July 3, 1992
"Freedom of the Press A Muslim Perception"
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(The following article has been prepared by Imam W. Deen Mohammed. It is from his presentation as the Guest Speaker at the Annual Golden Torch Awards Dinner sponsored by WFAA and KLIF of Dallas, Texas in honor of AA-MAN on May 22, 1992.)
We praise Him, the One Lord for us all, the Merciful Benefactor, the Merciful Redeemer. We trust Him and ask Him for good efforts and for good results. The prayers and the peace be upon Muhammed, the Last Prophet and what follows of that salute to him. Amin or Amen.
I have been asked to address the topic of freedom of the press from a Muslim perception. That is a very big order for me in the mind and spirit that I have. It would require a lot of time and research for me to really do justice to this topic. I am aware that esteemed persons from the press are here, and we appreciate your presence and your role that you demonstrate or play so well in the beautiful city of Dallas. And I am not thinking to speak to you and tell you what your business is all about.
I hope what I am going to say is not misunderstood. I am going to say very much I guess what the African American Christian man or leader would say. That is, freedom of the press to me is a vital part of the total idea or the total meaning of freedom for us in America and I would like to say in the world.
I am aware of those who have knowledge of our democracy and who have promoted and protected this democracy with their wisdom and insights. I am aware that they see freedom of the press as a necessity and as an indispensible part of democracy itself. I am aware of the great role of the free press in preserving and promoting and opening up new opportunities and new areas of freedom to us. So the last thing I would do would be to disregard that or to pretend to be high minded to know something that you don't
Freedom of the press brings to mind freedom of expression. For us Muslims - I don't think it is any different for informed Christians, freedom of expression is also a freedom that we know. We know that Prophets of God (peace be upon them) were persecuted and some were killed because they insisted upon freedom of expression in the Name of God. Our Prophet Muhammed, the Last Prophet (peace be upon him) is one I identify as a great person who made great sacrifices for the freedom of expression.
It may or may not come as a surprise to you that one of the names of our Holy Book is The Clear and Plainly Expressed Word. And God says of the total message of that Book, that it was revealed expressly to be delivered openly and clearly. I see that as a bold movement by a Prophet who was backed up and defended by God to insist upon the freedom of expression.
The media is something that we the religious world do not identify with. We identify you with the secular world. But you have done a great service. The free press of America has done a great service to these prophets. It is a great service to the religious people who cherish the role of the prophets and our idea of freedom.
I think of the denial of free expression when I think of the words "freedom of the press". There was a dear price paid by early Americans. Freedom was no gift as many of us tend to think. It is not a gift. I don't think freedom is even a gift in the jungles or in the wilds. Freedom is not a gift; you pay for it. Like the (American) freedom and the right to vote, a free press came only after great individuals endured to defeat and move from their way the selfish blocks that were denying that freedom.
A free press is a freedom serving press. A free press is a freedom loving press. We Americans take pride in saying that we are a freedom loving people. A free press is to protect the rights of those in the citizenry of the nation - the big and the small ones. A free press must be aware of itself, its size, its growth, its power to influence. It (the free press) has the ability to influence the growth and the establishment of power for other than itself.
A free press dreads the idea of growing to be a monopolizer of influence or power. A free press is a humble press. A free press is never so far from its birth to not identify with the struggle and with the hurt of small establishments like ours (Muslims). We are among many small American establishments; that is, the Muslims associated with me and with Imam Yahya Abdullah.
A free press is a press that would never allow the personal interest of individuals (whether they own the press or not and whether they own the publication or not) to hurt the professional interest. A free press holds (high) the noble aims of the American people to be more important than the power of the wealthy. A free press in the perception of this Muslim is a powerful press and at the same time a clean press.
To serve freedom is what I see the press doing as I give you my perception of a free press. It is to serve the freedom of choice and (promote) the excellence of free choice. It (the press) is to promote the best traditions of the American people and (work to) open up new opportunities for broader and freer thinking. That is what I believe a free press is to do: To inform (the public) so as to serve the best image of the American people and the best image of our (American) government.
Thank you very much. May Allah guide us always to the best way. As-Salaam-Alaikum.