City of Brass

City of Brass


Statement on Free Speech by American and Canadian Muslims

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
I am proud to co-publish and add my name as a signatory to this statement upholding the principle of free speech and denouncing those who would threaten violence in the name of Islam. If you would like to add your signature, please send an email with your name, title, and organizational affiliation (if any) to Sheila Musaji, tameditor@aol.com. 

A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS
We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.
We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation. 
We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims.  We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.
We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.
As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance,  respect, and forgiveness.
The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143); 
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22); 
* remain patient in adversity (3186); 
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);  
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8); 
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32); 
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);  
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199); 
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);  
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).
Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.
We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.
We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence.  We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate–not reward them with further attention–by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.  
A master copy with the complete list of signatories to this statement is available at The American Muslim website. If you would like to add your signature, please send an email with your name, title, and organizational affiliation (if any) to the Editor at The American Muslim, Sheila Musaji (tameditor@aol.com). 


  • Umbreen Bhatti

    Great statement – I wholeheartedly agree.

  • Tarik Trad

    Writer, Artist, Humorist, Photographer and Activist

  • Alicia

    This is brilliant, Aziz. Thank you.

  • Kerry Clithero

    Thank You!
    Like most Americans, I know little of Islam, but I knew Mohammed certainly did not advocate the kind of hatred, violence, and intolerance that has come to be associated with Islam. Why do we so rarely hear from “true” Muslims, and hear so much and so loudly from the extremists?

  • Linda

    You quoted many peaceful verses from the Quran, but you need to inform your viewer on how to read the Quran. The Quran has many contradictory verses, and the rule is when there is contradictory verses that the newer verses abrogate the older ones. There were many peaceful verses written by Muhammad early in his life, but latter on he became more violent toward non-Muslims, these latter more violent verses abrogated the earlier more peaceful verses. You cannot just pick and choose certain verses in the Quran to support your views, you must know about the rule of abrogation and use it to read the Quran correctly.

  • ds0490

    Kerry: “Why do we so rarely hear from “true” Muslims, and hear so much and so loudly from the extremists?”
    Perhaps you need to ask the media why they so infrequently cover those “true” Muslims when they speak out. Could it be that the media, especially the conservative media, has a vested interest in keeping the American public ignorant of the more moderate voices in Islam?

  • Aziz Poonawalla

    Linda,
    I don’t know what your sources of information are, but the abrogation rule is not a. a hard rule that always applies and b. only invoked in certain schools of interpretation (usually, literalist ones). The mainstream view of the Qur’an is that abrogation only applies in a small handful of verses, and in those cases not because of a contradiction, but because of a change in the circumstances affecting the nascent community of Islam. On a more fundamental level, its quite false to say that any verse “contradicts” another in the Qur’an at all, and most attempts at trying to portray verses as in conflict do so only be taking seleccted verses out of their context and again applying the most severe literalist spin possible.
    None of teh verses quoted in this statement are even close to “abrogated”. Your entire description of the concept is basically just recycled polemic from hostile asources seeking to tarnish the Qur’an and Islam as a whole. Its quite disingenous for you to try and portray yourself as an expert on these matters with such a shallow understanding.

  • http://www.advicegoddess.com Amy Alkon

    “Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts”
    It actually does not. For example, Jews are “apes and pigs,” and the Quran says trees will speak up at the end of days so Muslims will know where the Jews are hiding so they can slay them, and Sura 9:5 calls for the conversion or death of the infidel.
    It’s great that you’re denouncing the barbarianism of the fatwa against Molly Norris, but I’ve been studying Islam since 9/11, and that fatwa seems right in line with the teachings of the Quran (Sura 9:5, The Verse of the Sword, abrogates the nice, “let’s be peaceful” verses before it, for example.)
    I’ve come to realize that there are two Islams. One is a religion, practiced by many perfectly nice people who have no idea what the Quran says. They are the Muslim version of Christmas Christians.
    The others practice Islam as commanded by the Quran: as totalitarianism masquerading as religion.
    I’m an atheist, and I think the evidence-free belief in god is silly, but if you want to believe in god, or in numerology or astrology, well, as long as you don’t want to kill me because I don’t think the moon in Capricorn has relevance to my Wednesday, well, have at it.
    That’s where my “tolerance” begins and ends.
    If you stone women for adultery and gays for being gay, as commanded by Sharia law (and the Hadith — the words and deeds of Mohammed and his close associates), well, that’s something I cannot tolerate, nor should anyone tolerate.

  • Eric K

    “Show us the straight path, The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.”
    Muslims generally interpret “those whom Allah has favored,” “those who earn Allah’s anger,” and “those who go astray” as Muslims, Jews, and Christians, respectively. 1:6-7
    Don’t bother to warn the disbelievers. Allah has blinded them. Theirs will be an awful doom. 2:6
    Allah has sickened their hearts. A painful doom is theirs because they lie. 2:10
    Allah has blinded the disbelievers. 2:17-18
    A fire has been prepared for the disbelievers, whose fuel is men and stones. 2:24
    Disbelievers will be burned with fire. 2:39, 2:90
    Allah stamped wretchedness upon the Jews because they killed the prophets and disbelieved Allah’s revelations. 2:61
    Allah turned the Sabbath-breaking Jews into apes. 2:65-66
    If you believe in only part of the Scripture, you will suffer in this life and go to hell in the next. 2:85
    Allah has cursed them for their unbelief. 2:88
    The curse of Allah is on disbelievers. 2:89
    Jews are the greediest of all humankind. They’d like to live 1000 years. But they are going to hell. 2:96
    Allah is an enemy to the disbelievers. 2:98

  • Eric K

    Linda,
    In an April 17th post about Israel’s WMDs, Aziz asserted that Israel is trying to build “a bioweapon targeted at Arabs which would leave Jews unaffected.” Um, Aziz… a significant proportion of the Jews in Israel ARE ethnic Arabs. They fled there from Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and other countries where their families had lived for many hundreds of years.
    Aziz supports suicide bombing, don’t get in a debate with him. He makes up facts

  • Ali D

    I think this is great. From the comments above it seems like muslims and christians have more in common than not. Everyone interprets the books differently, but the thing I see most is that god or allah is supposed to be the punisher of sinners. People of both faiths seem to ignore this and take it upon themselves to punish and condem people they don’t agree with. If people stopped being so self righteous and left the judgement and punishment up to god or allah we would all get along better. Last time I checked wrath and pride were deadly sins.

  • Linda

    Aziz – I admit I am no expert in the study of abrogation in the Quran, But all people must know about abrogation in the Quran, and also that Muslims have disagreements over this.
    So I suggest that all people that want to truly know what the Quran teaches to do a web search, just type in “abrogation in Quran”, or “abrogation in Islam”, and you will find plenty of references.
    Educate yourself, be informed.

  • Eric K

    To educate yourself here are a few authors you should read.
    Andrew Bostom
    Ibn Warraq
    Serge Trifkovic
    Bat Ye’or,

  • Linda

    I would say that Muslims have a very long way to go in promoting freedom of speech and religion. Just look what is going on in Muslim countries…
    http://www.compassdirect.org/
    Aziz – you have a lot of work to do in convincing people that Islam promotes freedom of speech and religion.

  • AA

    @Linda, the talk about “abrogation” in Islam is the latest anti-Islam myth being propagated by its enemies. It seems they’re perceiving that they are running out of steam, so they’re grasping for straws.
    If the so-called abrogation was true, the Muslims wouldn’t have had unity under one book.

  • Arnold

    Aziz,
    They have all refused to sign the apostasy pledge at Former Muslims United. ie. Pledge of Freedom that states Muslims should not be killed if they choose to leave Islam
    This is just more taqiyya
    In brief Koranic–and Muslim—tolerance, was long ago abrogated by Koranic
    and Muslim intolerance. That’s their law. Let them make their case to Al
    Azhar in Cairo, and to the leading clerics in Mecca and Medina and Qom.
    Non-Muslims don’t need their sanctimonious taqiyya

  • Arnold

    Here is the pledge that no one on your list signed
    “I renounce, repudiate and oppose any physical intimidation, or worldly and corporal punishment, of apostates from Islam, in whatever way that punishment may be determined or carried out by myself or any other Muslim including the family of the apostate, community, Mosque leaders, Shariah court or judge, and Muslim government or regime.”
    http://formermuslimsunited.americancommunityexchange.org/the-pledge/cover-letter-pledge/

  • Milhemet Mitzna

    Amy Alkon is NOT an atheist but a jewish extremist playing one. Old testament tacquiyya in action. Where are the jewish moderates?

  • Milhemet Mitzna

    In answer to Arnold’s post and request to sign a “pledge” from supposed “former Muslims,” I tool a look at that site and surprise surprise, it’s a blatantly pro-Israeli site run and linked to by hardcore jewish extremists pretending to be former Muslims.
    A couple of years ago a site called “Muslims against Sharia” popped up and was revealed to be run by Pamela Geller, one of the most extreme Jewish hatemongers active on the blog and behind the anti-park 51 Islamic community center. She also claims Obama is the love child of Malcolm X.
    Connect the dots people. It is not a coincidence that Zionist Jews and their amen corner are deeply involved in waging a war against the Muslim community, and promoting Israel’s interests. Where are the jewish moderates?

  • nnmns

    All this anti-Muslim hysteria does play into the hands of the Israeli lobby. I don’t pretend to know whether they’ve helped it along but they should be aware bigotry against one group can so easily slip over into bigotry against another.
    It’s a good statement Aziz. You do have a hard slog, not only because of all the Republican haters but because of things radical Muslims have done (not that there are not radical Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc!) and because of some things like the apostasy problem in the Quran.

  • Milhemet Mitzna

    There is NO punishment for apostasy unless it is with express intent of harming and destroying the Muslim community. What haters deliberately leave out of their retarded posts is the fact that the leaders of Medina were collaborating with the Meccans to infiltrate and destroy the nascent Muslim community from within once they made the hijra(migration) to Medina to flee persecution in Mecca. They were munafiqueen, or hypocrites who would pretend to be Muslims, praying 5 times a day, fasting etc. Then came the “law” of apostasy which you misrepresented. In fact it dissuaded false conversion by discouraging spies and infiltrators. You end up facing the firing squad for treason today in the US.
    So what of apostates who simply left Islam for other non-hostile reasons? They were left alone to go on about their business. Bedoins who left Islam in the presence of the Prophet were not harmed and eventually left Medina. Apostates were jailed during the time of the Caliph Umar until they were let go after it was determined their apostasy had nothing to with threatening the Islamic state.
    Study Islam from it’s sources, with context and above all with honesty, not the garbage found at Geehad watch and other hate sites.
    More on apostasy : http://www.loonwatch.com/2009/08/m-cherif-bassiouni-rips-fake-scholar-robert-spencer/

  • Alicia

    This is tedious. This is an important statement by American and Canadian Muslims, and those who have been asking themselves whether Islam is compatible with a pluralistic, democratic society might take this is evidence that it is compatible. As someone pointed out, those who are looking for hatred in the Quran or the Bible will find it, and those who are looking for love and justice will also find those values. This may be an appropriate time to quote this famous Internet joke:
    “Dear Dr. Laura:
    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… End of debate.
    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
    5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?
    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.
    Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
    Your adoring fan,
    Homer Simpson-Caldwell”

  • Zigs

    Wonderful statement–I applaud it.

  • Robert Hazel

    Congratulations and Best Wishes on making this about Free Speech and also about Freedom of Religion. Both are basic tenets of a secular society.

  • http://muslimbuddhist.blogspot.com Teed Rockwell

    Has anyone ever heard the expression “moving the Goalposts”? That’s whats happening to moderate Muslims. After the South Park fiasco, Aziz urged Muslims everywhere to reject all violent responses, and be contented with an aloof silence. Many posters here demanded that this was not enough: that he should defend the free speech rights of even the vilest Islamophobes. This sets the bar higher than the achievements of Western society. Liberal Westerners still condemn hate speech, and Conservative Westerners condemn flag burning. But Aziz has now reached this new standard, specifically naming several of the most vocal anti-Islamic caricaturists. And now he’s receiving demands that he go after Hamas, and Apostate murderers, and tomorrow it will be something else.
    Do we really have to agree about everything before we can live on the same planet? Give moderate Muslims a break, for crying out loud.

  • http://solomon2.blogspot.com Solomon2

    I see no commitment to action here – as in a pledge to report those who plan or commit intimidation to the police. The difference is important, for the free-speech stress of the letter is on individual conscience rather than collective responsibility.
    “It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country. ”
    Why should I not conclude, then, that those Muslims who do attack free speech will nevertheless be tolerated and supported by the larger Muslim community?

  • Alicia

    Solomon2, I think you answered your own question. If someone knows of a criminal conspiracy, or has direct knowledge of the identity of someone making threats against, say, a cartoonist such as Molly Norris, or satirists such as Matt Stone and Trey Parker, they not only have an obligation to report to the authorities, but they would probably be subject to prosecution if they did not do so. Personally, I think this statement by Aziz and other Canadian and American Muslims is very important. Yes, it must be followed up with action, but this statement offers a foundation for positive action.

  • Milhemet Mitzna

    Jewish extremists like Solomon2 can’t have it both ways. O his blog he advocates the failed neoconservative narrative and is against freedoms for those critical of Zionism. Zionist Jews are open enemies of free speech, but are all for it when it comes mocking rival communities. They are funding every Nazis in Europe to make life harder for Muslim minorities. Why is that? They pretend to be advocates of free speech until their own sensitives come into play. There are numerous examples of this behavior eg. the firing of Helen Thomas for speaking out against Israel. Where were the free speech advocates then?
    Where are the Jewish moderates?

  • Afarin Maleki

    The Zionist scum and their Christian slaves hate free speech because it exposes their treachery and violence. Islam is the light in the darkness and we shall conquer these vermin. The solution to this problem is Islam. The tool are the ovens. The Nazis had it right and so will we.
    In’Shallah

  • Sofia

    Wow, Afarin, I am so sorry that you feel so much hatred. I support free speech but certainly don’t think throwing people in ovens is the solution, not when the Nazis did it and not now. Violence begets violence…it can end when everyone ends it withing themselves first. So please don’t you think the ending of such hatred starts with you? Writing such things adds to the darkness and doesn’t bring any light. I certainly didn’t feel any love, peace or harmony from you upon reading your post. May Peace someday fill your heart. S

  • Tonia Malloy

    commentary thatt is used to instruct, enlighten, or sometimes even provoke to some or preferably liiltle extent should be used in free speech to address glaring inequalites or differences among people some that one, people know, two it is expressed and not repressed in an act of terror or violence/ignorance) and it something can done about it fairly or justlyif applicable. that is long story of it that was briefly summarized by peers and some of my muslims friends and teachers. (Not) having prayed in a few years as requested by some of my muslim friends i have withdrawn and become less sensitive to certain muslim tolerances. “cartoon and expressions are little in comparison to what we feared in small circles about far wars and having to eat, and provide for our families–and be peaceful and “okay.”

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