The West/Europe has always prided itself over one thing most. It is not technology, nor is it tall buildings or better military equipments; it is the Freedom of Speech that is considered the jewel of the Western society. But over the years, many controversial incidents have happened concerning this liberty known as Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Speech is the right of a person to express his/her views openly and without any fear from anyone, even the government. This Freedom of Speech gives the right to a common man to even speak out against the President of his country, without any retaliation. The Idea of this kind of right given to the general public seems attractive, it seems humane, it seems liberating, it seems democratic, it seems right.
The problem however arises when there are double standards which are followed, or when this freedom of speech is misused and becomes hate speech, offending not only one person but an entire community or a nation. The double standards which the West follows over Freedom of Speech are perhaps the biggest problem, which makes the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world, feel alienated.
Let us take the example of the most recent incident that took place, the movie called “Innocence of Muslims”, a hateful movie created by an Islamaphobe that caused unimaginable anger in the Muslims all around the World.
In Libya, the Muslim world revolted against the U.S. U.S. embassies were burned, and American officials were killed. Some might say that it is only because of this one incident that Muslims have a hatred for the West. I disagree. The anger for the West and especially for the USA is for two major reasons, first, the double standards of the West when it comes to Freedom of Speech, and secondly, the fact that Muslims view the U.S. as an enemy.
Let us look into the first reason. Double standards in Freedom of Speech means that hate speech against Muslims and their religious beliefs and religious figures is labeled as Freedom of Speech, but when it comes to other groups or other people, this law of Freedom of Speech is often neglected or violated. For example, very recently in the U.S. , the Congress is restricting a church group to protest against (dead) soldiers at their funerals, because it was termed as “offensive” the families of the soldiers. These protestors will no longer be allowed to strike against military funerals two hours before or after a service. This bill will also guarantee that the demonstrators are atleast 300 feet away from the upset relatives. Another example is of a young Muslim boy in the U.K. who was found guilty over his facebook message which said, “all soldiers should die and go to hell”, after the death of six British troops inAfghanistan. The judge said his comments were “derogatory” and “inflammatory.”
According to the young boy, he wanted to make a point that the deaths of innocents Afghans are being ignored by the world. In addition to that, he also told the court that he had no idea that the issue would upset that many people or would get so serious. But he has been found guilty and will soon be sentenced because of a message that he posted on Facebook. Where is Freedom of Speech now? Or perhaps Muslims living in the West are not allowed to use this Freedom of Speech? Or perhaps freedom of speech exists only to protect an Islam hater when he wants to insult a man who is considered as holy and revered by millions of people all around the world.
The anger in Muslim the world has been boiling and the movie just acted as a catalyst, the U.S. has bombed one Muslim country after another, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.The U.S. has not only bombed, but killed innocent men, women and children in these countries. The Muslims see the U.S. as an enemy of not only their country, but as an enemy of all the Muslims and as an enemy of their religion.
In a recent speech, President of the U.S., Barrack Obama said: “There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan. I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to Americaas well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion,” – Source : Express Tribune
“We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them,” he said.
Obama also warned that in 2012, “When anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond. And on this, we must agree that there is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents,” Obama said.
He continued further to say, “The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. We must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.”
He also vowed to track down individuals behind the “attack on America” in Libya that claimed the life of Ambassador J Christopher Stevens.
President Obama has been merely defending “Freedom of speech,” which is the backbone of Democracy. While Asif Ali Zardari (President of Pakistan) in a recent speech stated,“Although we can never condone violence, the international community must not become silent observers and should criminalize such acts that destroy the peace of the world and endanger world security by misusing freedom of expression.” He continued, “The International Community must not remain silent on the issue of blasphemy and should take serious actions against the actors.”
Asif Ali Zardari is right about one thing, Freedom of speech is a built-in policy of Democracy, but it should not be misused. As John Adams, the second President of the United States said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” Democracy is not always the solution to everything. Its okay to be ethical at times, especially when it comes to matters as important as world security.
The Movie and its reaction
The actors of the movie said they didn’t know what the movie was about. One of them has even filed a case against the film maker. The reaction in the Muslim world was explosive, the hatred for the U.S. combined with anger about the movie led to something disastrous and lethal.Iran raised the bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie, and a Pakistani minister, on personal basis, declared a bounty of $100,000 on the head of the film maker of the movie “Innocence of Muslims”
Four American citizens were killed along with an Ambassador in Libya and an American Embassy was burnt. Another Embassy was burnt it Tunisia. Eighteen people died in Pakistan and dozens of shops, including KFC franchises and a Bank, were burned. In Egypt, an embassy was attacked, and in Islamabad, Pakistan, the protestors attempted to attack another.
It would be better if Islam haters would first read and research about the man Muhammad, and how he changed the world, before giving negative remarks on perhaps the most remarkable personality to have walked on this earth.
To conclude I would just like to add that what the West has to do, specially the U.S., is to take some kind of action against such kind of insults that may offend millions of people in the U.S. and the whole world. Blasphemy laws are not an uncommon thing in the world, even European countries have laws regarding blasphemy, in fact some European countries find it a crime if a person disagrees that the Holocaust never happened. The world needs to distinguish freedom of speech from hate speech, so the possibility of World Peace could be achieved.
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