On lack of freedom
Political and religious freedom in Muslim countries. “Democracy is largely seen as a foreign, western concept that is being imposed on and is at odds with traditional Islamic values but the idea of democratization of a society is slowly gaining ground in Muslim countries.”
Freedom of speech. “Freedom of speech is a noble value. But it must be exercised within the framework of decency, honesty and respect… Also we must carry out the discussions with the rules taught to us by the Holy Prophet (sa).”
Political and religious freedom in Muslim countries
Responding to the US State Department’s 2010 Report on Religious Freedom in Egypt, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Sheikh, Ahmed El-Tayeb, said:
“The claim that the Egyptian government bans the freedom to preach Christianity is unfounded and inaccurate. Every monotheist in Egypt enjoys the freedom to present, defend, and invite to his or her faith. What is banned, however, is the evangelization practiced by Western foreign parties through well-known material temptations and which was introduced to our country by the colonialist occupation in the 19th century. Prohibiting evangelization aims to preserve our cultural independence and social security, and to prevent sectarian strife. It is not Islamic fanaticism targeted at Christianity, which is recognized by Islam. Islam respects Christianity and its leading symbols and figures, and it protects its sanctities as is well known.
…It is not true that Egypt restricts freedom of belief or practice of religious rites. Construction of places of worship in Egypt is regulated by the law and the construction of a mosque requires nine conditions to be met, which exceed the conditions required for building churches.
The ratio of churches to Christians – many of whom live outside the country – in Egypt is close to that of Muslims to mosques. The churches and monasteries of Egypt are open around the clock, their sermons are not monitored, and the government does not intervene in the appointment of Christian leaders at any level. Meanwhile, all Islamic religious posts are appointed by the government.”
Responding to the issue of religious and political freedom and democracy in Muslim countries, Adis Duderija said:
“The democratizing tendencies and the idea of democratization of a society are slowly gaining ground in other Muslim countries such as S. Arabia but due to the socio-political realities of the world today they are often forced to take a back-seat given the immediate appeal and simplicity of Salafo-jihadi politics. Additionally, another main obstacle democracy is facing in Muslim societies is that the democracy is largely seen as foreign, western concept that is being imposed on and is at odds with traditional Islamic values. This view is further consolidated by at times direct and explicit involvement of Western countries, such as the USA and Britain, in stipulating and guiding Muslim societies towards democratic -like models of government (such as Iraq and Afghanistan) without taking the will and readiness of the native population into consideration.
… Prophet’s attitude towards nom Muslims was largely context dependent . The Qur’an itself bears witness to this in many places. The signing of the peace treaty between various faith communities in Medina soon after the Prophet’s arrival indicated his willingness and readiness for peaceful co-existence. A number of incidents that happened during Prophet’s time in Medina , such as his order to execute the male members of a particular Jewish tribe in Medina after their repeated breaking of an agreement, along with Qur’anic injunctions which often , if taken literal and decontextually, could be seen as ambivalent, even contradictory towards ahl-Kitab ( recipients of previous revelations) resulted in a certain uncertainty and lack of definition as to how the subsequent generations are to approach people belonging to non-Muslim faiths.”
About freedom of speech
On the issue of the Danish cartoons in his speech “Holy Prophet, Freedom of Speech and Cartoon Controversy” of March 20th 2008, Atif Munawar Mir said:
“Freedom of speech is a noble value. But it must be exercised within the framework of decency, honesty and respect. Otherwise, freedom of speech will become a nuisance. When speech is driven by insults, it reinforces stereotypes and prejudices, which is clearly something we neither want nor can afford to have in a pluralistic society. The values taught to us by the Holy Prophet(sa) are simple but elegant which once incorporated in any setting, personal, cultural, national or international, will guide towards truth while preserving justice and promoting social harmony. Before the holocaust, insulting cartoons were drawn dehumanizing Jews and it led to the massacre of hundreds of thousands of them. Now Danish cartoonists have painted the Holy Prophet (sa) and the whole Ummah of Islam as terrorists. It is our responsibility to dispel the myths that are being created against the Holy Prophet (sa) and Muslims. Unfortunately, the western media defines the word freedom in terms of their culture and history. Our response, as a result, tends to be reactionary or apologetic. Don’t misunderstand me. Western civilization has made a great contribution to humanity on the foundations laid down by Greeks, Roman and Islamic societies. We must appreciate those contributions and absorb them into our culture as long as they don’t conflict with Islam. However, as Muslims and citizens of the world, we have something to offer to the western world as well. One of the things at this juncture that we can offer is to inform them about the beautiful life and teachings of the Holy Prophet (sa). But we must carry out the discussions with the rules taught to us by the Holy Prophet (sa).”