Hate speech is impious – By: MU NDAGI
Today, Saturday June 18, 2022, is the International Day for the Elimination of Hate Speech. Given the exponential spread of hate speech around the world, in 2021 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to “promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in the fight against hate speech”. The resolution, which recognizes the need to combat discrimination, xenophobia and hate speech, calls on all actors concerned to redouble their efforts to combat this phenomenon in accordance with international human rights law. This resolution was proclaimed on June 18, 2021 (last year) as the International Day Against Hate Speech and is celebrated today for the first time.
As the President of the United Nations General Assembly was planning to convene a high-level informal meeting on Monday, June 20, 2022, to commemorate the first International Day for No Hate Speech, Nigerians are unaware of no event organized by the Federal Ministry of Information or the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to mark the Day. Maybe they were “too busy” to remember anything about countering hate speech.
Since UN Secretary-General António Guterres asserts that “hate is a danger for everyone, and therefore fighting it should be everyone’s job”, this column considered him to be a moral duty to dedicate today’s article to speaking out against hate speech. We expect others, as educators, religious leaders, actors in civil society organizations, to also play their respective roles in combating hate speech. After all, hate speech has no language, religion, vocation, age or gender.
Given their strong potential to disrupt peace, incite violence and undermine social cohesion, we support the federal government’s current decision to regulate social media which remains the most widely used platforms for hate speech. . Authorized by Section 6 of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Act 2007, the Agency released a new internet code last Monday titled “Code of Practice for interactive/intermediate computer services and operating conditions in Nigeria”, which aims to standardize, coordinate and develop regulatory frameworks for all information technology (IT) practices in Nigeria.
This is a welcome development as even developed democracies like Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, South Africa, Sweden, New Zealand and the UK have also laws that restrict hate speech. In the UK, section 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 states that “restrictions on freedom of expression would be permitted where they threaten national security; incites racial or religious hatred; damages the health or morals of an individual; or threatens the rights and reputation of individuals.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube as global platforms for conversations and other forms of social interaction have since their beginnings revolutionized the world of information technology; positively changing the whole pattern of communication between individuals and groups. They have become go-to sources for news, entertainment, knowledge, ideas and interests, as they also allow users to create and share content electronically. Social media, which connects people with common interests, also facilitates the creation and expansion of business, political, intellectual and professional networks.
Proponents of these social media platforms have founded them on well-meaning premises. But despite their positive impacts on national economies, politics, public peace and national security; some of its users in Nigeria have unfortunately converted the platforms into spots for spreading harm and evil. For example, a certain Christopher Uche-Ayodeji (Dr Chris) recently “confessed” in the screenshot of a viral Facebook post that he left many Muslims to die while working as a doctor in the north. from Nigeria; adding that he wished to kill more. What hate speech! Hate speech is never a solution to any problem. Rather, he seeks to aggravate it.
It is hate speech when you defame another person’s character through insults or embarrassing comments. Backbiting, a common evil among men and women of all ages, is tantamount to hate speech. As an act of the devil, hate speech is ungodly because the same God worshiped in our various religions does not love it. Allah in Quran 49:12 mentions “… Do not speak evil of one another behind their backs; Would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? No, you would hate it…” This verse from the Holy Quran equates backbiting with eating the flesh of the person you are speaking ill of. In a hadith narrated by Imam Buhari and Muslim, the Prophet (SAW) said: “A (true) Muslim is one whose tongue and hand are safe from other Muslims”.
Hate speech seeks to undermine a Muslim’s faith because the Prophet (SAW), as reported in the 15th hadith of the Forty Traditions of Imam An-Nawawi, said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day must speak well or be silent”. Hate speech is forbidden in Islam because it is not good speech. Allah states in Quran 50:18 that for every word we speak, good or bad, there are Angels by our side always ready to record it; for or against us. The more hate speech we speak, the heavier our baggage of sins! This warning alone is enough to make us avoid hate speech.
It is probably because people do not know where the right to freedom of expression begins or ends that they mistakenly confuse hate speech with freedom of expression. Since freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, this freedom does not extend to provocative language or speech that threatens public peace and order. Any speech or writing expressing hatred or inciting violence on the basis of religion or ethnicity against a person or a group cannot be a manifestation of the right to freedom of expression. Along with the right to exercise freedom of expression comes a responsibility to respect the right of others to the same freedom.
As the political campaigns for the 2023 general election fast approach, we urge politicians and their supporters, especially musicians, to avoid insulting the sensibilities of others with hate speech. May Allah guide us to avoid hate speech in our public and private lives, amin.