Whenever Muslims engage themselves in a debate with non Muslim journalists and media outlets on free Speech, the conversation ends up with the Muslims being told that the only reason they are able to speak is because of the freedom of speech they are entitled to in democracies and that this is the reason they can be critical and disagree in the west.
This whole argument is based upon a premise which assumes that the reason Muslims speak out against the injustices which they see around the world is because that they have the freedom to do so and for this reason Muslims should be grateful. This could not be further from the truth!
The fact of the matter is that even before the birth of the concept of free speech in the west, Islam had given Muslims a concept more precious and worthwhile then free speech, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.
Islam made an obligation upon Muslims to enjoin the good and to forbid the evil no matter where they lived and how big or small the good or evil maybe. This is why you find Muslims all across the global enjoining the good or speaking against injustices regardless of whether they live in democracies or dictatorships. Organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir have been known to speak out against tyrant rulers in the Muslims world, for which reason their members have been tortured and in many cases murdered like in Uzbekistan. The point here being, it is not freedom of speech that motivates Muslim to raise their voices against injustices; Muslims are motivated by the words of their Lord when He says,
كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ
“You are the best nation produced for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.” (Quran 3:110)
It is this that is the driving engine behind a Muslims that makes him/her speak out against any injustices that they may witness whether in the West or in the Muslim world.
I said earlier that the concept of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil is more worthwhile than freedom of speech and there is a very good reason why this is the case. Freedom of speech in itself is a right which a citizen of a democratic state is able to uphold and discard when the individual likes. This is because free speech gives you the choice to decide if you wish to speak up against injustices or if you wish to ignore and we see this everyday in the streets of London.
You will find that yobs and criminals are causing all sorts of problems for local people, but every a few people intervene or attempt to intervene to stop these types of acts. One famous example being when a few years ago a couple of teenagers were breaking the glass door of a store in a public market in board daylight, with many people walking the streets and nobody intervening to stop this vandalism, except an elderly man who confronted these teenagers and was then attacked by them and even still no one from the public came to his aide, with this elderly man fighting of these thugs. Where was the good sense of the people to come and stop this or even aid this elderly, rather people just ignored and continued on with their travels. This is the type of mentality freedom of speech creates, a passive mentality to crime, a passive mentality towards other people’s feelings and sentiments, a mentality of I will only use freedom of speech when it benefits me.
The concept of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil is mandatory on Muslims hence it creates a proactive mentality where the Muslims will involve themselves in stopping the injustices and if necessary in many cases put their own lives at risk for others. Anybody who has been to the Muslims world would know that when any incident occurs of injustice people from the street involve themselves to resolve these issues and if necessary stop the injustice, even if both the perpetrator and victim are complete strangers. This creates a level of security within the society where people can feel a sense of peace that people will help them in their time of need. The reason Muslims feel the need to enjoin the good and forbid the evil is because it has been placed as an obligation upon them by their Lord for which they will be immensely rewarded or punished if not undertaken, and this is why it is not subject to being discarded at the whims and desires of people.
So next time western commentators see a Muslims speaking out injustices against governments in the west or Muslim world, let them remember that it was because of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil and not freedom of speech.