Why freedom is life

Sherif A Rizk

Freedom of thought and belief is a universally basic human right, but because people automatically pass on their beliefs from one generation to another, the ability to think, analyse, criticize, judge, and sometimes unlearn such values so long believed in and cherished becomes very limited.

That explains the failure of many cultural systems to cope with the challenges of modernity. Despite all that, if anyone tries to stand out of the crowd and decides not to follow the herd, they are immediately shunned and dismissed as insane. In many cases the situation can lead to bloody conflicts.

If we wonder why dumping our beliefs should provoke violence and anger among others who decide not to, there might be various answers, many of which do not seem plausible, though. Some angry people whose beliefs are firmly trenched do it in the name of the “common good”, with all what that implies; they know better than you do. They always have, always will. Thus, it comes as no surprise that they think they possess the absolute truth. Such an argument aborts any attempts to think and seek any alternative truth. So what is the absolute truth? It is the truth that cannot be discussed!

I personally believe that whatever is absolute applies to a certain time and a certain point of view. This may remain so for good, and it may change with social change which brings new ideas and insights.

Social and individual changes depend to a great extent on the space of freedom of thought and liberal ideas that stem mostly from a rich exposure to different experiences. Consequently, more freedom leads to more honesty in adhering to what we believe in, while more oppression increases the rate of moral hypocrisy. It does not make any sense then, to oblige someone to follow one road in life, for if they do not, they have to bear the consequences!

It happened in Middle Age Europe when whoever came up with a new scientific discovery  which was not approved by the Bible and the Catholic Church was accused of blasphemy, and it is still happening in big parts of the Islamic world today. In Iran, for instance, the regime dictates certain hair cut for men and whoever does not abide by them is penalized! There are groups inSaudi Arabiawho can beat you if you are caught not praying during prayer times. Are we that incapable of making choices for ourselves? Would God accept a prayer from someone who is forced to pray?

Isn’t it so oppressive to force women in Saudia Arabia not to drive. And when a woman was caught driving the king pardoned her! In which place in the world in this century a person is caught because she is driving her car.

Banning alcoholic drinks because of being prohibited in Islam in certain Islamic societies can also provide another example of exercising control. What really measures sincere piety is taking the decision not to drink alcohol when it is accessible

This is the kind of freedom I am talking about. It is the power that leads to and comes from the truth at the same time. If we listen to our hearts, there is a life we can live to the maximum. If we remain oppressed, we are nothing but dead. There is no life without freedom.

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