Freedom of speech is one of the most talked-about topics of the present time. Although it is one of the fundamental human rights, most nations have earned it after a continuous struggle. And still, there are nations where the voices of people are suppressed. Freedom of speech should be granted to everyone in every form. There should be no laws restricting people from speaking freely on any topic. Although there are many negative outcomes due to complete and unconditional freedom of speech, these outcomes can be and should be managed in other better ways some of which I shall describe in this article.
First, we should know what freedom of speech means. Actually freedom of speech is a division of Freedom of expression. And probably it is the most important aspect of Freedom of expression. Because speech is the best way to convey what you want to express. Freedom of speech means that every human being on this planet is born with the inalienable right to say whatever he/she want to say. No person or no institution can deprive him/her of this basic right. No law can be made which deprives people of the right to freedom of speech. Everybody has the right to express his thoughts although they may be of any type or idea. This idea brings a lot of complications with it but none that can not be solved if dealt with humanly.
In my opinion, every country should make laws to protect the right of freedom of speech of its people. Although many countries already have such laws, many countries still don’t have them. And work is needed even in those countries that have laws to protect these rights. Every citizen of every country should have unlimited freedom of speech. Any man can open his mouth whether it be for criticizing the government officials or raising radical ideas. Even in religious matters, there should be no restriction on what to talk about and what to not talk about. In my opinion, there is nothing is too sensitive to talk about and so everything should be open for discussion or debate. Of course with such unlimited freedom of speech come many challenges especially when talking about religion/s. I am also going to discuss those challenges in detail and also how to overcome them.
Freedom of Speech Regarding Religious Matters
First, I want to repeat what I wrote in the previous paragraph that nothing is too sensitive to talk about. In my view the same stand for religious matters as well. Religious matters and topics should always be open for discussion and debate. Everyone should be allowed to criticize his religion or other religions.
People following any ideology should bear and tolerate criticism on their ideology whether it be a religious ideology or some other ideology. Because criticism is the man’s way forward. Ever since his beginning, man is going through a process of improvement. And criticism is fuel for progress. If dealt positively, criticism leads to the correction of either the critic or the one who is criticized. Therefore, freedom of speech should also be unlimited in religious matters. One thing should be taken care of when talking about such sensitive topics. I am going to explain it in the next heading.
Preservation of Hierarchy
Preservation of hierarchy means that in our expression, we have to preserve the respect of the personalities and ideas to whom a fraction of people are attached. The fraction of people may be small or huge, but we have to respect their ideas. This doesn’t mean that we are not allowed to talk about them or criticize them. Rather it means that when talking about them, we have to take care. We may praise or criticize them. But when doing so we have to be careful. We should not express our thoughts in such a way that may trample the status that personality or idea holds among its followers.
You can understand it by this example. When I have some disagreement with my friend, I will argue with him and during that argument, we both may pay no heed to our words and manners. But when I have some disagreement with my father or teacher, the way I argue will be a lot different. I will try to make sure that I convey my thoughts without disrespecting them in any way. I will keep an eye on my manners but that won’t stop me from speaking freely. All I have to do is not to disrespect them. The same is the case when talking about religious ideas and personalities. We can talk freely, convey our disagreement in the best way without showing any disrespect.
Education and Ethical Training
Freedom of speech can be used constructively or it can be wasted. To promote its constructive use we should educate ourselves and our children. We should learn and adopt the habit of always talking with a solid foundation. Whenever we talk or raise our voice, it should be purposeful. If there is an issue that we are concerned about and want to talk about it, then we should first know its details.
First, we should check ourselves whether our opinion and views are right or wrong. We should question ourselves and then answer those questions with proper reasoning. Only then should we consider ourselves eligible for raising voice on that issue. This reasoning and questioning will ensure that our opinion is right. And it will add strength and depth to our voice. Therefore, we must adopt this habit as it will make our voices stronger, our opinions more just, and our message more effective.
One thing that we have been taught in school is that the rights and duties of citizens go hand in hand. The same stands for the right to freedom of speech. In my view, morally superior citizens focus more on their responsibilities than their rights. The right to freedom of speech brings a lot of responsibilities with it. Most of what I have mentioned before emphasizes on these responsibilities. Maintaining a level of respect for others in our talks is very important. Self-criticism should necessarily be done before we criticize others. Always speaking the truth should be mandatory for ourselves even if it goes against our benefits and opinions. As moral beings, we should follow these and other such high moral standards. In the end, I would mention two of the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) in this context. Surely we all can follow this golden principle;
“He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either speak good or better remain silent.”