Sep 28, 2012

Free Speech Should be Responsible Speech

By Saadia Faruqi

Freedom of Speech is such a uniquely American right. It's the foundation of this great country of ours, one of the mighty pillars keeping the United States strong and upright. Yet after the events of the last few days, when an offensive movie trailer "Innocence of Muslims" led to an uproar in the Muslim world, I am having serious doubts about whether the founding fathers meant the First Amendment to be taken as a free pass to offend, insult and hurt others.

Don't get me wrong. I love the first amendment and am absolutely grateful for the freedoms granted to me in America. I recognize that many countries in the world do not offer their citizens this basic human right - to be able to speak their mind without fear of reprisal. But surely we as civilized human beings, must draw the line somewhere? Having the right to do something also implies the moral imperative to use it wisely and responsibly. In the case of the aforementioned film, the intent of the producer was purely to incite violence and encourage hatred of a group of people. Does anyone have the right to do that?

Consider this: Is it okay to yell "fire" in a crowded building? Is it alright to eat and eat until we get sick? That's where common sense comes in. Sometimes our right to do whatever we want must in good conscience be tempered by what we consider the public good. If saying or doing something means millions of people will be hurt or insulted, if it endangers the relationships between nations, if it results in violent people taking to the streets to take advantage of a volatile situation, surely we must think twice before exercising that right? As the leader of my religious community, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad stated, "Let it not be that in the name of freedom of speech the peace of the entire world be destroyed."

I love free speech, but not hate speech. Let's all draw a line somewhere.

Saadia Faruqi is the interfaith liaison for the  women's group of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and editor of Interfaith Houston. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Ahmadiyya Community or Interfaith Houston.

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