates’ death however, “Western civilisation” fails to even meet the partial court systems of 4th Century Greece.

jesuis2The curtailment of our civil liberties are not solely lessened by the government and its enforcers though, it is also due to the overbearing silence of the average man and woman who believe they are safe whilst neoliberalists continue to chip away at our ideals and our values until one day, we will not recognise who we are and what we traditionally stood for. All speakers highlighted the paramount need for all to continue or begin challenging the power structure as is the tradition of the Prophet ﷺ, as well as heroic men and women mentioned earlier such as the Levellers, Workers’ Right Campaigners, International Brigaders, and so many more that the establishment wishes we did not remember.

This year marked the 70 year memorial of the holocaust, a time where we remember those who lost their lives to the unadulterated hatred nazi fascists and their sympathisers held towards a minority. A minority who looked different, had different names, spoke Yiddish, held different celebrations, held a different Holy Book dear, sent their children to different schools, had kosher slaughter practices, and were ultimately punished for these differences. Compare this with what Muslims receive today for the way they look, the names they hold, the languages they speak, the celebrations they partake in, the Holy Book they hold dear, the schools they send their children to, the halal slaughter practices they endorse and the punishments alongside ostracisation they are receiving as a result. It would appear as Abdullah al-Andalusi stated “never again only applies for the same minority”, not the same hatred.

References:

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11392741/Magna-Carta-freedoms-under-threat-today-MPs-warned.html
[2] https://www.uclalawreview.org/?p=3110
[3] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/6-7/96/contents
[4] https://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/oct/17/treason-act-facts-british-extremists-iraq-syria-isis

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