Blasphemy versus Freedom of Speech

Ever since the YouTube video, “The Innocence of Muslims”, captured the Muslim zeitgeist around the world this September 11, there have been protests off and on at the doorsteps of US Embassies and Consulates worldwide.  While the protests seem to have dropped out of the news somewhat, the focus is now turning to the differing worldviews between Western and Muslim countries.

The view of the protesters is that the video is very insensitive, if not outright insulting. In fact, they call the video “blasphemous”.  Additionally, this is not the first time something published in the US has sparked protests in the Middle East.  Salman Rushdie’s 1989 novel The Satanic Verses also sparked protests over blaspheming Islam and the Prophet Mohammad.  When people say incendiary things about a religion, people tend to take exception to that. Yet the issue isn’t as simple as just censoring hurtful speech.

One of the core values of the United States is our First Amendment to the Constitution, or the freedom of speech.  Within certain bounds (e.g. falsely yelling “FIRE” in a movie theater) US residents have the right to say and write what they want.  Because of this, throughout our 2+ centuries of history, lots of people have of course been quite insulted. Yet we continue to hold the value of free speech in the highest esteem, because without it we really could not have a functional democracy, as all opinions could not be heard.

The President spoke about this subject in his address to the United Nations earlier this week.

Also, now this issue is starting a debate in the new Muslim democracies that rose out of the Arab Spring last year.

So what do you think is the answer to these debates between free speech and blaspheming other peoples religion?
What can done to ease the tensions that arose over this YouTube video?
Maybe the answer can be found in your library…

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  • Try these search terms:
    • Freedom of Speech
    • Censorship
    • Hate Speech
    • Freedom of the Press
    • Freedom of Religion
    • Blasphemy AND (Islam OR Christianity)

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