Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Friends have asked me to explain my standpoint on the Freedom of Speech, the Cartoons and the savage reaction in terms of the beheading in France and now the shooting in Vienna of non-Muslims by Muslim zealots.
The Freedom of Speech includes the freedoms to believe, question, write, publish, present in artistic form, including cartoons without fear.
Such freedoms were won through mass struggles and revolutions in the face of tooth and nail opposition of Absolute kings and the Church or Churches.
Some curtailment of the freedoms have been recognized, however:
If one on false grounds says or writes things against a living person then in many countries the culprit can be taken to court on charges of slander (spoken word) or libel (published word) and if found guilty the courts can pass a prison sentence or fine or both. The reason is that when you are involved in character assassination then you are not only disparaging another living human being and tarnishing his/her reputation, you are also negatively impacting that person's economic and financial interests including the loss of a job or livelihood.
For people who are deceased the slander and libel laws do not apply unless one can show that the character assassination has resulted in negative consequences on a business and so on.
There is no exception like founders of religion about whom people can write whatever they want. For example, I have now read serious scholarship suggesting that Moses or Hazrat Musa is a Jewish myth and the expulsion from Egypt with the River Nile creating a passage for Jews to escape from Egypt also just a myth.
For a long time the Catholic Church used to display a shroud allegedly which Jesus Christ wore at the time of crucifixion. Tests done at Oxford University laboratories showed that the shroud was from the 11th Century.
I am sure if similar tests done about relics from Islam will not show that some are fabrications.
For example, there used to be on display a shroud believed to be carry blood of Imam Hussain from Karbala. The same claim is made in many other parts of the Muslim world.
In the museum at Topkapi Istanbul are several items like the swords of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and of the caliphs and so on. I wonder if they have been examined properly to establish their authenticity.
Some years ago the Hindu god Ganesh was supposed to start secreting milk which people believed was a miracle. When examined carefully it was found to be a fraud arranged by the priests and so on.
While science and scholars continue to check and examine historical claims and find many to be fake and frauds, the Freedom to believe and practise a religion is fully granted in all Western democracies.
Some years ago in Alby, in southern Greater Stockholm the permission was granted to Muslims not only to build a mosque but to recite the Azan within a limited range.
People have won the right to build mosques, Hindu temples, Sikh Gurdwaras, Buddhist Pagodas and so on.
So, just as the various religious minorities in the West now enjoy freedom of belief simultaneously people are free not to believe and have no religion.
However, everyone has to obey the laws of the country and there is no right to break the law.
Some people have published Cartoons of the Prophet and I can fully understand that Muslims in large numbers find that distasteful. Equally, Christians have objections to Jesus being shown to be Gay and even to have had an affair with a woman and left children behind and so on.
Part of the bargain is that if you have the freedom to believe, others have the freedom to question beliefs and dogmas.
I am witness to it how Western societies from being very, very tolerant have hardened over the years.
Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have been funding extremist groups and their message is: do not mix with the main society and instead assert your separate identity in a visible manner.
Some time ago, in France the Muslims began to block roads and put mats all over and start praying. Total burqas or niqab from head to foot and forcing girls as young as five to go around in abayyias and so were provocations after provocations.
I have seen similar things happening all over Europe and Muslim clerics and ideologues have visited and preached extremism.
Such trends have been accentuated by the invasions of Iraq under the second Bush in 2003 and later Libya and now Syria.
With nearly a million Muslim refugees, which neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia gave protection to, in Europe a fear of Muslim extremism and terrorism has grown.
Those who publish the cartoons definitely want to give signals that the Muslim presence in Europe will cause violence and terrorism and not only further immigration must be stopped by the Muslims should be sent back to where they came from.
The majority of Muslims in the West know that they are a million times better off than how they were in their own countries and of them the majority want to carry on with life but we do have now extremist and terrorist cells who believe that Islam has a right to dominate the whole world and for such a belief they resort to violence.
How this will play out in the long run is very difficult to say.
I don't think the Western democracies are going to introduce censorship to protect religious figures and personalities. I also know that the Western governments would rather have peace and do not encourage publishing of cartoons.
But I know that the confrontational attitudes of Muslims have been an important reason for anti-Muslim organizations and individuals to exploit the situation to further polarize the host populations and Muslim immigrants.
I don't think that the Western governments are just sitting and watching and I am sure they have plans A, B, C and more to deal with social unrest and will NOT LET ISLAMISTS DICTATE TO THEM HOW PEOPLE SHOULD LIVE IN THE WEST.
Those Muslims who are really hurt by the cartoons and I can understand they can be in large numbers can ALWAYS RETURN TO THEIR COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN OR GO TO SAUDIA ARABIA OR IRAN AND LIVE LIVES ACCORDING TO THEIR BELIEFS.
Still I believe the vast majority of Muslims would like to live and settle down in the West and consider the cartoons an example of bad conduct by some people who do not like Muslims in their societies.