Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is an important characteristic of liberal democracy. In Muslim-majority countries, freedom of expression is like a foreign word. It is severely restricted, especially in the area of criticism of Islam. Occasional expression of doubt or critical thinking is enough to put one’s life in danger.
Therefore, sceptical people in these countries express their controversial opinions mainly on online platforms. Sometimes they use pseudonyms to protect themselves from attacks by Islamist fanatics. But this freedom of expression for ex-Muslims and other marginalized people in Muslim countries is also increasingly restricted on online social media platforms. The founder of the Atheist Republic, Armin Navabi, was banned for life for posting blasphemous drawings on Twitter. Sometimes Islamists formed a gang that mass reports any account they deemed critical of Islam. Many people who write critically about Islam lost their accounts on social media. Recently, the same thing happened to me. I lost my Facebook account three times. The last time I updated my Facebook (Krishna Mohammad) status by posting the following poem.
First, they beheaded the blasphemers.
I gave applause.
Because I have my feelings too.
Then they decapitated the atheists.
I prove my theism uttering the declaration of my faith.
Because I have faith too.
Then they beheaded the infidels.
I showed them my lower staff as a proof of my faith.
Since my circumcision has been done too.
Then they decapitated Muslims of different sects.
| participated in the mob of decapitators.
Because I have the desire for 72 virgins too.
Then they beheaded the moderate Muslims.
I became a true Muslim by keeping beard long and wearing a cap. Since I have the fear of dying too.
Still they cut off my palm.
Since I did the clapping first
And hand clapping is forbidden in Islam.
Translated and slightly edited from the poem “Still they cut off my palm” by Washiqur Rahman Babu. He was a Bangladeshi blogger and was hacked to death by Islamist in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 30, 2015.
Then, 20 minutes later, I check my Facebook account and it’s disabled. Facebook claims I violated Facebook’s community guidelines. They don’t mention what specific community guidelines I have broken. I have seen many Facebook posts in which Islamists call for the beheading of atheists and blasphemers. Where are the standards of Facebook’s community guidelines in those cases?
The Islamists are exploiting Facebook’s reporting feature to disable accounts they don’t like. Instead of standing up for their right to free speech, Facebook disabled their accounts with the excuse that they are violating community standard guidelines. Offline, Islamists are forcibly shutting down the voices of ex-Muslims. On the Internet, the voices of ex-Muslims are also being shut down by Facebook under the pretext of community guidelines and mass reporting by Islamist gangs. This is a very disturbing development. Facebook should take steps to protect the freedom of expression of ex-Muslims and other marginalized people.