Blasphemy and Freedom of Speech – Report

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Dallas and Town North Presbyterian Church Richardson held the second in the Meeting for Better Understanding Series today in the community’s mosque in Allen, TX.

Today’s program focused on the most talked about topic, Blasphemy and Freedom of Speech. The program was conducted in the same manner as the last one and was attended by members from both the community and friends from outside both communities as well.

The program started with Irfan Rabbani from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community reciting verses from the Holy Qur’an and Andrew Ciles from the Presbyterian Church reading verses from the Holy Bible. President Suhail Kausar extended formal welcome to all the guests who attended the program, and gave an introduction about the Community, its beginnings and the spread today. He also explained how the Community, having presence in 206 countries of the world and the oldest in America, is working hard supporting needy layers of humanity, and also how the head of the community is trying to establish peace in the world by addressing heads of state directly and through letters and meetings.

Rev Imad Aubrey had the chance to speak first on the subject. He appreciated how Freedom of Press is an extension of freedom of expression and freedom of opinion, and how it is an integral part of democracy in our country. He also blamed the unlimited freedom as the creation of post modernism which has not been able to solve clash of civilization and wars in the world and also stated that democracy and freedom of expression is not the only solution as we are told to believe in. He lamented how freedom of speech is used by the Press so irresponsibly, but he suggested it’s only a symptom and not the problem. The problem, in Christian belief is the sin that the humanity has inherited from Adam and Eve. In the name of Christianity and in the name of the Church he represents, he said “We condemn the attacks on Charlie Hebdo; We also condemn Charlie Hebdo’s mocking of Prophet Muhammad” In Christianity, slandering people are also blasphemy though not at the same level as blaspheming God.

Imam Mubashir Ahmad talked from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He said the way blasphemy is defined – as any contemptuous comments or action against any sacred assets of one community – it is difficult to enforce it. For example, for Hindus in India, cow is sacred and for Muslims and Christians it’s a source of food. While Islam promotes oneness of God as the basic tenet, it automatically relegates many Hindu gods as mere people. In essence, what is sacred for one group may not be sacred for another. As per Holy Quran, there is no worldly punishment for blasphem; Muslims are admonished against vilifying any sacred assets of another community and advised to ignore or stay away from people who talk ill about Islam until they stopped doing so. Freedom, he said, is no freedom if not used with some responsibility. There are moral and legal restrictions on the Press today to avoid some social evils already, he said, and it will be good to have some restrictions in place to avoid hurting feelings of millions of people.

The talks were followed by question and answer sessions, which went through topics below for another 45 minutes

How can we restrict freedom of press as it is a pillar of our democracy

  • While Quran states no punishment for blasphemy and only reference is in Old Testament Bible, how come many Muslim countries are using laws against blasphemy today
  • Do Ahmadiyya Muslims support Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa on Salman Rushdie
  • Why Christians are ignoring the laws / punishments prescribed by the Holy Bible for blasphemy

Around 150 people attended the event. The attendees had a long social time over tea and snacks before they left with the resolve to meet again to discuss another topic and build more understanding between the communities.

See pictures from the event here

Here is an abridged video presentation.

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