November 22, 2017

Raising the concern of the right to respect

As a journalist, I am an advocate for freedom of speech and expression – yet, just as Pope Francis declared during an in-flight news conference to Manila, I believe there should be limitations to this right, particularly when disparaging the religious beliefs of other cultures. In the words of the Pope during his conference, “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. There is a limit.”

In today’s society, we are fortunate to have the privilege of exercising freedom through speech, religious beliefs, and the press. Yet, it is important to remember not to misuse this right in order to harm and insult others. A religious leader of Ismaili Muslims, His Highness Aga Khan IV revealed this idea in a media conference held in Kenya, where he stated, “Freedom, in any area of human activity, does not mean the moral license to abuse that freedom.” Thus, he indicates that freedom is a privilege, which comes with certain responsibilities, including respecting the religions and value systems of others.

What the Muslim attackers of Charlie Hebdo did defies the spirit of Islam. Only an extreme minority of Muslims practice violence, which is completely in contradiction of the tenets of the religion. As the Qu’ran states, “If any one saved a person, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity.” I denounce that violence was the correct manner in which to oppose the magazine’s controversial depictions of Islam, and in fact it heightened tensions between those who practice this religion and the non-Muslim world.

Perhaps the satirical statements published against Islam were grounded upon a basis of lack of knowledge. Through the media’s lens, the Muslim population can be perceived as violent – yet it is important to remember that these extremists represent a trifling percentage of the whole faith. Rather than fearing differences, it is important to close these knowledge gaps regarding the true values of other religions and learn to respect others faiths’ religious beliefs.

 (Noor Pirani ’15, Editor-in-Chief)

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