The Value of Free Speech
“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” M. Gandhi
Looking at the world today, there is one unique civil right that is preserved in our country that is unlike many other countries – the right of free speech. With the world focusing on the “denigration of religions” we are fortunate to enjoy such a right protected by our Constitution. Today, there are many instances where such behavior as speaking out against popular ideologies, theologies or political rhetoric is a criminal offense with some facing the death penalty for doing so.
There is a fever in the world today to criminalize denigration of religions in our world and it has prompted strong statements of support from people in our own government that carries with it threats of incarceration and prosecution of federal laws designed to prevent hate crimes. Unfortunately, such rhetoric has been presented in a very biased manner as it appears to favor one religion over many others.
During a speech at the United Nations somewhere on or about September 25, 2012, our own president Barak Obama, said, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.”
This was approximately a little more than a year after the Cairo Islamic Summit that viewed that any religion should not be denigrated and focused on the strategy to impress on international communities to take effective measures against such acts of incitement of hatred and intolerance towards the Muslims and acts that lead to violence and loss of lives.
One has to notice that Islamophobia was a high priority on the agenda of this July, 2011, summit. This issue was adopted universally and globally through a framework of the United Nations’ international law which states in part: “Article 20 of ICCPR, clearly states that denigration of symbols or persons sacred to any religion is a criminal offence. This law ratifies OIC's position and the only remaining problem is the absence of enforcement in the true spirit by member states.”
It was claimed that this law was not effectively transposed to the domestic laws of the United States thus recently, our own attorney general, Loretta Lynch, stated in part during a public speech held on December 3, 2015 “"The fear that you have just mentioned is in fact my greatest fear as a prosecutor, as someone who is sworn to the protection of all of the American people, which is that the rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence,"
Obviously our country was founded on freedom of speech. However, this right to freedom of speech is limited when it incites violence. The attorney general stated that she would take actions and investigate acts of anti-Muslim hatred and bigoted actions suggesting that free speech does not protect predicated talks of violence. She capped her speech by stating, “I think it’s important that as we again talk about the importance of free speech we make it clear that actions predicated on violent talk are not America," said Lynch. "They are not who we are, they are not what we do, and they will be prosecuted."
American have learned from our own experiences that freedom of speech is a path to respect human rights as well as civil rights. Let us hope our government does not enforce such laws selectively and seek to go against liberty through the means of tyranny and target non-Muslims for invoking their freedom of speech without inciting violence but rather more clearly, stating the truth of our government.
The recent emphasis on protecting the rights of Muslims, specifically those who are arriving as refugees and coming to America has been covered with an executive order type of political shield or blanket of assurances that prosperity, spiritual growth and development shall be guaranteed by our government as they assist, assimilate and foster re-settlement strategies to make these Muslims feel at home inside America.