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Mainstream, VOL LX No 26-27, New Delhi, June 18 & June 25, 2022 [Double issue]

Support free speech; condemn hate speech, death threats | IMSD, June 13, 2022

Friday 17 June 2022

IMSD supports free speech; condemns hate speech, death threats

Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD) deplores the divisive and hate-driven politics behind the statements made by the now-suspended spokesperson of the BJP, Nupur Sharma, but it unequivocally condemns the threats to her life. IMSD also strongly condemns Al Qaeda for threatening retaliatory terror acts.

IMSD believes that democracy is inconceivable without the freedom of speech, a freedom that is enshrined in the Indian Constitution. All healthy democracies however make a clear and principled distinction between the right to free speech and a bar on hate speech that impinges on the right to life and dignity of the marginalised.

The right to free speech includes the right to critical, rational enquiry and healthy criticism of all forms of religious beliefs and practices. In a democratic state, there should be no place for any law on blasphemy as it has a chilling effect on free speech. We thus categorically oppose the demand by certain Muslim/ Islamist/ Hindu/ Hindutva organizations for a blasphemy law in India.

The right to criticism includes the right to offend, as also the right of those offended to protest in peaceful and lawful ways. But the offended have no right to silence the offender: no god, gods, goddesses, prophets or saints may be invoked to justify the killing of fellow humans. We once again reiterate that any threat made to the life and liberty of Nupur Sharma is highly condemnable.

While fully supporting freedom of expression, IMSD believes that in highly polarised and communally charged societies such as India today is, hate speech must not be confused with free speech. At a Dharam Sansad last December Hindu religious leaders openly called for the genocide of Indian Muslims. International organisations including Genocide Watch have warned that India is on the brink of a genocidal bloodbath. But India’s Prime Minister continues to remain silent on the subject.

The recent United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2022 annual report on India is a case in point. It says: “Religious freedom conditions in India are taking a drastic turn downward, with national and various state governments tolerating widespread harassment and violence against religious minorities.”

Although Muslim persecution has a long history in this country, the past eight years have been relentless with everyday threats of targeted violence, fear and intimidation, which has seen members of their community lynched in public and these killings celebrated, been repeatedly taunted, humiliated, hurt, incarcerated on bogus charges, lynched under the watch of the RSS-blessed, BJP-led governments at the Centre and in several states. Hindutva’s Hate Factory is working 24/7 to demonise Indian Muslims, vilify them and a complicit electronic media offers a ready platform for daily mud-slinging, verbal warfare under the pretence of debate. IMSD would also like to call out the so-called Islamic scholars who are bringing a disrepute and playing with the safety and security of Muslims by participating in such prefixed TV debates.

The over dozen governments from Muslim-majority countries which have now expressed outrage over the insult to the Prophet have been conspicuous by their total silence in the last eight years, and earlier, despite repeated attacks on Indian Muslims, including the recent call for genocide. IMSD is not the least surprised because these very governments have no respect for human rights and freedom of expression. We demand that these governments mend their ways, promote fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens, in their own countries and across the globe. It is rather rich for these despotic regimes to teach us lessons in secularism and pluralism. But what can one say when our own government has created this unfortunate situation? Clearly the Modi government’s hardline Hindutva brand of politics has undermined India’s international standing and respect among the comity of nations.

We appeal to all sections to maintain peace and religious harmony. We appeal to Muslims in particular, not to get swayed by the rhetoric of Islam in danger. The ongoing protests have already consumed precious lives and going by the past actions of the government, it will deplorably be followed by mass arrests and demolitions. Those who are howling from the pulpit will escape and burden of proof, as always, will be on the shoulders of the poor Muslims.

Let us resolve not to listen to anyone who is stoking our fear and insecurity. The Constitution is enough to reclaim our rightful place in the republic.

Signatories:

Abdul Haq (Maulana), Bori
Adnan Siddiqui, Social Activist, Parbhani
Afroz Khan, Social Activist, Bori
Afroz Pathan, Social Activist, Bori
Afzal Shaikh, Parbhani
Akbar Shaikh, Social Activist, ISMYM, Solapur
Akram Shaikh, Teachar, Parbhani
Altaf Shaikh, Parbhani
Altamash, Social Activist, Bori
Ameer Khan, Social Activist, Basmat
Amir Rizvi, Designer, Mumbai
Anand Patwardhan, Documentary Film Maker, Mumbai
Anna, Social Activist, Parbhani
Anjum Rajabali, Film writer, Mumbai
Anwar Shaikh, Social Activist, Parbhani
Arshad Alam, Columnist, IMSD, New Delhi
A J Jawad, Advocate, Co-convener, IMSD, Chennai
Askari Zaidi, Senior Journalist, IMSD, Mumbai
Athar Qazi, Social Activist, Parbhani
Awez Kureshi, Social Activist, Parbhani
Ayyub Khan, Social Activist, Partur, Jalna
Aziz Lokhandwala, Businessman, Mumbai
Bilal Khan, Kamgar Sanrakshan Sammaan Sangh, Mumbai
Chand Shaikh Zamindar, Parbhani
Dilip Simeon, Historian, New Delhi
Farhan Rahman, Research Scholar, Ranchi
Feroz Abbas Khan, Theatre and Film Director, Playwright, Screenwriter, Mumbai
Feroze Mithiborwala, Co-convener, IMSD, Mumbai
Ghulam Mohiyuddin Faruki MD, New York
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, Islamic Scholar, Writer, Translator, New Delhi
Guddi Tiwari, Yusuf Meherally Centre, Mumbai
Hasan Pasha, Writer, Allahabad
H Kapoor, Publisher SACW, France
Imran Khan, Social Activist, Parbhani
Imran Khan, Shahpur
Irfan Engineer, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai
Irfan Khan, Automobiles, Bori
Javed Akhtar, Poet, Lyricist, Writer, Former MP, Mumbai
Javed Anand, Convener, IMSD, Mumbai
Kailash Rao Chowdhari, Parbhani
Kaleem Shaikh, Businessman, Parbhani
Kalim Shaikh, Social Activist, Parbhani
Kishore Jagtap, Vidyarthi Bharti, Mumbai
Kasim Sait, Businessman, Social Activist, Chennai
Masooma Ranalvi, Co-Founder, India Lead | WeSpeakOut, New Delhi
Mateen Pathan, Social Activist, Bori
Mirza Rafik, Journalist, Nanded
Mohd. Aamer, Parbhani
Mohammad Imran, PIO, USA.
Mohammad Yaseen, Social Activist, Nanded
Mufees Shaikh, Parbhani
Mujahid Khan, Social Activist, Hingoli
Muniza Khan, CJP, IMSD, Varanasi
Mustafa Khan, Banner maker, Basmat
Nadim Shaikh author, Social Activist, Parbhani
Najma Kazi, Social Activist, Amravati
Najma Parvin, Social Activist, Kolkata
Naseeruddin Shah, Actor, Mumbai
Nasreen Contractor, Co-convener, IMSD, Mumbai
(Prof) Nasreen Fazelbhoy, Educationist, IMSD, Mumbai
Nehal Shaikh, Engineer, Parbhani
Nimesha Faude, Social Activist, Parbhani
Purushottam Agrawal is a writer, author, formerly UPSC Member, New Delhi
Qaisar Sultana, Homemaker, Allahabad
Qutub Jahan, NEEDA, Mumbai
Rafeek Pathan, Social Activist, Bori
Rafeek Shaikh, Optician, Parbhani
Rafiq Shaikh, Parbhani
Rahebar Khan, Hingoli
Raheem Khan, Civil Engineer, Pabhani
Rahim Khan Social Activist, Parbhani
Rahim Pathan, Social Activist, Parbhani
(Dr) Ram Puniyani, Author, Social Activist, Mumbai
Razzak Shaikh, Parbhani
Rehan Khan, Shopkeeper, Bori
Riyaaz Shaikh, Social Activist, Parbhani
Sadique Basha, Social Activist, Mira Road, Thane
Sayeed Khan, Contractor, Parbhani
Sana Khan, Teacher, Parbhani
Sana Khan, Partur, Jalna
Sandeep Pandey, General Secretary, Socialist Party (India), Lucknow
Shabana Azmi, Actor, former MP, Mumbai
Shabana Mashraki, Lead Assessor (ISO standards), Mumbai
Shahnawaz Alam, Associate Professor, UP
Shaikh Aslam, Social Activist, Parbhani
Shaikh Chand, Contactor, Parbhani
Shaikh Mohsin, Social Activist, Bori
Shaikh Rizwan, Social Activist, Parbhani
Shama Zaidi, Documentary Film Maker, Mumbai
Shamsul Islam, Author, Social Activist, New Delhi
Shariq Contractor, CA, Mumbai
Sohel Pathan, Social Activist, Parbhani
Sunny, Social Activist, Parbhani
(Dr) Suresh Khairnar, Social Activist, Nagpur
Syed Aliya, Social Activist, Nashik
Tahzeeb Pathan, Social Activist, Parbhani
Tayab Khan, Shopkeeper, Parbhani
Tayyab Pathan, Teacher, Parbhani
Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, CJP, IMSD, Mumbai
Toheed Atar, Social Activist, Bori
Tushar Gandhi, Peace Activist, Mumbai
Varsha Vidya Vilas, Sadbhavna Sangh, Mumbai
Yash Paranjpe, Bharat Bachao Andolan, Mumbai
Yasmeen Shaikh, Mumbai
Yousuf Saeed, Documentary Film maker, New Delhi
Waseem Shaikh, Social Activist, Parbhani
Wasim Ansari, Social Activist, Parbhani
Zakia Soman, Co-founder, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, New Delhi
(Dr.) Zaheer Ahmed Sayeed, Neurologist, Chennai
Zameer Shaikh, Social Activist, Parbhani
Zoya, Teacher, Parbhani
Zoya Begum, Social Activist, Mumbai

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