Sexuality and freedom of speech #censorship


M. Najibur Rohman, Semarang | Thu, 05/10/2012 , The Jakarta Post

The involuntary dissolution of Irshad Manji’s book launch in Salihara Cultural Center last week is representation of the tyranny of conservative groups that suppresses freedom of speech.

Indeed, as Muslim liberal activist Manji who wrote a book titled Allah, Liberty and Love, has been known as pro-contra a thinker as well as a lesbian. It seems Manji’s sexual identity was the primary motive for the protesters to deny her speech regardless of the essence of the discussion.

In this case, first of all, we have to make a difference between the private and public domain. Sexual orientation as well as faith or religion is a private domain. Everyone has this right and of course the state bears the responsibility for protection of the right.

Second, a discussion forum is an academic area that should remain free from “moral judgment”. Here, the most important thing is brains, not muscle.

The disparity between the notions deserves a wide space for anyone without considering sexual orientation. There is no reason for certain groups — including hard-line religious activists — to disperse or ban an academic forum by use of threat or derision.

The threat targeting Manji’s book discussion should prompt the state, in this case the National Police, to provide protection and security. It is clear that such discussion, characterized by academic and open-ended dialogue, is not intended to generate social anxiety.

Nevertheless, the police, citing the absence of permit and potential for disruption — based on the law — dispersed the discussion and therefore hurt freedom of speech.

Sexuality has long invited many thinkers and scholars to start discussions and debates. For certain members of the Indonesian public, especially those in the Muslim majority, homosexuality is seen as a violation of norms and rules of the religion.

The tale of Prophet Luth suggests homosexuality is a prohibited sexual orientation. But such conclusion, although in the mainstream, is just one of many exegesis of the Koran.

On the other hand, the discourse of sexuality actually is a part of social, political and ideological construction. Sex is related with history-knowledge-language and all of them are directed to body control.

Therefore, in a democracy like Indonesia there should be no discriminatory treatment for people based on their sexual orientation. Heterosexual and homosexual have the same position to exercise freedom of speech. Equality, a primary principle of the law, must be interpreted as the state’s way to protect human rights and guarantee their implementation.

In addition, violence is the chief nemesis of true democracy. It is time for the state to resist any kinds of acts that discredit the minorities and set up “religious oligarchy”. Here, dialogue is the best way to express an opinion. Disagreement is justified but must not be translated in the use of violence.

The writer teaches at Walisongo State Islamic Institute, Semarang.

Death threats over free speech


BY 

FIRST POSTED: TUESDAY, APRIL 17,Toronto Sun

Earlier this week, the Kuwaiti parliament voted to institute the death penalty against any Muslim who is judged by Islamic clerics to have insulted God.

As medieval as this may sound to the ears of the Western non-Muslim, the threat is real and the target is the millions of Muslims, like me, who are fed up with the clerics who have sucked the joy out of our lives for centuries.

The tradition of silencing dissident Muslims by beheading them is not new; its most famous victim was beheaded in Baghdad over a 1,000 years ago and the most recent ones are the victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today, at the Toronto Public Library on Palmerston Street, a group of Muslims are going to say “Enough is enough.” They will honour a 21st century Muslim reformer in the name of a 10th century Muslim rebel who died for speaking the truth. This will be their rebuke to the Kuwaiti parliament.

The celebrated and controversial Canadian author Irshad Manji will receive the first “Mansoor Hallaj Freedom of Speech Award” by the Muslim Canadian Congress.

So who is Mansoor Hallaj?

Hallaj was a Persian mystic Sufi saint who had rebelled against the hierarchy of the Sufi Orders and had taken his message to the masses, making enemies in high places.

His indiscretions crossed the limits when he would fall into trances claiming he was near God himself. It was during one of these trances that he uttered the words, “Ana al-Haqq,” or “I am the Truth.” His naysayers claimed this chant meant Hallaj was claiming to be God, though he never said anything of this sort.

As his popularity against the decaying orthodoxy of the caliphate increased among ordinary Muslims, he was accused of sorcery that they said he had picked up after a visit to distant India. He was asked to recant and stay silent, but Hallaj would not and could not be silenced.

The caliph did what he did best — sent the Sufi saint to an 11-year imprisonment in a Baghdad dungeon.

That isolation gave further credence to Hallaj and his following among dissidents and rebels grew enormously. The mullahs and imams insisted that the caliph have him beheaded to end the “sorcerer’s” magical incantations.

When imprisonment did not silence him, on March 25, 922, Mansoor Hallaj was given a public trial and a death sentence was pronounced. As a last warning, the caliph had his arms chopped off and the stumps that remained were dipped in burning tar. He was given the night to ponder about his future and recant if he wished to live.

The next morning as the sun rose over Baghdad, the caliph approached Hallaj who was tied to a post and asked him to recant. Hallaj is said to have spat on the ground.

That was it. Moments later Mansoor Hallaj was no more; his head was sliced off and rolled down the bridge.

Popular myths arose that even when Hallaj was beheaded, his head kept repeating the words. “Ana al-Haqq … I am the truth.”

Since that day, no Muslim group has dared celebrate the man who died for the truth. Except today in Toronto when Irshad Manji receives the award named after the 10th century Sufi saint.

Join us this evening at the Toronto Library on Palmerston St. as we stand tall in the face of medieval madness.

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