Ataul F Tahir, Al Hakam
Russian President, Vladimir Putin said insulting Prophet Muhammadsa was not considered as freedom of expression and such acts increase extremist reprisals.
During his annual news conference on 23 December, Putin said insults directed to Prophet Muhammadsa are a “violation of religious freedom and the violation of the sacred feelings of people who profess Islam”, Russian News Agency TASS reported.
“Putin said these acts give rise to extremist reprisals, citing as an example the attack on the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris after its publication of cartoons of the prophet.
“While praising artistic freedom in general, Putin said it has its limits and it shouldn’t infringe on other freedoms.
“Russia has evolved as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, so Russians, he said, are used to respecting each other’s traditions. In some other countries, this respect comes in short supply, he said.” (Russian News Agency TASS, 23 December 2021, https://tass.com/society/1380235)
When these cartoons were published in France, a poll showed almost half of the French population opposed the cartoons of Prophet Muhammadsa. “Half of those questioned also said they believed there should be ‘limitations on free speech online and on social networks’”. (www.france24.com/en/20150118-poll-nearly-half-french-oppose-mohammed-cartoons-charlie-hebdo-free-speech)
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, who has addressed the issue of freedom of expression and cartoons of Prophet Muhammadsa on several occasions, has condemned the cartoons in the strongest terms and said they would have caused great pain and hurt to the sentiments of any true Muslim.
He opposed any such expressions that hurt the sentiments of others. Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa supported the comments of Pope Francis on the topic who said, “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.” (theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/15/pope-francis-limits-to-freedom-of-expression)
Putin noted that such violations of freedom of speech resulted in extremist reprisals. On this topic, Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa urged Muslims to recite durood instead of reacting violently due to the deep hurt caused by cartoons of the Prophetsa:
“[…] The victory of Islam will not be through murder and destruction; rather, we will succeed in our objectives by invoking durood on the Holy Prophetsa”, (Friday Sermon, 16 January 2015)
Talking about those who published such hurtful cartoons and the consequences of their actions, Huzooraa said:
“In this age, the media has great influence in the world and can play a huge role in igniting [a situation] or diffusing it and causing disorder or preventing it. It is the first time that the UK and other media outlets of the world have asked the Community (i.e. the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) for its reaction and viewpoint.
“In terms of the [Charlie Hebdo attack] murders, we have stated that it was an un-Islamic act and expressed our commiseration and also maintained that freedom of speech should have limitations otherwise those people who inflame others’ sentiments, will be responsible for causing disorder in the world.”
“These materialistic people are blind to faith and do not even refrain from mocking God Almighty, let alone the prophets. If we respond to the actions of the ignorant with ignorance too, it will only lead them to continue further in their actions. Therefore, God the Almighty states that instead of responding to them, you should pass by and distance yourself from such people who commit vain acts.” (Ibid)
Addressing all Muslims, Huzooraa said:
“In this age, the enemy of Islam does not want to harm Islam, the teachings of Islam and the Holy Prophetsa with the use of the sword but instead, through such petty ploys. By stating that God the Almighty and His angels send blessings on the Holy Prophetsa, a fundamental principle has been explained by God Almighty: that these actions cannot do any harm to the status of the Holy Prophetsa. Instead of indulging in such vain actions and responding in the same ignorant manner, we should invoke durood and salutations upon the Holy Prophetsa – this is the duty of a true Muslim.”
Although, at times, it can be argued that Russia’s leadership – or even other leaders who give such bold statements – may not give freedoms to certain groups themselves, it’s good to see the leader of a super power courageously highlight injustices others are not willing to.