Not long ago Americans elected a President, Ronald Reagan who earlier in his acting career was tipping FBI with the names of actors within the Hollywood whom he believed to be communist sympathizers. Many times he had no evidence.
Charlie Chaplin was unofficially declared “un-American” and FBI on the instructions of Edgar Hoover technically forced him to leave US. For the next two decades he lived in exile.
Let’s look at the recent wave of violent protests in several Muslim countries against a movie that has depicted Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in derogatory manner.
My friend, Confucius in his article has expressed his strong views against the violence and has reminded us that freedom of expression is a whole different animal in United States; therefore majority of Muslims, due to certain political and social factors, simply cannot comprehend what it means to have an open society. One also gets an impression that the writer expects everyone to respect this free speech right by all means.
I agree that it must be very difficult for anyone living in Islamic world to understand the constitutional rights of Americans in Uncle Sam’s country. But the impression that the freedom of expression in US is absolute is wrong. The term “America is a free country” has been used so much that overwhelming majority of Americans believe in this mantra.
Before I go any further let it be clear that violence under any circumstances cannot be justified in the name of protest. So in no way I am in the mood to defend or justify what happened in Libya. Quran compares killing of an innocent with the killing of all humanity and I cannot put it in better words. Whatever happened in Libya is shameful to say the least and needs to be condemned at all costs.
There is something else I want to discuss briefly. After any such incidence many people condemn the violence in a way giving an impression that they also condemn the right to protest. This is oxymoron as someone’s freedom of expression actually gives me the freedom of protest.
No doubt today it is hard to find any country in the world where freedom of expression is a fundamental right of every citizen the way it is in America. But even in US there is no such thing as absolute freedom of expression. There have been several exceptions both within the law as well society.
Whatever Ronald Reagan did and whatever happened with Charlie Chaplin are no exceptions. Several other actors, writers, producers etc. saw their promising careers getting ruined only because of the fear of their believes in socialism. It is easier to protect someone’s personal belief or faith than his right of expression; even that did not happen during that time.
For many that era is far gone but I beg to differ. McCarthyism has always existed in US and only time will tell what kind of censorship US media had undergone during the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Dixie Chicks incidence where they merely stated, in the context of Bush’s invasion on Iraq, that they were ashamed the President of the United States was from Texas generated plentiful opposition. Several radio stations stopped playing their music.
There is an another perspective. Mitt Romney has paid taxes at the rate lower than a 7-11 worker. In doing so he did not break any law so why is he still not releasing his returns? Simply because he knows he bend the law in his favor which is not likeable in any civilized society and can cost him dearly in elections. So how can one create an exception and accept misuse of freedom of expression merely in the name of the law?
Truth is that any nation or group of people only allow as much freedom of expression as they can tolerate. At least I have never come across any exception. American’s have the smallest list of “intolerable” items, therefore one enjoys relatively more freedom than anywhere else. They must be lauded for this.
Now some suggestions for Muslim fellows. As majority of you proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace, you need to practice it to prove it right. Actions speak louder than words. We take pride in Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that despite several attempts to enrage him during his early years of preaching he never lost his nerves. A women that would go as far as throwing trash on him only found herself to be taken care by him once she got sick.
If you cannot practise it your peace claim is merely a joke to others. World has become a global village and any low-life capable of pressing start and stop button on a camera, can do anything and put it online. Is it better to protest violently or set an example by behaving responsibly?
Just think for a minute that if I want to bring the worst out of you how convenient it is to spend $20 bucks on a camera, record something offensive and watch you burn your own property and go mad. In the process if you kill or injure an innocent person you must be a bigger scum than the blasphemer even in the eyes of the God you worship.
Only actions define a person or societies; otherwise if merely words were needed this world would have been better than heaven.