“Freedom of Speech” and “Democracy”
Freedom of Speech!
I hear this and I cringe because I know it is a not-too-coded code to take a bash at Islam and Muslims. Just as when I hear the word “Democracy”, I know someone’s freedom is about to be crushed as we have done so frequently in the past and even today.
We support Israel in the name of “Democracy” but Israel is farther away from democracy than even White South Africa was in its heyday. Palestinians are as animals, to be humiliated, dispossessed, killed, exploited and starved, all in the name of protecting Israel, the only democracy in the Mid-East. One might laugh if it were not so tragic.
Yet nobody in the US, seems to make it a matter of concern that we pour well over ten BILLION dollars into that rat-hole every year, just so they can practice newer ways to kill and to oppress millions of people. We, the United States of America, supposedly the greatest democracy in the world, have a knack of supporting the worst examples of oppression over man, all over the world. Even in this country today, we have made it a mark of true patriotism that some of our leaders should target Islam and Muslims as the greatest threat to the US and to the West, while the rest of our leaders remain steadfastly silent in case their future political aspirations should be endangered.
That’s it, isn’t it? WE allow evil to be done in our names because we say nothing against it; Democracy, War, Freedom of Speech, what is the difference? They are all fig-leaves of convenience to disguise the real pupose…Greed and self-interest.
Freedom of Speech!
What is it really? Bigots say it is their God-given RIGHT to say as vile a thought as comes to their minds and if they hate Islam and Muslims, they should be free to say so. Of course they are right because how do we stop the free expression of thought, without curtailing people’s freedoms?
But nobody lives in a utopian free society where anything and everything goes. When was the last time someone said, “I will blow up this Synagogue!” and avoided being jailed?
When was the last time a politicians said something vile about Blacks or Jews or Hispanics or Chinese and continued with their careers?
How long has it been since we remained uncritically silent when someone said women should not work, they should stay subservient to men and gays should be “cured”?
All these are examples of groups that have certain political power today, which is why it is a career-ending move to bash any of them. Instead, we choose a new, helpless and fractured target; Muslims. That should be an easy one these days.
As a Muslim, I struggle between the reality of life and the First Amendment right of free expression. I fully understand that one must be free to speak as one thinks, without repercussions, but I also understand the threat contained in anti-Muslim hate speech and the fear for one’s family it evokes among Muslims. Just as a few fanatical words in the ears of a sincere fool, can lead that person to take a gun against anyone abusing Islam, like Pam Geller did in her “Muhammed Cartoon Contest”. A few oft-repeated words of hate and fear against Islam and Muslims can provoke sincere fools to take up their weapons against Muslims or, people who “look like Muslims” and it has happened, often. The same anti-Muslim hate speech can move members of local Police, FBI and other law enforcement agencies to look upon Muslims with suspicion and take harsh measures against them, that they would not take against their own “Judeo-Christians”. Blacks should be very familiar with such a state of affairs.
Where to draw the line between free speech and banned speech? It is not possible.
Judges have said free speech does not permit yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Presumably, if someone were to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, people would panic, rush to the exits and some or many, would get crushed to death.
That can happen with hate speech too. there are many Islamophobes who continuously fan the flames of anti-Muslim hate and fuel the fires of fear. Every once in while, someone kills a Muslim or two or three, but who is counting when we have a country to defend? People also kill non-Muslims who to them, “look Muslim”. People have set Mosques on fire and so far, nobody has been killed in such fires, but should we wait until that happens?
Where do we draw the line?
If today, one may not speak hatefully against Muslims, then perhaps tomorrow, they may not criticize the US when it goes to another murderous “War!” “out there”. Unpatriotic speech during war (we are still at “War!” remember?) could endanger the nation.
What if a Muslim were to speak out in support for ISIS or Al-Qaeda? well, we already know what would happen in such cases because THAT is where America draws the line. Far too many Muslims have been hounded to trial and imprisoned for doing just that, while equally hate-filled and actually violent, expressions by REAL Americans barely draw attention.
But if Muslims protest against such treatment and if Muslims call for hate-speech to be curtailed, it only helps the hate-mongers. They then point out that Muslims are not compatible with “Western values” and cannot be trusted as equal citizens. As adults, most of us Muslims can continue to struggle with the tensions between freedom of expression and hate-promotion, but our children cannot cope with such contradictions. To them, calls for hate or fear against Muslim, especially by our leaders, are a painful and disenfranchising experience. It serves only to make them feel isolated, not in their own country without knowing where “their own country” really is.
Free speech does not have to be sensible speech.
If we can have Americans who call out against ALL expressions of hate- or fear-promotion, people would think twice before they launch into calling for the destruction of Islam and Muslims in America (yes, they do that and often). But to get Americans to pay attention to what is being done or said in the name of defending the nation, is not easy.
“Freedom of Speech”, where do we draw the line?
The struggle to defend free speech or to shut down unacceptable speech continues because there is no reasonable answer.