By Mike Ghouse
Freedom of speech should not be subjected to the discretion of any one, any time we introduce an element of partiality, we will invariably trip and accept bias of the left or the right.
One such slip happened by my conservative friend Sean Hannity on September 30, 2014 on his Fox News show with Pamela Geller and me as the guests. It was disappointing when he was advocating banning the speech of the Tunisian Scholar Sheikh Rachid Al-Ghannouchi from speaking at Yale Law School, because he had spoken against America.
Freedom of speech is the most enduring, stabilizing, sustainable value of a free society. Ultimately freedom should prevail over everything else. That is about the only thing I would defend and die for.
We have to be consistent in upholding free speech. Ghannouchi had called for destruction of American properties and of course, I did not like it, but I had defended his right to speak.
Ironically, I have defended Pamela Geller's right to speak in London when they banned her from speaking, on Hannity she was against Ghannouchi. I have defended Terry Jones' right to burn copies of Qurans, and indeed we are making a film about the freedom of speech. I have defended Fred Phelps right to be ugly with this anti-Jewish, anti-GLBT and anti-immigrant demonstrations but stood firmly with the Jewish, GLBT and immigrant communities. I have opposed Arab League's proposal at the United Nations to curb freedom of speech about religious heads, and without any doubt Professor Ghannouchi should speak freely, and so should Bill Maher.
Freedom should be the ultimate winner. Indeed it is to our advantage to hear him out, understand where he is coming from and what he is going to lay it out. We should hear him, disagree with him and counter him with good stuff, but ban him not.
Bill Maher should not be stopped from speaking either; I will equally defend his right to free speech. I am speaking up in particular because the people opposing his freedom are Muslims, fellow members of my faith.
Here is what Quran says, there are numerous verses to support free speech, but for now, I will quote three;
41:34 - Repel evil with whatever is better; there is chance that evil may mellow down, if you repel evil with evil, the conflict flares up and both sides will dig in their heels.
2:256 - There shall be no compulsion for others to believe what you believe
109:6 - To you be your Way, and to me mine.
Saudi Arabia or Iran may not support free speech that is their problem and not Islam's problem. Islam does not have a problem in case the right wing nuts want to make it.
My strongest argument with Hannity and Geller was -- I do not want America to change for Ghannouchi, I do not want our constitution be compromised for Ghannouchi, and I do not want our character to change for Ghannouchi.
We don't want to ban Maher because he says unpalatable things.
If the School has guidelines as to who they can or cannot bring, then they are perfectly in place to reject him. But no one should be denied their right to speak, as long as others have the same right. We cannot have a society that places restrictions on free speech. We cannot be hypocrites, and ban free speech for one and allow it for others.
Freedom of speech is a birth right, that is one simple thing that separates animals from humans, and we should not compromise.
Freedom of speech is an exceptional American value, indeed, that is what separates us from the rest of the world. I urge the University not to ban free speech, let Bill Maher speak, and let students bring Reza Aslan or myself to speak against Bill Maher's non-sense talk.
Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest on Hannity Show and a defender of free speech. His information is at www.MikeGhouse.net
"Freedom of speech is the most enduring, stabilizing, sustainable value of a free society." . . .
We as Muslims must uphold freedom of speech. We must condemn all blasphemy laws and we must call for their abrogation.