Friday, September 21, 2012

Islam and Freedom of Speech

I've been engaged in a brief internet conversation with a Muslim who calls himself ALAA A. He claims to be an Egyptian who defends the riots that are happening in the Middle East in part as a response to the 14 minute YouTube video no one has actually seen. Our first comments were more flippant, but here is his last comment, and my response. This whole situation sucks, but I still think freedom of speech trumps people being offended. As I have realized this week, this is a very American point of view. It's the best point of view, though. I'm comfortable saying that, although there are definite disadvantages. Not for me the relativity of culture. Ours is better, and I don't say that with any joking or sarcasm. Where else would you want to live? If you have a serious answer of somewhere else, you just haven't lived there. "Molly, what do you want me to say? you guys only hear your own voice so, in order to hear our voice we should kill one of you. then you will ask, why that one killed and then you hear us. We are the product of you dream to control the world." ALAA A, it is sad to me that this is your point of view. Here's the problem: We believe, more than any other country, that speech is allowed. Western European countries may censor hate speech and Holocaust denial, but we do not. What I do not think you understand is that in the US, we believe if you are offended by speech, that is your problem. That does NOT mean the government of the US is complicit or agrees with the things it cannot censor. In fact, I'm sure they wish this and all other hate speech would disappear. As do I. But in our country, you cannot prohibit speech, even if it is very offensive to another. On the other hand, my understanding is that the maker of the video is a Coptic Christian. I'm sure you can understand that, after the abuses his people have suffered in Egypt over the past few months, he is not feeling friendly toward Islam. He lashed out in what he knew would be a hurtful way, and Muslims responded with violence and murder. This response is not going to make Americans at all sympathetic to Muslims, or willing to listen. What is your true goal in the murder of innocents? (I say "your," not accusing you personally of anything, but as you defended the murders, I attribute your sympathies to them.) If your goal is to get us to listen through these riots and murders, it will fail. It will make us more Islamophobic, more willing to write off all 1.5 billion Muslims as crazy fanatics who are willing to kill over what we see as the unimportant work of one angry and impotent filmmaker. If you engage in a discussion with us about why this is offensive, some people will still do it, but others will be genuinely curious of the beauty that your culture and religion has to offer. Again, what is your true goal? As they say, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

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