Feb 17, 2017 12:29 UTC

Welcome to today’s episode of the series Islamic Human Rights. Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right which has been defined as the right of individuals to freely and peacefully gather and to benefit from each other’s views and thoughts.

Freedom of assembly is one of the most important human rights, which has been widely recognized in the international, regional, and national levels, within different human rights documents. This freedom enables individuals to gather and collectively express, promote, and defend their common interests. The freedom of assembly could aim for pursuance or access to a common goal within the political, religious, ideological, economic, occupational, social, athletic, cultural, or professional domains.

Assembly can be defined as the gathering of a group of individuals for a short period of time in a specific location and time, to exchange views, to discuss social and political problems, to announce stands, to defend common goals and interests, and to meet goals.

Freedom of assembly is one of the manifestations of democracy, within which people can directly voice their demands. At times, shortcomings may arise in materialization of the rights and general freedoms of the members of the community. In such phases in time, empathy and sociability of the individuals grants them the power to initiate an alliance to defend their demands and interests via resorting to social strength in an effort to capture the attention of the public opinion.

So, freedom of expression means every individual has the right to organize a gathering with his peers and co-thinkers, in a specific time and location to express his views and standpoints. This gathering can be in the form of deliverance of speeches, participation in conferences or debates, or issuance of statements which include rules and regulations, and general suggestions.

These gatherings are temporary, and as soon as the collective views are expressed, individuals leave the gathering. Also, these gatherings are held via prior notice, with the intention of getting informed of each other’s views and thoughts. The freedom of assembly is a personal right, although several individuals can cooperate with each other to fulfill this right. It is important to note that freedom of assembly only applies to peaceful assemblies and gatherings, and doesn’t include gatherings which incite violence.

The right of assembly has been recognized by many human rights sources; the most important of which are human right treaties and documents. The human rights documents which have been approved in international, regional, and national levels, have widely recognized and supported the right to assembly.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was approved by the UN General Assembly in the year 1948 notes everyone maintains the right to benefit from the freedom of peaceful gatherings.

The regional human right documents have also forthrightly accepted the right of freedom of assembly.

As of the advent of Islam; this divine religion, upon reliance on the principles of justice and human dignity, and by placement of emphasis on the principle of fraternity and equality, established a new humane system and order, making every effort to liberate mankind. This divine religion brought about the freedom of mind and named participation of people as the main pillar of the political structure of the Islamic government. This divine religion also put emphasis on freedom of thought, and shaped personal and public freedoms in different realms, with the exception of freedoms that violate human dignity and/or others’ rights.

The right of freedom of assembly is not just related to contemporary era. Several practices in the divine religion of Islam, such as Friday Prayers, Haj Pilgrimage, and religious circles which have existed as of the advent of Islam are manifestations of the right of assembly.

Meanwhile, factors such as prevention of violation of  others’ honor and dignity; others’ rights and freedoms; prevention of chaos and endangerment of public security and order can lead to a number of restrictions in personal and general rights, and freedoms of individuals. Maintenance of collective security, order, health, and ethics can lead to restriction or prohibition of a number of gatherings. These restrictions are legal and justified limitations which fulfill the interests of the members of the community.