Fri. Apr 19th, 2019

Waleed Al-Husseini on the Restrictions of Speech, Secularism, and More

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Waleed Al-Husseini founded the Council of Ex-Muslims of France. He escaped the Palestinian Authority after torture and imprisonment in Palestine to Jordan and then France. He is an ex-Muslim and atheist.

We have been corresponding and conducting interviews for a long time now. I reached out once more to talk about some principles, apparently or to some, seemingly in conflict with one another.

These were the ideas of freedom of expression and secularism and then restricted expression and theocracy. Both stand opposed to one another, including the various tendencies in form for them their arising.

The values of France tend towards secularism and freedom of expression. Al-Husseini holds values more in line with secularism and similar values. He believes in a firm separation between the state and religion.

Al-Husseini stated, “All of these things do not exist in Islam. It only exists when they are all Muslims as part of humanity (‘it’ only exists? What is ‘it’?) But these can then be computed only within the framework of Islam and Islamic values, which is why they are asking for the defence of the hijab in the name of liberty, but then they attack criticism of Islam in the name of racism.”

Al-Husseini makes the distinction between the arguments about race and racism, and Islam and the doctrines, in the criticism here. He views the hijab as an example of slavery and second-class citizenship within the societal framework.

That is to say, he sees this as a means by which to see women as a sexual tool. It becomes a political tool for more fundamentalist versions and interpretations of Islam too.

He does see this form of criticism of Islam as a fundamental human right found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

When I asked about Sharia Law and Sharia courts in some interpretations of Islam, these can exist separate or distinct from universalist traditions of law, wherein a dual-law system can be set and found in a secular society.

Yet, the society will have a dual-law set with one of the two being theocratic-based and, therefore, infringing on the fundamental basis of secularism as the separation of, in this instance, Mosque and State.

“This is what happened in the UK, and that’s why I don’t like “secularism” and prefer the term “laïcité”! With secularism, they make insular communities and everyone lets them do what they want,” Al-Husseini stated, “I remember in 2010, maybe one court released someone who was charged with beating his wife, because he said that it is okay to beat your wife within Islam and our religion!”

He makes this as an argument for the separation of the place of worship and the public & political life of the citizenry. He sees the battle for secularism as a long one ahead of the citizenry who desire a secular state.

Al-Husseini argues the education in secularism should begin in the earliest years of an individual. In that, there should be a stoppage of teaching religion as true or false in schools, but, instead, keeping these battles for the minds of the young as a true education in simply the facts of the faiths: what do individuals all over the world believe?

Al-Husseini continued, “AAlso, we should stop telling kids about jihad and should not separate people into Muslims and non-Muslims! It provides a simplistic view of the world. Let them see all of us as humans of many stripes and shades, and types. And the governments should have a secularism law and work hard for it!”

He observes a common problem not simply in the education but in the people, too. As there can be a problem in the people simply not adhering to the tenets of a secular state, this can create a problem.

Another can be obscurantism about aspects of some parts of a faith. Al-Husseini spoke of terms like Islamophobia, from his point of view, being a problem.

Because, for example, there are the jihadists or terrorists who physically attack you, but then there are these moderates who also attack you in courts!” Al-Husseini stated. He can see this in the admixture of the definitions between racism, hatred and fear of another because of ethnic background or look, and bigotry against an individual believing Muslim.”

He noted this was something that he talked about in his last book. Al-Husseini concluded on the assertion that e-Muslims know more about Islam and the ways of Islamism than individual Muslims.

Image Credit: Waleed Al-Husseini.

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