By Syeda Qudsiya Mashhadi

What I witnessed in the name of ‘Freedom of Speech’ in Pakistan in the past one month alone has blown away my mind. For me or any other Muslim, the parameters of free speech, or for that matter any kind of speech, are defined by our religion. The second context in which this concept can be defined is Pakistan’s ideology. Being a Muslim and a Pakistani we cannot define ‘Freedom of Speech’ outside the boundaries set by Islam and the ideology of Pakistan. We are not the followers of hedonism, atheism, fascism, capitalism, communism or any other Western secular and materialistic philosophy. We do not take our role models from any ideology other than Islam, which is the complete ‘Deen’ or ‘way of life.’

Exactly how much ‘free speech’ does Islam allow us? Are we free to give our views on any given topic? What is the farthest limit that we can question things? All these issues have been well defined in the Holy Quran by Allah [SWT] and also demonstrated in the form of glorious Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH]. Why then Pakistani Media is raising a hue and cry about an issue which is already clear? Why do we need a debate on ‘Freedom of Speech’ in Pakistan?

Recently the attack on the ideology of Pakistan in particular and on Islam in general by a Media Group of Pakistan is being dubbed by some as the right to ‘Freedom of Speech’. This is blatant intellectual dishonesty and complete disregard of the religion the state. Are we as Muslims allowed to utter any blasphemy or nonsense or falsehood that our heart desires? Are we not told to uphold honesty, integrity and truth? Can we unscrupulously vilify and slander anybody we desire to bring down? What is the punishment of a traitor in any civilized society? Have we lost all sense of right and wrong as a human race? It’s time we revert back to Quran and see what Allah [SWT] says:

O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done. Surah Al-Hujraat Verse 6

This verse should be the basic guideline and code of media ethics for all the print and electronic media in Pakistan. Unfortunately, up till now majority of the Pakistani media has been doing exactly the opposite. The defenders of Pakistan have been maligned and attacked unabashedly by Geo News channel and they justified their stance by saying that nobody should be above the law. All sane citizens would agree to this as it is also the teaching of Islam. But we need to ask questions like:
‘Are we being told the truth, or lies are being flung in our faces in the name of free speech and justice?’
‘Can a media group be allowed to play with the national security of Pakistan because it serves their financial purposes?’

Pakistanis deserve to know the answers to these questions. No institution can be allowed to accuse or incriminate any other institution or person without bringing proofs and witnesses. The following verse seems to be particularly for those who work in the media:

When there comes to them some matter touching (public) safety or fear, they disclose it. If they had only referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have tested it from them (direct). Were it not for the Grace and Mercy of Allah unto you, all but a few of you would have followed Satan. Surah Al-Nisa, Verse 83

It couldn’t get clearer than this. Coming back to Pakistan’s media, we witness the unending sensationalizing and scandalizing, not to mention the highly vulgar content being shown in the name of ‘entertainment’. For that too Quran has warned in these words:

Those who love (to see) scandal spread among the Believers, will have a grievous punishment in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows and ye know not. Surah Al-Noor, Verse 19

Quran has profoundly explained all the scenarios so that no confusion is left about any issue. It has been discouraged in Islam to highlight one’s own sins or sins of others. The things that are not supposed to be committed in the first place become even worse when they are announced publically. The media today, pathetically, survives on spotlighting the evils and shortcomings of others.  This is plainly asking for Allah’s displeasure besides increasing unrest and anarchy amongst the people. The Quran says:

Allah loveth not that evil should be spread abroad in public speech, except where injustice hath been done; for Allah is He who heareth and knoweth all things. Surah Al-Nisa Verse 148

Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and it is high time that all institutions follow Islamic principles and laws in their true spirit. The Constitution of Pakistan is Islamic only on paper and we do not see its practical implementation in our judiciary, parliament, judiciary or media. All the pillars of the state need to follow the Word of Allah and Sunnah of the Prophet [PBUH]. Therein lays the solution of all our problems as a nation. It is as simple as that.

When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam from their loins their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): “Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?” They said: “Yea! we do testify!” (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: “of this we were never mindful. Surah Aaraf, verse 172

With slogans like ‘Geo aur jeenay do’ and ‘Bol ke lab aza hain teray’, whom are we fooling? Certainly, not God. These phrases borrowed from Western ‘Do as ye will’ doctrine cannot be applied in an Islamic and ideological state of Pakistan. Even the so-called secular countries like India, US and Russia have strict rules to which their media houses adhere. Here are a few ahadeeth of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] for those who are confusing the masses with the fake concept of ‘Freedom of Speech’!

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ repeated three times, “Those who search deeply for confusing questions have perished.” (Muslim)

“Do not dispute with your brother, ridicule him, nor promise him and then break your promise.” (al-Tirmidhi)

“The believer does not defame, abuse, disparage, nor vilify.” (al-Tirmidhi, sahih)