Freedom of Expression is an Absolute Right

Contrary to the common misconception that Islam denies religious freedom to others, Islam upholds religious freedom for everyone. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right whose violation has caused conflicts, wars and bloodshed in ancient and modern societies. For the first time in human history, the Quran declared: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” (2: 256). It further states clearly, “You have your religion, and I have mine.” (109: 6) The principle that we obtain from the above verses of the Quran is generally referred to as religious freedom in today’s context. Given this prohibition of compulsion, all Islamic jurists hold that forcible conversion is null and void under all circumstances in Islam. The principle of non-coercion mentioned in the Quran has not been confined to religious freedom alone. It has been extensively elaborated upon and widely applied to all social, cultural, and political spheres of society. It has led to a new culture in which individuals enjoy the freedom of expression, dissent and criticism without fear or restriction.

Video Transcript
Video Transcript

In the book The God Delusion, the author writes that Islam believes in thought crime. This is entirely baseless. There is no thought crime in Islam. There is no punishment for thinking. You are free to think, speak or write whatever you want. If you cause physical harm to someone, steal money or behave violently, then that will be a punishable crime. The Quran tells us that there are two sources of knowledge: revelation and reason. (46.4) What is the stand of revelation and reason in this matter? The Quran tells us that humans have been placed on earth for test. (67.2) This world is a testing ground. This is why, freedom is essential. If you don’t steal or cause physical injury, you have complete freedom. You can give advice, provide arguments or preach your point of view. You cannot do anything more than that. It is upon people to accept or reject you. فَمَنْ شَاءَ فَلْيُؤْمِنْ وَمَنْ شَاءَ فَلْيَكْفُرْ (18.29). This is the stand of Islam, or of revealed religion. What is the stand of the secular civilization in this matter? It is the same. Freedom of expression is part of human rights. All nations are signatories to the 1948 UN Charter, called Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All nations have signed the Charter which declares freedom of expression to be an absolute right. According to both reason and religion, freedom of expression is an absolute right. This right cannot be abolished by anyone. If you have any difference of opinion with someone, you can write a book or an article, issue a statement, or persuade the concerned person. But you cannot stop anyone from expressing their views.

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