This Group aims to promote solidarity amongst the Pakistani's on the issue of Easy Access to Pornography in Pakistan, as the name itself suggests.

Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Pornography and the Shariah: Why must things be banned in society?

Islam possesses the most heightened sense of this balance between the rights of the individual and those of the society. Thus the domain in which the individual roams free and is accountable, does not encroach upon the domain of the societal mores with its own criteria of decency, order, beauty, mental health, and so forth. So if it is good for one or more individuals to cut down trees and  build tall cement structures, malls, and parking lots, for example, society also has the right to demand green space, playgrounds, and  healthy building material for people to live in, even if it curtails those individuals' right to profit or, as you eloquently said, "the only condition being that they do not hurt or offend anyone else."
It is the same with the control of the high-profit industries whose sole benefit is to indulge the lusts: alcohol and tobacco, drugs, gambling and prostitution, pornography. We may notice that (i) they all go together and (ii) are run mostly by the criminal element of  society known as "organized crime" families. With regard to tobacco,  Muslim authorities and societies have by and large thrown in the  towel. It is truly a pandemic running amok in the Muslim world  despite the valiant efforts of some of the Ulema to prohibit it.  With regard to alcohol, drugs and gambling the prohibition is much stronger as it has the word of the Qur'an as its basis.
With regard to prostitution it is widespread but kept out of sight except in certain Gulf mini-States whose rulers fear not Allah nor the Day of Judgment, and whose subjects are like cattle or dumber.
With regard to pornography it is an on-going battle in the Muslim world slavishly panting after its "Sexual Revolution" beginnings  in the West in the Sixties, which culminated with the Supreme Court decisions in the US in the Nineties first banning, then giving up  on banning pornography in the name of individual liberties - and damning the liberties of society and the family to hell.
We may call the nature of control a lid of public decency. As  long as these activities remain clandestine they remain shameful but if they are allowed to mix with broad daylight all shame is lost. For example, the Sultanate of Brunei has the words "Death for all drug traffickers under Brunei Law" written on every immigration landing form but turns a blind eye to cross-dressing on the street corners of its capital at night, as I was stupefied to find out during a late night drive through Bandar Seri Begawan.
The battle is not without hope in the Islamic world because there is still a deep-seated sense of shame and decency in individuals and their societies. There is also a deep-seated sense in most those countries if not all of them, that Religion is not a matter of individual choice and practice but a lifestyle that englobes the collective in all possible senses of the word: psychologically, historically, culturally, politically, legally. It is, to say the least, difficult for a Westerner to understand this unless he has lived in the East for a while and drunk in those values that  otherwise remain an anachronism if he is kind, and an affront to  his modernity if he were, like his modernity, born yesterday.
As to the important Question, "should Sharia law apply to everybody (not just with respect to porn, but also with things such as alcohol consumption, female dress code, etc.) including non-Muslims like  myself," as a theoretical Question the answer is yes, the Shari`a is ideally quite Spartan with respect to those issues, somewhat like Singapore or Switzerland with respect to public cleanliness, traffic, and other issues of societal rights. However, in practice, these things are treated with leeway in all Muslim countries including the most puritanical, as long as one indulges them out of sight and does not undress, imbibe, or fornicate ostensively.
Otherwise, it is really not an infringement on individual liberty nor a defeat of the battle for hearts to expect the man in the street to respect the public norms of decency in every culture. As you said, "people should be free to choose their own way of life, the only  condition being that they do not hurt or offend anyone else." The hubris of globalization is to try by all means to violate those norms in the name of "freedom" when we know that the real reason is money.

Shaykh Gibril F Haddad


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