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A Right to Free Speech or A Moral Obligation?

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By RE

We are a decent society; we do not tolerate vulgarity in the workplace, we value scholarship and professionalism, we do not even accept indecency from our highest office.  But as a nation, we undermine our own values by accepting the actions of those who incite hatred hatred and bigotry and clothe their actions under the banner of free speech. Just because we can say whatever we want does not mean that we should say whatever we want.

Whenever a newspaper decides to publish a racist cartoon — whether towards President Obama or the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)– the public debate becomes that of the author‘s right to free speech.  With each vulgar event a false cloud of propaganda begins by the author and his supporters, rallying on a premise which is truly invalid to begin with; that the author’s freedom is being infringed upon.   But know one has ever argued for the right of free speech to be forcibly taken away? Rather, the voices of opposition are about the humanistic and ethical duty to uphold our society to high moral standards.  In other words, for these authors to stop being jerks.

The scales of the law in the U.S. is  balanced enough to guarantee that no-one is imprisoned or loses his freedom for socially intolerant speech.  Rather, the authors hide from the scarlet letters of shame and humiliation which a pluralistic society must inevitably brand them with. Now, in order for the fight against those that promote hate, I argue that our society must to move to discrediting the authors as plain old bigoted and uncivilized human beings  unwilling to live in peace with the upcoming world.

In the most recent example I can give, Geert Wilders — the dutch lawmaker and creator of the 15 minute film ‘Fitna’ which sparked protest around the world for its depiction of the Qu’ran as a book of violence — was invited by Senator Jon Kyl to hold a private screening of his movie in the LBJ room of the US Capitol last Thursday. To add insult to injury, they chose to hold the screening on the same day Senator John Kerry held a hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee on how to improve relations with the Muslim world. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Admiral Fallon, and Dalia Mogahed of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies testified at that hearing as well.

Thankfully, many leaders have in fact spoken out.  Senator Kerry and other senators publicly expressed their regrets during the hearing at Wilders’s screening in the capitol. Earlier, Mr. Wilders had even been barred from entering London; the British Foreign Secretary commenting to the BBC on this stating: “There is no freedom to stir up racial and religious hatred”.

But Wilders is not the last of those who will seek to stir their hatred under free speech; and as we have seen with the vulgar cartoon on President Obama, not only Muslims are being attacked. We have seen the resurgence of a pre-civil rights mentality within a major US newspaper cartoon, depicting the President as a monkey. Again, the newspaper hid under the ‘right to free speech’ for its justification at this bigotry.

Moral Obligation. The real issue that must be continually brought up is not of free speech, but of moral obligation. Yes, everyone has a right to be immoral, indecent, and vulgar; but our society can have no room for these if we are to ever progress.  Finally, the fight for freedom of speech used so honorably in times of oppression and totalitarianism should not be molested  by the  indecency and false pretense of it’s propagators that we see it being used for today.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Ammar

    March 5, 2009 at 5:38 AM

    Good and concise article.

    Tried submitting it on digg but it seems MM is still blocked there. No progress on the matter?

  2. Gohar

    March 5, 2009 at 8:42 AM

    Presumably, the best way to change the debate from one of free speech to one of bigotry is to avoid, at all costs, talk of any banning and for muslims to instead make it clear that they do not wish to see the thing/person banned, but find it a shame that anyone would want to read or listen to someone saying such a thing in the first place. The problem though with this approach is that the reply to this line of argument is all to easy to make – that they also found it a shame when they found the neighbours were planning to blow them up and so do not blame anyone for wanting to hear the other side fo the argument. But then i guess that non-muslims then also have to prepared for muslims to also express the same sentiment

    • Jasera

      March 25, 2016 at 2:48 PM

      Or blow them up. That’s more often the tactic.

  3. Jasera

    March 5, 2009 at 8:53 AM

    Nicely put. I like.

    JazakAllah

  4. MR

    March 5, 2009 at 10:53 AM

    Digg found out about the “MM Digg team” and facebook group.

    I knew something like this would have happened. It has to be “natural” diggs. People have to digg it because they really digg it.

  5. bintwadee3

    March 5, 2009 at 12:44 PM

    In short…

    Just because we can all act like raving lunatics doesn’t mean we should.

    Well said. JazaakAllaahu khayran. May Allaah Ta3aala guide us all to better Islam and guide mankind – those who are willing to better themselves – to moral decency. Ameen.

  6. Al-Madrasi

    March 5, 2009 at 2:06 PM

    The term ‘free speech’ seem to have many meanings, i fail to fathom why the meaning is mean when it is related with islam.

  7. Amad

    March 5, 2009 at 5:40 PM

    The fact that Geert Wilders, the bigoted pig, was not only allowed to enter this country, but his visit given so much fanfare, including a meet with sitting senator, speaks volumes about the hypocrisy in our nation. How is it that Yusuf Islam and Tariq Ramadan are not allowed into this country, yet someone who openly proclaims the most bigoted and hateful of speeches against an entire nation, is allowed to come to the States.

    It actually speaks of greater volumes for how utterly helpless and disorganized Muslims are, that we could not rally around Geert’s obvious fascism and his associations with neo-nazi types, and build a case against him. We could have pushed the state department, flooded them with emails and phone-calls, etc. to have Geert’s visa revoked. Imagine that Geert was not attacking the entire nation of Jews, but just the holocaust part of their history… imagine the outcry from AIPAC, ADL, and other Jewish organizations. You could bet that he wouldn’t be allowed in 100 mile radius of America, let alone enter it.

    Wake up call for Muslims in America. Unite and organize against Islamophobia, otherwise it may be too late before we wake up to this reality.

  8. Amad

    March 5, 2009 at 9:40 PM

    Where there is a will, there’s a way:

    DIGG AWAY:
    http://digg.com/educational/A_Right_to_Free_Speech_vs_A_Moral_Obligation

  9. Al-Madrasi

    March 5, 2009 at 10:38 PM

    Does MM banned forever from Digging?…

  10. Umm Reem

    March 8, 2009 at 10:54 AM

    this is such a scary picture!

  11. sincethestorm

    March 9, 2009 at 12:08 AM

    I was thinking the same thing, it looks like a corpse.

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