Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Innocence of Muslims and Free Speech

The Pakistani Railways Minister has offered $100,000 USD to anyone who murders the man responsible for producing 'The Innocence of Muslims'. 

         As Mr. Bilour put it, "I will pay whoever kills the makers of this video $100,000. If someone else makes other similar blasphemous material in the future, I will also pay his killers $100,000." Mr. Bilour states that he supports free speech (with one minor caveat). "I call upon these countries and say: Yes, freedom of expression is there, but you should make laws regarding people insulting our Prophet. And if you don't, then the future will be extremely dangerous."

The Pakistani Government's current position is that Mr. Bilour will be able to "stay in his post for now".

Let's be clear, this is a solicitation to murder and a threat of terrorism. Bilour's actions are inexcusable, morally foul and representative of the utter dysfunction of the Pakistani Government. Sadly, as the recent protests have indicated, Bilour is far from alone in his opinion. In states where the predominant religion is Islam, a vocal minority of citizens subscribe to the notion that while their free speech is absolute, their right to not be insulted is also absolute. For example, these individuals feel that they have the right to burn American flags (and greatly insult the American people) but not to suffer similar challenge. They are wrong and we should be unafraid to tell them so.

The stakes in this protest crisis are considerable. Free speech relies upon a vigorous and open exchange of ideas. Where we restrict speech to words that do not offend, we chill all speech and drive discussion into the intellectual abyss of political correctness. America's success resides on our free speech. We must never apologize for our values. I know that President Obama has had the best intentions with his international outreach during this crisis. However, by appearing to apologize, Obama has made America appear weak. He has also  unjustly qualified the moral authority of the purest American value.

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