The First Amendment Right, Freedom of Speech, one of the most hallowed rights we get to enjoy as Americans. We get to say (in print and speech) what we want, when we want and where we want, regardless of content, how offensive, crude, rude, lewd and crass it may be, we are protected under the Constitution and the law. The Founding Fathers found this Right to be important in establishing a true democracy and a free society, so in spite of the risks associated with allowing free speech, they went ahead and included in the Constitution.
Since its inception, this Right has been abused just as often as it was applied in the right way and nobody can argue to the contrary that despite the unpleasant side effects of free speech, it’s done much more good than harm in the public discourse of American society. Just like being pro-life, one cannot choose to be pro-life when it’s convenient, one has to be pro-life all the way through, in all circumstances of human life, the same goes with free speech. It cannot be free speech only in the following circumstances…but if it involves this other set of circumstances, there is restriction on expression, then it’s no longer ‘free’ speech.
At the same token, no Right has been abused more than the First Amendment Right (The Second Amendment, Right to Firearms is a close second). Hateful people, groups and organizations have used their First Amendment Rights as their platform to spew bigotry, hate and lies. No matter how hateful, even the Supreme Court cannot stop them, as evidenced with the Westboro Baptist Church members. As long as persons, groups and organizations are in a public space, they are free to say what they like, regardless of truth, taste and social sensitivity. The Founding Fathers perhaps hoped that future generations of Americans will appreciate what a precious right this was and therefore treat it with the respect and dignity it deserves. We have no such luck here.
There are also individuals who just live to shock, offend and provoke just for the sake of shocking, offending and provoking, without any reason or cause behind their provocations. It’s a ‘because I can, therefore I will’ attitude. And we are not talking about teenagers with too much time on their hands, we are talking about fully grown up people who need to seek attention for themselves at all times. Such is the case with Pamela Geller, who hosted a ‘Draw Mohammed’ contest in Garland, Texas. She represents the organization American Freedom Defense, which according to The Southern Poverty Law Center, is an anti-Islam hate group. The prize for the winner of the contest is $10,000. And as predicted, this sort of Muslim-bating behavior, two people were killed at the event and the gunmen declared their allegiance to ISIS.
Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge about Islam is that they do not tolerate any insults towards their Prophet under any circumstance and it’s forbidden in Islam to draw a likeness of the Prophet. Though there are some sects of Islam (mostly Shia) that are not as strict about this particular edict, it is fair to say that the majority of Muslims across the world, do not take kindly to people insulting their Prophet and depicting their Prophet in a drawing. Muslims in general treat their religion with the utmost seriousness and do not make jokes about Islam, even harmless jokes. They lack a distinct sense of humor in this regard. There will never be any ‘When the Prophet walked into a bar at night…” type of jokes amongst Muslims. Even secular Muslims who are not observant treat their religion with reverence out of respect for the other Muslims who are observant. And on top of all this, they especially do not appreciate Westerners insulting their faith in any fashion, they do not care about our rights of free speech to say, write and draw as we please, at least not when it comes to Islam.
As decent and civilized human beings, we in the West, should respect that, even if we don’t understand it, are confused by it and totally disagree with it. When dealing with Muslims, unless one has glowing reviews about Islam, it’s best to avoid the whole topic all together. This is one area where the East and West differ with little room for compromise and so it’s best to avoid the subject all together. Just because the Constitution gives us the right to free speech, the right to be complete assholes, and just because we can, it doesn’t mean that we should.