This article is spread over three parts which will be published over the course of three days for ease of consideration. Comments will only be allowed on the third part. Readers are encouraged to keep an open mind on the articles until its conclusion.
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“Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of such a society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man. . .it is applicable not only to “information” or “ideas” that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no “democratic society”.”[my emphasis] Handyside v. The United Kingdom (1976) 1 EHRR 737 (Para. 49)
Beautiful isn’t it? A judgment from the European Court of Human Rights in 1976! Pay close attention to the phrase “offend, shock or disturb“. That’s how wide Freedom of Expression is!
We, Malaysians, on the other hand still seem to operate under the illusion that we have a Right to have our feelings protected. That somehow if someone says something that hurts your feelings, that you need to shut him up. Or if someone writes something that offends you, that he must be made to remove it and be forced to respect you. Or if someone uses a word that you get sensitive about, that he must be coerced to stop using it.
What utter bullshit!
There is no Right to have your feelings protected. There is no Right not to be offended. Neither is there any Right not to talk about sensitive issues.
You won’t find such a thing in any Bill of Rights or the Constitution of any democratic nation.
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of Expression (and Speech) is a crucial pillar for any democratic society. It is the lifeblood of society and it is conducive to society’s well being. People must be allowed to think, speak and act freely as long as they operate within laws that are just.
Society is akin to a marketplace. Everyone gathers and take turns giving ideas on what one thinks is the truth. People listen, communicate and then make choices on the ideas that best fit all if not most, without ever silencing anyone or any minority; a free trade in ideas.
Why so? Because every idea could be a good idea. An idea from a minority, could be just the idea that will benefit all regardless of religion or colour. An idea is for all, population and Government, to consider and subscribe to. An offensive, shocking or disturbing idea could be just the idea that society needs to rock its conscience and steer it to a more meaningful decision or perhaps even to subscribe to. Aside from society, an individual himself needs to hear as much views as possible so he can make the best choice for himself.
The greatest possible outcome for a nation will only be reached if people are free to think, express and speak.
But of course some Malaysians don’t like you to say too much. There are Malaysians who don’t like you to use certain words or talk about certain things. Some Malaysians don’t like to be offended or have their feelings hurt because of what you may say.
Malaysians like this fail to realize that the planet consists of 6.8 billion people. People are going to say whatever is on their mind if they think it is the right thing to say, whether you like it or not. That is the reality of life.
Expect to get offended, shocked and disturbed many times in life. If you have a problem with it, you might want to consider ending your life. If you’re too afraid to get offended, ending your life is, quite frankly, the greatest thing you can do for yourself and for everyone else.
Things that Offend, Shock or Disturb me
I have a lot of things that offend, shock or disturb me. Being a person that neither professes Islam or Christianity, there are a couple of things from these two camps that REALLY offends, shocks or disturbs me as an unbeliever/humanist. Here’s a list of it (with links):-
Qur’an (9:73) – O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.
Qur’an (8:55) – Lo! the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the ungrateful who will not believe.
Qur’an (9:123) – O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.
Qur’an (3:56) – As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.
Qur’an (9:29) – Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya (tax imposed on non Muslims) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Qur’an (2:216) – Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.
Qur’an (8:12) – I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.
Qur’an (9:30) – And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fights against them. How perverse are they!
Qur’an (5:51) – O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.
Qur’an (9:38-39) – O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place.
These passages offend, shock and disturb me greatly. It shows so much of prejudice, detestation and chauvinism. And these are just from the Qur’an, there’s a lot more unbelievable material from the Hadith. As for the Bible, here’s a list (with links):-
1 Timothy (2:11-13) – A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
Ephesians (5:22-24) – Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Leviticus (25:44-46) – ‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you. . . and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
Deuteronomy (13:6-9) – If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods”. . . do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death.
Deuteronomy (7:16) – You must destroy all the peoples the LORD your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.
Exodus (12:29-30) – At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
Exodus (32:27-28) – Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.
Leviticus (20:13) – ‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
Matthew (10:34-36) – (Jesus says) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
Luke (14:26) – (Jesus says) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple.
These are only a fraction of the misdeeds I have read in the Bible. Some of the others are ghastly; tantamount to genocides and crimes against humanity, often perpetrated by God Himself.
I simply cannot see how such ‘ideas’ on spirituality, from the Qur’an and the Bible, can ever be condonable let alone tenable with the lives of intelligent civilized human beings in the 21st century. If I were to be born in Saudi Arabia some 1400 years ago, with my current disbelief in Islam, I might’ve been beheaded! My crime? Having a different opinion on Life.
I find it difficult to grasp the notion that somehow we need to continue to live in accordance with the actions promulgated by the above verses. One can only wonder, what kind of cold and heartless world would we be living in? Where is the value on human life and fundamental liberties? What would become of science, philosophy and legal jurisprudence?
I am deeply Offended indeed!
To be continued tomorrow…