Centre for Study of Society and Secularism

Author: Dr. Sofia Mehboob

Dr. Mehboob has a PhD in Religious Paradigm of Human Rights and is a lecturer at a private university in Pakistan. She is an alumnus of Islam & Liberty Residential Workshop.

On 3rd November 2020 Centre for Study of Society and Secularism organized webinar on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Expression: Contours of Conflict – France Muslims and Islam. The panelists were Prof. Tahir Mahmood, Former Chairman, and National Commission for Minorities & former member of the Law Commission of India, Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, Prof. Emeritus in Islamic Studies & President at Maulana Azad University, Jean- Thomas Martelli, head Researcher at Centre de Sciences Humaines and Fr. Victor Edwin: Secretary  & Editor at Islamic Studies Association, and Moderator, Irfan Engineer, Director, CSSS.

Fr. Victor Edwin’s speech highlights the need to understand religion in a historic context, he insists that religious freedom benefits everyone. It treats all religions (Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics, and atheists) equally.  

Prof. Tahir Mahmood assert that the relation between religion and the said human rights (i.e. freedom of religion and freedom of expression) is a complex one. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech is being insisted upon while controlling for some population characteristics. First, we have to sketch the problem after which we indicate some conceptual elaboration of the two human rights under discussion. Then we formulate the conceptual model that will frame the empirical research we are going to carry out and which will be followed by a description of the methods we use. After that we report on the research and results. We conclude with a summary, discussion, and interpretation.

Jean- Thomas Martelli said that we come to the other side of the freedom of religion, which would be freedom restraints by politicians and religious communities, but in exercise personal devotion alone not with others practices. To measure the freedom of speech by the following two ways. The community’s moral standards should be critically debated in school, and Children should be free to discuss all moral ideas and subjects in schools, no matter what. In both cases the crucial issue is that debate on moral themes ought to be free.

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey argued that freedom within limits could be an empowering concept. Freedom must be restricted to another’s dignity of life/ existence. We must have the freedom to disagree with all kinds of violence. Referring to the French incident he insists that there must not be such a reaction about all the prophets and all the religious leaders, because our prophet has taught us forgiveness. We find many examples of this, such as the incident of the old woman who threw the door on him, the incident of Taif, etc. And he says that an appeal has been made to the Vatican to summon the leaders of all religions and to make this law so that no Dharma (religion) and its sacred things are harmed.

Irfan Engineer concluded the discussion by emphasizing that we need more interfaith dialogue to solve these issues at national and international levels.

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