Ethical Limits on Freedom of Expression with Special Reference to Islam – CILE - Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics
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Ethical Limits on Freedom of Expression with Special Reference to Islam

Ethical Limits on Freedom of Expression with Special Reference to Islam

Mohammad Hashim Kamali | 01/03/2014

This article is presented in two parts, the first sets the framework and context for a discussion of ethical limits on freedom of expression, and the second considers what those limits actually are. Part One begins with preliminary remarks and then discusses the expanding scope of diversity of custom, climate of opinion and culture that tend to influence ethics. The impact of science, technology, globalisation, the Internet and social media is highlighted – factors that did not feature in traditional ethical values, but which now need to be considered. A question is also raised as to whether Islam has an ethical theory and this is then followed by an overview of the key ethical norms of Islam.

Part Two examines several, sometimes closely allied themes and concepts and their limitation on freedom of expression, for example the Qurʾanic concept of ‘public utterance of evil speech’. Islamic law and ethics also proscribe infliction of harm (ḍarar) on others, defaming and reviling others in their absence, violation of the right of privacy, transgression and lawlessness (baghy), acrimonious speech (mirāʾ), hostile argumentation (khuṣūmah), pernicious innovation (bidʿah) and caprice (hawā). This is followed by an overview of Islamic teachings that advise restraint over indulgence, suspicion and fault-finding with others. The discussion continues by exploring the concepts of Self of God (dhāt Allah), predestination and free will (qaḍāʾwa qadar). The article ends with a brief note on Islam’s overriding commitment to truth and justice, and then draws to a conclusion.

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