Monday, September 17, 2012

Freedom of Speech and Tolerance

The movie “Innocence of Muslims” has caused riots around the Muslim world.  The first of these, which seemed to fuel the remainder, happened in Libya.  People stormed the US Consulate in Benghazi.  The attacks resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his State Department colleagues.  There has been a lot of rhetoric on this from all sides.  President Obama has vowed that justice will be done.  By all accounts, Stevens was a very good diplomat and understood the Muslim world and Libya.  He was highly regarded to the point that some Libyans put themselves in harm’s way to try to save the Americans.  There are also reports that the attacks in the Libya were actually a terrorist plot.
Meanwhile, violence has erupted in many countries.  Here at home, everyone that has a voice is condemning the movie that caused all of this.  I have to agree that the movie was an act of propaganda and definitely anti-Muslim.  I do not know how anyone involved in the making of that movie can sleep at night knowing that their work caused the riots that killed four US diplomats.
Yet, we value free speech in this country.  Most of the time, it is an easy right to support and defend.  It is the cornerstone of our democracy.  I can say whatever I want without fear of being thrown in jail or worse.  I can verbally disparage any of our leaders.  I can preach revolution if I want to.  I can advocate atheism if I so choose.  I can talk smack about any religion I want to. It might be idiotic or just plain rude, but I can do it if I want.  Can’t therefore the folks behind the “Innocence of Muslims” make any movie they want even if they know the Muslim world will be enraged? 
This is a key question that is not being addressed while we are bending over backwards trying to be tolerant.  The filmmakers did not physically hit or hurt anyone.  Yet, Christians are under pressure in many Muslim countries.  Armenian Christians are under siege and being killed in Aleppo, Syria.  Christians have been attacked since the fall of Sadam in Iraq.  Azerbaijan treated a soldier who killed an Armenian with an ax as a national hero.  Where is the tolerance in the Islamic world?  It seems to be a very one way street.
Bad things are being done in the name of Islam.  This has been going since at least the Armenian Genocide.  Christians have essentially been driven out of every country in the Middle East.  Look at the population proportions today as compared to one hundred years ago.  Certainly, historically, bad things have been done in the name of Christianity.  Our hands are definitely not clean.
All I am saying is that, we need to continue to value free speech and insist that tolerance be a two way street.  Easy to say, hard to do.


  1. Mark: agree 100%. That said, I just wish some people were more judicious wrt their choices re free speech. I hail the ability of those who made the movie "Innocence of Muslims" to make the movie. But didn't they know this would be the result? If they didn't, they're just plain stupid and/or naive. Cousin David

  2. Nice post Mark. I have to agree with your thoughts of free speech and a two way street. If ya can't take what ya dish out, then stop what your doing . I could go on for awhile but I hate to offend. anyone that doesnt understand the theory of your two way street.

  3. We should not take freedom of speech for granted , with freedom of speech we should practice responsibility and courtesy , we were always taught to think before we spoke , so that we would not offend others ..