‘Freedom of speech needs to be regulated to uphold peace’

National 2 minutes, 6 seconds


PEOPLE’S right to freedom of speech “needs to be regulated” for authorities to ensure peace and safety in multi-racial communities, a Malaysian lecturer in Syariah said.

Dr Zuliza Mohd Kusrin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) said freedom of speech is generally allowed in many countries, but it is not an absolute right.

Speaking on the sidelines of an international colloquium at Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), she said freedom of speech depends on restrictions imposed in societies.

“(The restrictions are) important to prevent criminal activities, ensure health or public morality, and to preserve power and freedom of jurisdiction,” she said.

The lecturer said an appropriate way to express one’s opinion is when it is based on the historical context of the local community, where there is a need to respect others’ beliefs and practices.

In voicing out one’s opinions, one should know how to present it in a constructive manner that should not hurt or violate the rights of others, she continued.

Dr Zuliza was one of six invited speakers who presented her paper on freedom of speech at the one-day Islamic Knowledge Heritage colloquium.

She went on to say that in Islam, Muslims were taught to respect other religions, and that they are allowed to criticise but not humiliate or ridicule another religion.

“There are certain guidelines that need to be observed by Muslims should they decide to express their opinions and criticisms.

“When the opinions expressed are hostile or racist, it could raise tensions and result in chaos, these are the kind of freedom of speech rights that need to be restricted as it threatens public peace,” she added.

Dr Zuliza said members of the public need to be sensitive to matters important to other communities especially when the country has a diverse population.

“In the case of Islam, if non-Muslims are insensitive and voiced their opinions inappropriately by disregarding matters deemed important and sacred in Islam, it will disrupt the relationship between both communities,” she said.

“This is also against what Islam teaches, which is to foster peaceful relations and unity with one another despite the racial and religious differences,” she added.

Dr Zuliza said in Malaysia, a Muslim can lodge a report to the authorities if they encounter comments that are hostile towards Islam.

“We do not need to act on our own as we have certain laws that protect our rights, any seditious act under such law can be taken into action by the authorities,” she added.

The Brunei Times