Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Free Speech and Islamic Outrage: What Was Said, What Should Have Been Said

What was said -

@USEmbassyCairo (Tweeted 9/11/2012):

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

"The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message.

To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.

I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not just prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day. I would note that in today's world, with today's technologies, that is virtually impossible.

But even if it were possible our country does have a long tradition of free expression which is enshrined in our Constitution and our law. And we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be."

Commentary by walford

She reiterated the point that the U.S. government had “nothing to do” with the “offending” video as she gave a speech while the bodies of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were later being unloaded at Andrews Air Force Base.

President Barack Obama (9/25/2012):

“In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.

That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."

He later gave a speech before theU.N. General Assembly saying that no religion should be denigrated, even allowing this for Christianity. This is an improvement for him, but it misses the point and thus leaves ambiguity for those who mean us harm to interpret to suit their own intolerant -- and self-serving -- needs. Our freedom of speech should have been at the forefront and our resolve to defend it unequivocal.

What should have been said -

This is what any President who has sworn to protect the US Constitution should have said on the day the rioting started and repeated ever since -- especially in front of the UN:

"The United States of America is a free country with free speech. That is what makes our country great. That is what makes our country prosperous. People who are free to express themselves without fear have their creativity unbound to the benefit of all. There is no individual and no group in our country who is too powerful to be exempt from robust and uninhibited criticism. And this right of free expression is extended to everyone, regardless of connections or lack thereof.

People who suffer under oppression and poverty owe their condition in great part to their lack of free speech. We in the United States will certainly not emulate this to appease those who will resort to violence because of speech that offends them.

Our government is not in a position to endorse or undermine in any way the free speech of private individuals. Our government has a responsibility to defend it, however. Specifically with regard to speech supporting, glorifying, lampooning or criticizing a particular religion, that is not prohibited in our country.

We understand that picturing or discussing the Prophet of Islam in a way that is not in accordance with Islamic teaching and scriptures is prohibited under Shari'a law, under penalty of death. We do not have Shari'a law in the United States of America. We have a Constitution which we are sworn to defend, even if that means with blood.

As President of the United States, I am prepared to defend our freedom of speech using all the means at my disposal. Those who would threaten or harm Americans lawfully expressing their freedom of speech should know unequivocally that they do so at risk of their very lives."

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