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Freedom comes with Great Responsibility

Paris, France. 11 January, 2015

Paris, France. 11 January, 2015

A dense and determined crowd of 1.3 Million people flooded Paris’s Place de la République to pay tribute to the 17 victims murdered in attacks over three days last week by Islamist extremists targeting French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police forces and a Jewish supermarket. More than 50 foreign leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Africa linked arms around President François Hollande at the start of the march.

The march was to express defience in the face of radical Islamic terrorism. Maybe through fear of a simular reprisal should the Media choose to address the ideology of Islam, they spun their reporting on the basis of marching for the value of, Freedom of speech.

It concerns me that the Media are afraid to question the logical path of the Islamic Ideology, as spelt out in the Qur’an, of terrorism and death to all infadels (non-Muslim and includes Moslims who disobey the Qur’an) who defy Mohammud and his teachings. And that needs to be examined and discussed, without fear or favour. And in any country that claims freedom of speech, people can and should do so.

But, for a moment, let’s visit the issue of Freedom of speech?

Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

It is a political right. Political rights include natural justice (procedural fairness) in law, such as the rights of the accused, including the right to a fair trial; due process; the right to seek redress or a legal remedy; and rights of participation in civil society and politics such as freedom of association, the right to assemble, the right to petition, the right of self-defense, and the right to vote.

And it is defined country by country.

Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals’ freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals, and which ensure one’s ability to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without discrimination or repression.

Therefore, what is acceptable or not acceptable in one country may be or not be acceptable in another. It is subjective.

Civil and political rights form the original and main part of international human rights which are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour, and are regularly protected as legal rights in national and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights “to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being,” and which are “inherent in all human beings” regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone. They require empathy and the rule of law and impose an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others. They should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances, and require freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution.

So where does Freedom of speech fit? Well, it is subject to what is acceptable in a particular country and its laws that surround or govern it.

Surprisingly, Australia does not have explicit freedom of speech in any constitutional or statutory declaration of rights, with the exception of political speech which is protected from criminal prosecution at common law per Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth.

Yet in Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), signed on 4 November 1950, guarantees a broad range of human rights to inhabitants of member countries of the Council of Europe, which includes almost all European nations says:

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. And, the freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.”

“freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected” – This was to ensure that the media could publish, without fear or favour, on anything. For example, what if the media was restricted from blowing the whistle on another “Hitler” rising up. People need to know, and people want to know. No censorship. No restictions. And for a reason like that, who would not agree? Yet, some find a loophole to exploit it.

Charlie Hebro is an example of exploiting this freedom. It is a vile and putrid magazine. It offends every religion. I have personally seen a couple cartoons from it and they are disgusting, rude and depraved. Yet, in Europe they have the freedom to produce this garbage. And they do.

Interestingly, the ECHR also recognised that freedom does have boundaries and therefore included some restrictions:

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.[Note: emphasis is mine]

As the ECHR points out, Freedom carries with it duties and responsibilities. These are the boundries in which freedom exists. A concept those who have freedom sometimes do not grasp or quickly forget.

Note the “protection of health or morals” as a grounds for restrictions. This can only be dealt with by ‘law’. So if people are morally offended or outreaged by things like Charlie Hebro then they can choose to freely speak out and raise public awareness, deal with it in a court of law or if that fails to press politicians to refine laws to deal with it. The frustration in that process of course is due to agreeing on what constitutes morality.

What determines our morals?

Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and those that are “bad” (or wrong). Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, culture, etc., or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with “goodness” or “rightness.”

Are there moral absolutes? I say yes. But many would fight that thought because they don’t have absolutes in their life and their every decision is subjective and based on how it affects them personally and at that particular point in time. Just ask people if they think it’s okay for a man to have sex with a girl under 10 years old. The answer will depend on where you live, your culture, morals, belief and/or ideology system.

Would it surprise you to know that most religions, over history, influenced the marriageable age which is for the purpose of procreation and for raising a family – the building block for any society. For example, Christian ecclesiastical law forbade marriage of a girl before the age of puberty. Hindu vedic scriptures mandated the age of a girl’s marriage to be adulthood which they defined as three years after the onset of puberty. Jewish scholars and rabbis strongly discouraged marriages before the onset of puberty. In contrast, some Islamic marriage practices have permitted marriage of girls below the age of 10, because Sharia law is based in part on the life and practices of Muhammad, the Prophet, as described in part in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. The Prophet married Aisha, his third wife, when she was about age six, and consummated the marriage when she was about age nine.

Narrated ‘Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death). —Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:62:64

Some mainstream Islamic scholars have suggested that it is not the chronological age that matters; marriageable age under Muslim religious law is the age when the guardians of the girl feel she has reached sexual maturity. Such determination of sexual maturity is a matter of subjective judgment, and there is a strong belief among most Muslims and scholars, based on Sharia, that marrying a girl less than 13 years old is an acceptable practice for Muslims.

So, what is right or wrong?

For me, I have a faith in God. But when faith passes, so to speak, through a single distiller (like Muḥammad) it becomes ideology. Ideology does not beckon people or call them into relationship with God. Ideologies are rigid, always. Islam is rigid. Yet Christianity is about a living relationship with God through Jesus in his tenderness, his love, his meekness.

Through this faith I desire to love and please God. What better way than to choose to take hold of the moral absolutes He has provided in the Holy Bible. The Bible contains 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, with no historical errors or contradictions. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the mark of Divine inspiration.

The Bible is the greatest love story of all time. It speaks to the love God has for each one of us. His desire is for us to live life and to live it abundantly.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
– 2 Corinthians 9:8

If we just obeyed the 10 Commandments (found in Exodus 20:2-17) alone, life would be amazing! In short form, the 10 Commandments are:

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet.

Just consider the last 5. Think about it. For starters, there would be no crime, no hatred, no cheating or unfaithfulness, no fighting and killing, no hunger or poverty (having no need for police force and military budgets alone would pay for everyone to be fat and happy!)

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
– Matthew 19:17

Christians are also commanded to LOVE:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
– John 13:34

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
-Romans 13:8

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
– 1 Peter 3:8

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
– 1 John 3:11

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
– 1 John 3:23

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
– 1 John 4:7

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
– 1 John 4:11

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
– 1 John 4:12

And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love one another.
– 1 John 4:21

And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.
– 2 John 1:5

So, when I address the issue of Freedom of speech, or anything I strive to do (although I’m not perfect and make mistakes too) my moral absolutes are taken from Scripture. For example:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
– 1 Corinthians 10:23,24

This moral absolute guides me. It is why I would not produce, condone, buy, support or in any way promote Charlie Hebro magazine. It is not beneficial or constructive and definately does not seek the good of others. It incites insult and hatred whilst claiming to be saterical. Their audience thrives on depravity and have lost their way with a broken moral compass.

This same moral absolute is also just one of the reasons why I could not take a gun and shoot the magazine’s staff, even though their magazine is extremely offensive to me. As an aside, I also believe the magazine and those behind it are offensive to God. But I don’t need to, nor does God expect me to, defend Him on this matter – they will stand before Him and give an account of their life in the end.

And to extend this a little further, when considering the terrorists, do I want to punish all Muslims for a flawed ideology that incites hatred, violence and terrorism? No.

Do I hate Muslims? No.

Do I believe Muslims need to evaluate and ask the hard questions about their ideology? Yes.

Do I believe everyone needs to evaluate and ask the hard questions about their belief system? Yes.

Do I? Yes.

To be honest, we all do. And until we do, we will be dragged along in a wave of other people’s ideologies.

At the end of the day, we all have to ask, “Is what I believe and act upon beneficial and constructive to both myself and others? And am I prepared to change to make this world a better place for all to live in now and into the future generations?”  Do you know of any better question?

So where do you stand and how do you choose to respond to these current events?