JEDDAH: Freedom of expression must not be used as a pretext for promoting hatred, the head of the Muslim World League warned on Monday.
Those who developed such constitutional rights had never intended for them to be used in this way, Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa said.
“Freedoms should never be a bridge for conflict and a clash between civilizations,” he said. “They are not understood in this light.”
Al-Issa spoke amid renewed controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad first published five years ago in a Danish newspaper and a French satirical magazine.
A teacher in Paris who used the cartoons as a classroom aid was murdered this month by an Islamist militant. The murder has reignited debate over freedom of speech and offending religious sensibilities.
Freedoms should never be a bridge for conflict and a clash between civilizations. They are not understood in this light.
Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa
“The European Court of Human Rights … ruled that insulting our Prophet Muhammad is not covered by freedom of expression,” Al-Issa said.
He was referring to a judgment in 2018, in which the court ruled that an Austrian woman who made particularly offensive statements about the prophet was told she could not use her right to free expression to overturn her conviction for disturbing religious peace.
However, Al-Issa cautioned Muslims against overreacting to provocation. “No doubt these cartoons offend Muslims and we condemn them in the strongest terms,” he said.
“But overreacting, which is negative and goes beyond what is acceptable, is harmful. In fact, it is beneficial to haters.”