Most Muslim majority societies now live in fear and subjugation. Lack of freedom of expression supports a lack of good governance, which eventually results in the decline of political rights, civil liberties, economic development, innovation, knowledge development and so on.

This vicious cycle of backwardness is affecting a great number of people all over the Muslim world.

Occasionally we are being deceived by the presentation of building new infrastructures as development in many countries, but in reality, a real sustainable and civilizational development still seems to be a far-fetched dream there.

The very recent example that shook the whole world is the alleged state-led assassination of a Saudi dissident journalist Mr Jamal Khashoggi.

Ironically and painfully, his last column that he wrote for the Washington Post before his disappearance was titled as ‘What the Arab world needs most is free expression’.

His country has a very special place in the hearts of the Muslims worldwide due to its inclusion of the two holiest places.

However, it along with most of the Muslim majority countries is now tormented by wars, conflicts and backwardness.

Lack of or complete absence of freedom of expression is a strikingly common feature among those societies.

Saudi journalist and writer Jamal Khashoggi, source: Washington Post

While every Muslims knows of Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh is a relatively unfamiliar country located in South Asia although it contains the third largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.

Enforced disappearance, silencing the opposition by any possible means and increasing state-control over the expressions are rampant there.

The government has recently enacted a law known as the Digital Security Act 2018 that allows authorities search and detain any person on mere suspicion, and imprison them for up to 14 years even for any views expressed in a digital media that the government may see as defamatory or offensive without clarifying the concept of defamation or offence!

The government has long been silencing the opposition there using similar tools and existing laws, while the main objective of this new law seems to make the punishment harsher.

Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in a meeting in Riyadh on 17 October 2018. Source: Dhaka Tribune

In spite of all these cruelties, calamities and coercion, the world around us is inevitably changing every day.

All must realise that the freedom of expression is one of the basic human rights, which is also a much-needed agent of any society’s progress.

People have the dignity and right to express their views as well as society has the right to strive freely for a better future.

A question often wanders in inquisitive minds, especially in this age of communication wonders as the whole world has become a globalized locality, why some societies are incredibly advanced and why some others are still lagging far behind?

To keep it very simple, we can consider those societies as advanced where people want to live in, and even migrate to.

In this context, we can clearly see that freedom of expression has a positive correlation with the proliferation of innovation and knowledge without any doubt.

From a historical perspective, Muslims during the early formative years of Islam practised an unprecedented degree of freedom of expression.

Almost fifteen centuries ago, an ordinary man or woman or even a slave was able to visit the Prophet (s) freely and discuss any issues.

Furthermore, numerous religious injunctions were revealed to him when someone disapproved of a common tradition or practice, in favour of those disagreements.

All these events remain in the history of Islam as a framework of acceptance of diverse opinion.

The companions and the subsequent early generations adopted this human nature in such a positive manner that they were able to construct a knowledge-based civilization and spread it in various corners of the globe while the rest of the world was left behind.

It happened primarily by the internal philosophical strength of belief. An unblemished belief in God always aims at freeing a human being from any sort of active or passive fear, subjugation and submission of any other entity.