0

AHMAD: Maybe it's time to limit free speech

Recently, the writer/producer of the film Innocence of Muslims Mark Basseley Youssef was sent to prison for one year on charges unrelated to this effort to insult the Prophet of Islam. According to law, since his motive was not to provoke violence but "only" to express hatred, he could not be charged for slander, obscenity and or profanity (speech unprotected in the First Amendment and existing in this film).

Although freedom of speech is absolutely essential, the government should not allow people to dissipate hate and "spiritual abuse" in its name. It should take into account the power of hate speech amidst the tremendous religious diversity existing in our country. The Internet is a great medium to connect, learn and share but when hate groups use it as an avenue to perpetuate their agenda, it becomes a serious problem demanding attention.

In wake of the strong reaction to this movie which shook the whole world, maybe it is time to limit freedom of speech to incorporate hate speech punishable by law even when it is not provoking physical harm in order to preserve peace, promote compassion and tolerance.

Some may argue that since hate speech rarely results in violence, there is no need to prohibit it. But Ronald Alexander, author and Executive Director of "The Open Mind Training Institute," compared hate speech to "powerful weapons" in one of his articles, which could "inflict deep and hurtful psychological wounds" when used irresponsibly. When people are allowed to spread mistrust and hate about a particular person or group, it does have an effect on public's perceptions over time. With Muslims comprising less than one percent of the U.S population, is emergence of "Islamophobia" in recent years coincidental? Certainly not.

The said movie is an example of the abuse of freedom of speech. After all, hate speech allows worse abuse of minorities. As the CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress Bernie Farber once pointed out, "Racist war, from the ethnic cleansing in Cambodia, to the Balkans, to Darfur, to the Holocaust, did not start in a vacuum. Hateful words do have an effect." Not surprisingly, evidence revealed that the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik was a big fan of anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller, who recently ran an anti-Muslim hate campaign in New York subway stations giving the impression that all Muslims are "savages."

The debate to limit hate speech is nothing new but advocates of freedom of speech compare any restriction on freedom of speech to limiting freedom of conscience. While there are some countries which are persecuting minorities with their controversial blasphemy laws, many others, including England, France, Australia, Poland, Hungary, New Zealand, Germany and more recently even Canada and Mexico have some kind of hate laws in place to restrict speech including Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and provoking religious hatred with punishments ranging anything from heavy fines to even jail time.

Since the U.S is a melting pot of different cultures and religions, there is even greater need to promote tolerance instead of hate. Freedom of religion, speech and expression is pivotal to social development but limits ensure a decent, moral, tolerant and compassionate society. The Internet has turned the world into a global village so what happens there affects the whole world. Everybody needs to act responsibly and stop abusing their freedoms in the absence of a concrete hate law.

As His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, recently stated in his sermon, "Let it not be that in the name of freedom of speech the peace of the entire world be destroyed."

Saima Ahmad is a resident of Suwanee.

Comments

Dcross 1 year, 8 months ago

As thoughtful as that sound Saima, limiting free speech is what fascist governments do. We need less government looking over our shoulders not more. Who is to say what is hate speech?. We may have a government in the future that views my objections to their governing as hate and lock me up.

I watched the entire film Innocence of Muslims. It did not make sense, it didn't follow any kind of story line and so was poorly produced that you couldn't follow the message if you wanted to. i don't think it had even a couple of hundred views until it was mentioned as the possible culprit for sparking the violence in Libya.

America is not perfect. Your suggestion, while thoughtful and coming from a good place is how totalitarian regimes begin. Americans and others in the world can exercise common sense, good judgement and choose not to listen to hate. After all, those who spew hate get their judgement in the end.

2

SanityCheck 1 year, 8 months ago

Dcross,

I think you meant our government representatives when you said.

"We need less government looking our shoulders"

In a democracy WE THE PEOPLE ARE THE GOVERNMENT. Equating the two is dodging responsibility. When we don't react in a meaningful way to our reps' or Executive branch's actions, WE are the ones to blame.

In Syria, there were protests when their interim President granted himself too many powers, causing him to scale back...see any parallel here in the US?

0

charlesg 1 year, 8 months ago

Everybody needs to act responsibly and stop abusing their freedoms in the absence of a concrete hate law.

By all means, tell everybody how they 'need to act'. Especially after such thorough research by looking up an article linking cyber-bullying with 'negative energy'.

Alternatively, consider what a nonviolent voice said on the matter ~50 years ago:

  1. If peace means accepting second-class citizenship, I don’t want it.
  2. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it.
  3. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace.
  4. If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. So in a passive, non-violent manner, we must revolt against this peace.

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March 19th, 1956

0

gwinnettguy2 1 year, 8 months ago

great response, absolutely perfect

0

notblind 1 year, 8 months ago

Ever notice how "ignore", "ignorant" and "ignorance" have the same root ???

0

gwinnettguy2 1 year, 8 months ago

What a slippery slope that would be. Who would decide what speech is hate and what is not? Those in power, that's who. Be careful what you wish for, it could be used to silence you. Perhaps used to ban the Bible or the Koran, etc.. No, limiting free speech is not the right way to go.

0

Ahmad 1 year, 8 months ago

I agree it is a slippery slope and it is a hard task to draw a line where hate starts and end but there is nothing like 'Absolute Freedom' otherwise why was it essential to put restrictions on Obscenity, profanity or slander in the U.S constitution?

0

gwinnettguy2 1 year, 8 months ago

you are correct, municipalities, state and even the federal government pass laws that have the effect of limiting free speech, but they are many times overturned by the supreme court because of our right to free speech as guaranteed by the constitution. Take a look around and tell me that there are not forums for profanity and obscenity and yes, even hate. These forums exist because the laws designed to eliminate them cannot do it without stepping onto that slippery slope. all you have to do is look at the westboro baptist church for an example of hate. But they have the right to their opinions as do I, and I do not want anyone telling me my opinions are not "allowed" to be broadcast. As far as material that Muslims find objectionable, they have many ways to protest and make their feelings known without resorting to murder and mob violence. The same is true for all of us. I stand with you against hatred, but I will not stand with anyone that is for repealing our rights.

0

gwinnettguy2 1 year, 8 months ago

By the way, I want you to know that I appreciate where you are coming from, you have a good intent. But we need something more than"knee-jerk" legislation that threatens our liberties. This country was founded by men that believed in " give me liberty or give me death". Our elected officials swore to uphold the constitution, and they need to honor that oath.

0

R 1 year, 7 months ago

When "free speech" is controlled for the "good of peace" it's anything but ...

http://www.prisoneralert.com/pprofiles/vp_prisoner_197_profile.html

0

Atl2 1 year, 8 months ago

Ms Ahmad needs to look in the mirror and ask WHY DO AMERICANS ENJOY FREEDOM? WITH STATEMENTS LIKE YOURS, you show the selective choice of muslims' constant demands for exceptions. Our country has GIVEN REFUGE TO MANY RELIGIONS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, INCLUDING YOURS. No other religion has been so demanding and refuses to assimilate. So instead of YOU STATING WE SHOULD LIMIT SPEECH, MAYBE YOU SHOULD LIVE SOMEWHERE, LIKE THE ME, WHERE FREE SPEECH DOESN'T EXIST! PS It wasn't a video that caused the MURDER OF 4 AMERICANS, IT WAS THE CONSTANT HATE FILLED TERRORISTS WHO KNOW NOTHING OF FREEDOM!

0

Ahmad 1 year, 8 months ago

@At12

I have lived most of life in a country where hate was allowed to spread against one group and now the whole country is engulfed in it. So now that US is home, it would be a shame to see the same happening here.

The movie was made to be offensive and to provoke Muslims which it did, but I agree most Muslim reaction was inappropriate. The founder of Islam would have ignored this in order to preserve peace but actions of these extremists (who think they are protecting the honor of the Prophet by creating disorder) goes against his role model and true teachings of Islam.

It is also important to remember that along with other freedoms, the US constitution restricts speech when a person insults or attacks character of a person (under defamation) and in this case, Prophet of Islam is not present to sue the movie maker for his action.

0

allwirl 1 year, 8 months ago

The Constitution absolutely does NOT restrict speech. Defamation is not covered in the Constitution. In fact, there is nothing to prevent lies or falsehoods either. One can publish an article in a newspaper propagating a lie about a movie that no one ever heard of as causing an uprising in the Middle East, or even write a rebuttal on the internet stating things exist in the Constitution that in fact, do not.

Maybe we should restrict freedom of the press also??? No, much like hate speech, we must endure, and openly debate it to keep it in check. Liberty requires work. It's not free or easy.

0

allwirl 1 year, 8 months ago

In response to Ms. Saima Ahmad's comments published 12/18/12:

America was founded on certain principles that should not ever be forgotten. Our Founders risked everything by standing up to an oppressive regime. We were a small colony with little power taking on the mighty British Empire. When we eventually won that war, we established a new government..."of the people, for the people, and by the people".

As the Founders spent several years developing and writing a document that would later become our Constitution, several realized that it wasn't good enough to merely write a document laying out the role and responsibility of the government. A fight brewed between them but eventually they agreed that the document lacked something; a supporting document enumerating the rights and responsibilities of the people. Without this 'Bill of Rights', the government holds all the power.

They realized that without these God given rights written down for posterity, we would all again become subjects. The First Amendment notes our freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. If we sacrifice any of these, we do so at our own peril. The Founders wanted the power to rest in the hands of the people, not a ruling class.

Whom would Ms.Ahmad like to be the arbiter of "hate speech"? I assume she would have the govenment determine what is hateful? Her very premise that the "Innocence of Muslims" video caused a reaction that "shook the whole world" has been proven false. The press initially reported that and our government repeated it and now she continues with it in this publication. Shall we limit the freedom of the press? Must I endure a lie from the press, from my govenment, from you? Is that YOUR freedom of speech? Will I be charged with "hate speech" if I call you a liar?

This country has a long history of tolerance, albeit somewhat painfully arrived at times. Our founders understood that we needed to be able to pray to whom we wanted to, say what we wanted to whom we wanted to, gather our friends and talk to those who will listen and debate with those who will disagree. The also knew that at some point an ever growing government would try to gain power at the expense of liberty taken from it's people. The Bill of Rights is what keeps the government from holding us all as subjects or slaves. Why would anyone in their right mind want to give up any essential liberty for a temporary safety? As Benjamin Franklin said...they deserve neither. So, any other rights you wish to give away? Liberty isn't easy. It isn't clean. It isn't always pretty...but it's ours as long as we don't give it away.

0

SanityCheck 1 year, 8 months ago

I have a question to ask of everyone lecturing Mrs. Ahmad here.

Do you consider her a citizen of the US?

If so, then rather than talking down to her, consider her your equal and discuss rather than talking down at her as if you know more about all things America.

Why should your narrative of how things should be understood true'r than hers...Does your vote count more than hers. She is actually taking the time to explain and initiate dialogue.

But maybe thats unAmerican now a days!

0

gwinnettguy2 1 year, 8 months ago

we are discussing, we are letting her know that we do not appreciate people trying to repeal our rights as guaranteed by the constitution. it is unAmerican to take away the right of free speech.

0

SanityCheck 1 year, 8 months ago

allwirl,

In a single post, first you have claimed America founded as 'government of the people' only to later recount the evils of government.

Which one is it?

0

allwirl 1 year, 8 months ago

Simple. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny." Our founders knew that eventually we would forget the contests, struggles, and bloodshed that brought our freedom and liberty and become easily tempted by temporary security. I am leary of anyone who is willing to give up any right. It's usually from ignorance, laziness, or incompetence that one forfeits something so precious, that has cost so much. Too many have died to protect and pass on those rights, those responsibilities, for me not to speak out against anyone who would so willingly and easily give them back.

1

SanityCheck 1 year, 8 months ago

Good!

"I am leary of anyone who is willing to give up any right. It's usually from ignorance, laziness, or incompetence..."

I would add fear. Like Patriot Act and executive branch's power to put American citizens on a kill list. Haven't our rights already been lost. What are the true blue red-blooded Americans doing about that! Oh I see, since we willfully (in our hateful ignorance) approved those for other nationals, it kinda looks bad to protest when we get hit with the same...

reminds me of that quote about the tradeoff between liberty and safety....

I am afraid the same bias is at play here...Just because we have lost all shame and let our leaders and religious figures get disgraced in the media doesn't mean every one else has to stoop to that level.

BTW. there are already laws in the US limiting speech.

0

gwinnettguy2 1 year, 8 months ago

I agree with you that Miss Ahmad should be putting her efforts towards repealing the unAmerican Patriot Act. It is clearly unconstitutional. Our elected officials should be ashamed of this act. But we do not need a government agency deciding which movies, or which editorials or whose opinion is ok to publish. move to china if that is what you want. Miss Ahmad makes it clear that she believes the movie in question should have been censored. It wasn't obscene or profane by todays standards, its crime is that it offended Muslims. Remeber the guy that immersed a crucifix in a jar of urine? That offended me. Should he be censored or prosecuted?

0

jack 1 year, 8 months ago

Government by evil people?

0

R 1 year, 8 months ago

YES it REALLY is, very astute you are ...

THAT'S why the Bill of Rights and limiting government size is critical.

0

SanityCheck 1 year, 8 months ago

Since here we have Government of the people, you can reduce the size of Government by leaving the country.

0

jack 1 year, 8 months ago

"Think as I think," said a man, "Or you are abominably wicked; You are a toad." And after I had thought of it, I said, "I will, then, be a toad." --Stephen Crane

0

SanityCheck 1 year, 8 months ago

looks like a lazy excuse for not holding our representatives accountable or using our right to gather, demonstrate, petition.

yeah...just gripe to each other and make claims about what ought to be done...

You and I are the Government. Either that or we are not living in a democracy.

Try to refute that.

0

R 1 year, 8 months ago

WE live under a representative form of government, NOT a true democracy via majority mob rule. So has your position been refuted or agreed with?

0

SanityCheck 1 year, 8 months ago

R,

thanks for engaging. In that case we should be talking about government representatives.

I know it is semantics and there is historical context for what is meant by Government. I am not for wasteful spending or giving our reps a free pass, etc. At the same time, I feel that every time we put the blame on 'Government', we step towards taking powers away from ourselves and driving the dagger a little deeper into the heart of our democracy. Democracy is a privilege and a responsibility. We value it and yet have certain duties. If we were truly concerned about what the government reps are doing we would do something about it. When Egyptians felt like their President had given himself too much power, they protested and Morsi had to scale back. I am certain they don't have the big Government vs. small Government tagline. Yet at least in this instance they have held the executive branch's feet to the fire. This is what Democracy is about.

0

R 1 year, 7 months ago

Well this exchange is down here in the basement for sure but the acknowledged evil of man needs to be addressed anytime the concept of letting government "define" any freedom for us is proposed, as is the case by the original author.

I agree ... there needs to be far more than big govt / little govt Rep/Dem discussions going on, but a need to increase desire to challenge the logic ALL our leaders are dispensing. Raising a ruckus does get it done but it needs to be a long term ruckus - not a short term 140 character tweet attack. Like treating Kudzu once is NEVER enough...

Many in our population have come to believe that our leaders have some type of superior knowledge and its just NOT the case. They NEED to be challenged to function correctly, lest they get myopic.

To a broader point, of course religion plays a part in the countries cited here as has the author. We as a culture have worked to suppress that "passion" (maybe too well at times) or perhaps our religions are stronger and more mature as they are able to survive the attempts at name calling or ridicule by outsiders, apparently that's not the case in every corner of the world.
So do we agree? in many areas yes...

Respect positions I think so to some degree and if that was enough for the Red Baron to call Merry Christmas to Snoopy, it's good enough for me!!

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth to all.

0

Sign in to comment