For the whole of week, people wrote articles that Muslims have coerced the governmet, some saw government taking mileage out of the whole drama, some discussed the freedom of speech but nobody bothered to care about those, whose sentiments got hurt.
Freedom of expression is our fundamental right. The individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression is granted by the Constitution of India. For a clear understanding, let me quote the act here.
"Fundamental Rights' is a charter of rights contained in the Constitution of India. It guarantees civil liberties such that all Indians can lead their lives in peace and harmony as citizens of India. These include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom to practice religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights by means of writs such as habeas corpus."
"Right to freedom which includes speech and expression, assembly, association or union, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation" (source: Wikipedia)
Our Constitution grants freedom of expression but places restrictions on that freedom in the interests of public order. Our penal code prohibits hate speech. We respect right to expression but this does not mean using filthy language against someone, some religion or any ideology. And we must also bear it in mind that freedom of expression doesn't mean, freedom to abuse, freedom to malign wrongfully, defame and hurt any religious community. Gaining publicity by attacking religions, ideologies by unlawful means is no freedom of expression. The clause (2) of Article 19 also prevents any person from making any statement that injures the reputation of another. With the same view, defamation has been criminalized in India by inserting it into Section 499 of the I.P.C. Freedom of expression is a sacred right but it does not include right to insult founder of a religion who is held in high esteem by millions of his followers.
People advocate freedom of speech and expression. But when people (read oppressed) want their voices, pains and cries to be heard, there is no such concept of freedom of expression. If you would have keenly followed the chatter on social websites, newspaper columns and TV debates, the contradictions are apparent. Liberals who rush to Rushdie’s defence are squeamish about the rights of Zakir Naik. Those who abuse M F Hussain for denigrating the Hindu gods are silent on cartoons that insult Islam. The right to free expression, which includes the right to offend, applies equally to all, because creative freedom is one for all. It is not at all selective. If there is freedom of expression for Rushdie, there is also freedom of expression for Muslims of India to protest against his visit. Both are exercising their fundamental rights.
Moreover, the Muslims of India need to protect themselves from being used by vested interests for personal gains and Rushdie row should not be allowed to get politicized rather it should remain purely a faith based issue. Also, if we are true Muslims we should represent best in Islam. Among fundamental values of Islam are wisdom and tolerance. We should make our opposition known in most civilized manner. We should argue with the opponent on the basis of reasoned arguments and never use abusive language.
The holy Quran warns us not to abuse those who worship other than Allah; they will abuse Allah out of ignorance (6:109).
The Literature Festival 2012 will also come to an end and there will be no more discussions, tweets and posts about the freedom of expression. Either support all who are banned and are not allowed to express freely or don't be selective in your support. And take in consideration that no one's sentiments get hurt by your deeds, after all there is a concept of social responsibility also.