Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 24th, 2017

‘Man is Born Free, and Everywhere He is in Chains’

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‘Man is Born Free, and Everywhere He is in Chains’

In modern world, freedom has been recognized as a natural and fundamental right of mankind. All have been born free and are supposed to exercise their rights freely. Freedom is strongly cherished in today’s discourse and it is the spirit of democracy. Democratic systems have to protect the liberty and freedom of people and support their rights. However, Jean-Jacques Rousseau aptly said, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states in its preamble that “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”. The UDHR also recognizes freedom as the natural rights of mankind as its first article says, “All human beings are born free….” Freedom and liberalism are the cornerstone of democracy. Based on liberal school of thought, all people are entitled to exercise their rights, beliefs, and religion freely and no formal religion is recognized by liberalism. That is to say, pluralism is one of the elements of liberalism which recognizes many religions. People should be able to exercise their beliefs and religious rituals freely, express their thoughts freely, etc. and no one is supposed to curtail their freedoms unless it is limited on the provision of law to ensure the freedoms of others.
It is believed that if freedom, which is the inherent right of all human beings, is respected, the bulk of global challenges will be resolved. In other words, if one’s freedoms are not curtailed on the grounds of their race, color, and creed and people show tolerance toward the religious beliefs and practices of others, militancy will decline tremendously. Currently, radicalism and lack of tolerance pose the greatest threat to the world and people’s right to life and liberty are violated flagrantly. If one’s freedoms of beliefs, expressions, thoughts, movement and residence, etc. are valued, streams of blood would not be shed, as it is being shed today, and people would live a peaceful life. Hence, radicalism and lack of tolerance are one of the main reasons behind curtailing people’s freedoms.
It should be noted that freedom is not only right but also a method or instrument for expressing thoughts and beliefs and representing culture. Freedom paves the ground for the public to play their social, cultural, and political role without obstacles. Without freedom, one will not only fail to express their thoughts or exercise their religious rituals, but also to promote their culture or perform their social or cultural activities.
Despite the fact that freedom is debated hotly, it still remains elusive and freedoms of large number of people have been violated in some ways or the others around the globe. It is true that man is everywhere “in chains” although he is born free. Currently, violating freedom makes global headline. To view the current militancy, people’s right to freedom is trampled upon in the worst possible way. People are not able to express their thoughts freely or play their social or cultural role in the society, mainly in war-torn countries.
Religious fundamentalists are one of the strongest violators of people’s freedom. They do not observe the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and curtail their freedoms on a large scale. After all, many radical militants, including the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), violate people’s right to liberty on the basis of their racial and religious backgrounds.
Freedom of thoughts and expressions are also repressed in many parts of the world, mainly by states. People are not allowed to express what they think. Media and press are censored and in some countries there are only government-owned media – which will broadcast what states want. This will be a strong blow to freedom of speech. Quelling those who express their thoughts is rampant in despotic regimes – which are afraid of the public thought.
In Afghanistan, people also suffer from violation of their freedoms. On the one hand, militant fighters infringe upon people’s right to freedom, and on the other hand, traditional culture and cultural restriction limit their freedoms to a great extent. Women are highly prone to violation of freedoms. Some girls are bereft of freedom of marriage and are subdued to parents’ will in this respect.
In all honesty, freedom of speech is valued in Afghanistan and there are many free and non-governmental media and press. Moreover, social media are a suitable vehicle for expressing thoughts and ideas. Afghan officials have the tolerance to be criticized openly. In brief, to compare Afghanistan with many neighboring countries, freedom of speech is highly valued in Afghanistan.
To value freedom, people have to be tolerant enough and respect people as they are. Pluralistic ideas will extend the realm of one’s tolerance; whereas radical mindset will spread hatred that will necessarily result in violation of freedom. Infringing on freedom will dismantle people’s unity and they will not be able to live a peaceful life.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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