Whether the attack on the Libyan consulate was actually a response to the YouTube video that ineptly lampooned Muhammad, or a prearranged strike doesn’t affect the public debate: How free should speech really be when people are getting killed? In response to the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Mike Huckabee has released an Islamophobic song poorly parodying “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Will this racially charged song simply inspire further “MUSLIM RAGE”? Probably not, but speech must remain free despite the possibility for violence.
No one is yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater here, but this anti-Islamic rhetoric isn’t benign either. All YouTube comments should be taken with more than a few pinches of salt, but take a minute to read the comments for the aforementioned YouTube video, and you’ll get a small taste of how much this video has affected people.
The Quran explicitly condemns idolatry — the injunction against representing any conscious being grew out of later Islamic teaching. As such, Islamic art has typically revolved around geometric patterns and calligraphy. Both Sunnis and Shias have depicted the Prophet in the past, usually in miniature. But depiction has been less prevalent in the last few hundred years, especially among Sunnis and more conservative Muslims.
I do not understand how seeing an unflattering depiction, let alone any depiction of Muhammad affects Muslims. As a Protestant living in America, my faith is not threatened or even marginalized. So I know I am speaking from a position of comfort, but I don’t think any religion should feel threatened by free expression. Further, faith is not even possible without free expression.
Beef up security at American embassies in North Africa and the Middle East, but do not restrict what people can or cannot say. Setting aside immediate threats of violence, hate speech is speech to. Holocaust denial is a crime in in Germany, but I do not think the United States needs to take a similarly strict position on any speech.
Perhaps I’ve been watching too much South Park, but I’m on board with Matt Stone and Trey Parker. It’s not just that they execute artful satire on every topic under the sun, even if Comedy Central elides their depictions of Muhammad, but that they are the most inspiring, disgusting, offensive, and profound champions of free speech.
I say give me your racist, your sexist, and your ignorant throngs yearning to curse and jeer. We remain healthy as a nation only so long as we take the bad with the good, the crass assholes with the poet laureates our teeming shores. When you start telling people what they can and cannot say, you end up with unaccountable imperial government. I think we fought a war against one of those.