Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Random thoughts

As published on the BBC WebSite by Ed Husein.
I am a Muslim. I am a Westerner. I see no contradictions in being both.
We reached this stage of our history by ending the control of the Catholic Church on what could and could not be said or written in public. So-called heretics were killed at the stake to help secure freedom of religion, thought, and expression. These freedoms are sacrosanct to me.
It is this history of Christian Protestant bravery that led to the creation of pluralist and secular societies in the West, allowing for the first time in history for Muslims and Jews to settle there in large numbers - we were free to practise our religions freely. The barbarity of pogroms, witch-hunting, and burning heretics ended.
My fellow Muslims must understand this background. We cannot trample on the very freedoms that allow us to thrive as Muslims. Yes, it hurts when the Prophet is insulted. From Shakespeare to Thomas Paine, Western literature is full of negative references to Muslims as Moors, Turks, and followers of Mahomet.
Similarly, classical Arabic and Persian writings are replete with anti-Semitism and denial of Christ's divinity as the son of God. Yet, it is a remarkable feat that we in the West have accommodated all faiths and no faith.
This achievement cannot be reversed. Self-censorship is to reverse the gains made by our intellectual forefathers.
Just as Muslims are free in the West, Christians and other dissenters must be free in the East.
We Muslims killed some of our best luminaries because of clerical accusations of heresy, absence of freedom of thought.
From executing al-Hallaj in Baghdad to stoning Ibn Arabi in Damascus to banishing Bulleh Shah in the Punjab, the history is bitter.
They were Muslim martyrs to freedom of thought. As a Westerner and Muslim, I want to cherish these freedoms and secure liberty for future generations.