While some Muslims around the world violently protest against “Innocence of Muslims” – a 14-minute video posted on YouTube that goes out of its way to offend Muslims and the prophet Muhammad – the question of censorship arises.
Despite calls from some around the world for YouTube to remove the inflammatory video, doing so would create a troubling precedent for the role of free speech in a democratic society.
Fostering democracy in the Middle East is a main focus of American foreign policy. But teaching those lessons to other nations can be difficult when the free speech protections we enjoy also allow people to create the kind of hateful rhetoric found in “Innocence of Muslims.” Yet it’s a lesson that should be taught anyway.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees its citizens freedom of speech in a wide variety of situations. But this is not the case in other parts of the world. Countries such as Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have Sharia law.
Sharia law is a set of legal, moral and social rules derived from the Quran; one of those rules is to not make fun of the prophet Muhammad, under any circumstance.
American law makes some exceptions in free speech for defamation, obscenity and incitement. But the video does not seem to be covered by these exceptions. “Innocence of Muslims” is not defamatory or obscene.
Is it intentionally offensive? Yes. But the video also does not fall under incitement exception because it does not directly call for lawless action.
Some people decided to react violently to the video, but it is important for Americans to remember that their violence does not represent the behavior of all Muslims.
And it is also important that Muslims abroad remember that the video does not represent the views of all Americans.
If a product or message is created in the United States by one or many of its citizens, that does not mean it is endorsed by the entire country nor does it represent the nation and its citizens.
McDonald’s, Harrison Ford movies and country music are not the only things that represent this country.
Not every single American will agree that Martin Luther King Jr. was the America’s representative for peace and civil rights, and foreigners should not think that a video made in the United States represents the views of all its citizens.
“We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views, no matter how distasteful they may be,” said secretary of state Hilary Clinton in response to the video.
Freedom of speech is beautiful. Freedom of speech is like that pretty girl in school that laughs at all the dumb jokes other students say and never judges them.
Egypt recently pressed charges against eight Americans involved in the making of the video for insulting Islam. Egypt can press charges because of their laws in their country but in the United States, we have a really pretty girl that still laughs at all our jokes in class.