Censorship is the first line of defense for orthodoxy, and fighting it is essential to the health of a free society.
One of the most common undercurrents of repressive Islamic regimes is speech control. States’ constitutions may theoretically guarantee freedom of expression, but in practice, most Islamic nations impose broad exceptions to this rule. Restrictions target religious and political dissent alike.
Of particular concern in the digital age is the weaponization of social media. Ideally a tool to facilitate the free flow of ideas, social media content is routinely subject to regime-imposed blocks in Muslim-majority countries, often with the cooperation of the companies themselves. Meanwhile, special laws enacted in these countries in the last decade have singled out online speech for prosecution—often under the false pretense of controlling misinformation and hate speech, sometimes more explicitly stating the aim to curb political and religious dissent.
Globally, social media companies enforce their guidelines in problematic ways, in some cases discouraging an atmosphere of free expression. Ex-Muslims in particular are affected by this. Algorithmic responses to community violations are frequently abused with targeted reporting campaigns, and community standards recently implemented by Facebook provide that content attacking “ideas” and “concepts” can be subject to removal under certain circumstances.
These conditions pose a threat to the principle that one should be always free to express oneself openly—a principle vital for ex-Muslims’ ability to live free from fear and persecution.
Ex-Muslims of North America’s (EXMNA) input has been included in the recent Report on Hatred on the Basis of Religion or Belief from the United Nations (UN) by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. It will be read and discussed as an agenda item at the upcoming 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council which is scheduled to take place from February 26th to April 5th, 2024.
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