Is Twitter going to allow free speech now that Elon Musk has bought the platform?
Blocking free speech is vital to liberalism. It always has been. Muslims have been big targets of liberal censorship since the very beginning of liberalism.
Colonial rulers in the Muslim world imposed many suffocating measures to block Muslims from advocating certain Islamic doctrines that contradict liberal values. They also blocked Muslims from teaching traditional Islamic doctrines and prevented Muslims from saying anything that even disrespected the colonial power.
In Algeria, for example, a Muslim could be killed by any European if the European felt the Muslim had disrespected him. This was the law according to the Code de l’indigénat the French powers imposed. As we know, of course, this brutal rule by the French was defended by the most “enlightened” of the French liberal thinkers, such as Alexis de Tocqueville. All this is discussed in detail by Sidi Muhammad Barkat in his book Body of Exception.
In current times, just last week, a group of former intelligence officials signed a joint letter saying that allowing free speech on social media is a “national security threat.”
They are absolutely correct. If people are allowed to criticize liberal institutions of power openly, more and more people will understand what an evil and unjust system it is. Liberalism itself will die because it is so easy to see how much of a hoax it is and how many of its core tenets are completely false and based on a distortion of reality.
Contrast with Islam. Criticizing and maligning Islam in the most unfair and dishonest ways have not only been allowed, but have actually been promoted by the most powerful media institutions in modern times. Yet Islam continues to grow and many of Islam’s enemies are constantly freaking out about it, trying to stem the tide somehow.
Yet these liberals — whether of the atheist, Christian, Jew, Hindu, or Buddhist flavor — want to claim that Muslims have thin skin and can’t take criticism. Meanwhile, their cherished worldview can only last if it is protected with the most muscular censorship regime that has ever existed.
I don’t think Twitter is going to become a bastion of free speech in the sense of allowing true critique of liberalism. I think Musk is going to mildly ease up on the most extreme cases of woke-identity-politics censorship. But I am not expecting much beyond that. Even if Musk wanted to make more extreme changes, he wouldn’t be allowed to. It would be seen as a threat to “national security, i.e., terrorism, and he would be legally stopped.
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The good news is that, so far, the internet is bigger than just social media and slowly more and more people are migrating to other parts of the internet that are not so easily censored. This is natural. But liberal powers have recognized this threat and are working hard to block the remaining vestiges. One idea from experts is to tie internet access to your identity. Destroying anonymity, they believe, will ensure that people are held accountable for what they put on the internet (or download from it). The brutal surveillance state can, thus, more effectively crack down on those who dare to think outside the liberal box.
As Muslims, unfortunately, we don’t have many options right now. We have to work within this massive infrastructure. But always, we should speak the truth and not let censorship stop us from delivering the message. Allahul-musta`an.
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