Angry Muslims And Freedom of Speech

Muslim protests continued over the week-end in Nigeria, Iran, Greece and Turkey in response to a low budget California made U-tube video released earlier this month titled “Innocence of Muslims” that mocks and blasphemes Islam’s prophet Muhammad.

Protests have erupted throughout a majority of Muslim nations across the world with new demands from protesters in Bangladesh for President Obama to arrest and even hang the film’s creator, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s newly elected ruling party, demanded a formal apology from the United States government and urged that the “madmen” behind the Muhammad video be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Egypt’s general prosecutor went a step further by issuing arrest warrants for the creator of the controversial Innocence of Muslims, Pastor Terry Jones, a Florida pastor who gained notoriety in 2010 for burning Korans, and six other Coptic Christians.

Some politicians in Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Sudan want Sharia blasphemy laws to be enforced in the U.S. and have called for limits on Americans’ free speech rights to include new bans with criticism of Islam.

On Saturday Pakistani Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour offered $100,000 of his own money to anyone who killed the film creator. He also asked the Taliban and al-Qaeda to join the hunt for the video creator.

Since September 11th when the protests erupted more 50 people have died across the world in violence attributed to the amateur U-tube video, including 4 Americans killed in a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Among the 4 dead was the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

U.S. politicians have spoken against the controversial U-tube video while condemning the violence stemming from the protests. 

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton condemned the U-Tube video in a new Pakistan advertisement, making the case that the U.S. government does not endorse the content behind the inflammatory video.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar recently met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

During the joint-press conference, Clinton repeated her rejection of the video but she also made it known that she condemned the violence which led to the killing of 4 innocent Americans in Libya.

“We found the video … offensive, disgusting and reprehensible, but that does not provide justification for violence, and therefore it is important for responsible leaders, indeed responsible people everywhere, to stand and speak out against violence and particularly against those who would exploit this difficult moment to advance their own extremist ideologies,” Clinton said at the State Department after the arrival of  Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

“Clinton later emphasized “leaders must stand up against those who would exploit this difficult moment to advance their own extremist ideologies.”

President Obama will address the unrest in the Muslim world during his speech on Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly.

During a recent interview with David Letterman, Obama described the video creator as a “shadowy character.”

Many Americans have been surprised by the magnitude of the world-wide Muslim protests from an amateur video maker living in California with no links or ties to the American government or American foreign policy.

To the disappointment of some Muslims across the world, the U.S. government does not monitor and prosecute creators of U-tube videos that contain religious statements, even if are deemed offensive or inflammatory by some religious groups.

Western values such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion are protected within the U.S. constitution.

The U.S. constitution was inspired by Enlightenment intellectual during the Age of the Enlightenment in 18th century Europe whose purpose was to reform society using reason (rather than tradition, faith and revelation) and advance knowledge through science.

The philosophical and political ideals of the Enlightenment helped to shape the American Declaration of Independence and the United States Bill of Rights where values such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion became preserved as building blocks of U.S. society, even if they simultaneously held the capacity to offend certain groups of Americans.

During the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment did not gain any traction in the Muslim world where religion and state were closely aligned through Sharia laws. Today across large parts of the Muslim world, religion and state remain closely aligned through Sharia which is still used to govern Muslim societies.

While it is true that modern computer technology and Internet sites like Twitter, U-Tube,  and Facebook are playing a role in opening up 21st century Muslims to greater freedoms that are commonly shared today in the western countries such as freedom of speech, many Muslims societies are still left without many Age of Enlightenment building blocks in their societies where diverging opinions are tolerated.


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