Lest Ye Be Judged

In an otherwise fairly sensible piece on the teddy bear uproar, Soumaya Ghannoushi observes the following:

But even if we were dealing with a freedom of thought and speech case, even if this were a writer or an artist airing views objectionable to a section of Muslims, this still does not grant the state or judiciary the right to intervene. Rulers are not entitled to sit in judgment over individuals’ minds, what they believe, say, or write, so long as these do not harm others, or disrupt peace and stability in the land.

But rulers should not be entitled full stop. It is in the very nature of being a ruler to sit in judgment over individuals’ minds and what they believe, say, or write. A ruler who did not do such a thing would not be a ruler.

In fact the writer concedes this point: the ruler can sit in judgment over others – when others are being harmed, or are disrupting peace and stability in the land. So: how does a ruler judge whether or not a belief, saying or writing is harmful or disrupting peace and stability in the land? Why, by using his/her own judgement, of course!

And this in fact means that all beliefs, sayings and writings are  judged by the ruler. He/she just has to apply a more detailed judgment on specific instances, normally on the question whether or not they should be prohibited.

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