Posts Tagged Freedom of Speech

It ain’t always easy being a friend of Islam

When a supposedly moderate Islamic government like Pakistan’s has a law on their books making blasphemy a crime, well, they don’t make it any easier for those of us who are friends of Islam.   And when a person is sentenced to death for speaking their mind then it is time for Muslims around the world to speak out against Pakistan and sharia law.  There is no way that any  reasonable person,  of any religious persuasion, can justify persecution.

I don’t care if the women is Christian.  That is irrelevant.  It certainly is a big deal to a lot Christians, but this  would be just as insanely horrible if the accused was Hindu or Wiccan or  Muslim.   Yet, this  incident is providing Christian Islamophic factions (as well as some impassioned atheists)  some heavy ammo in their battle against Islam. And frankly, this particular Muslim fundamentalist position is pretty well indefensible.

I used to think of Pakistan as a civilized place.  The country has produced some extraordinary people who achieved extraordinary things in science and the arts.  Cosmopolitan cities.  Ranked in the top 15% of the world’s economies, according to GDP.  Heck, they even have the atom bomb.

A theocratic country with a medieval  mindset that has the atom bomb. Actually, dozens or maybe hundreds of them.  Gives one pause, doesn’t it?

Now, in Pakistan, there are some loud and courageous dissenting voices, in the media and in government as well.  One politician has introduced an amendment to the anti-blasphemy laws that would eliminate capital punishment for the offense.  Now that’s a good thing but it is not good enough.  No country should have any laws on their books having anything to do with blasphemy or any law protecting any religion from spoken or written criticism.  No country should ever have an overt alliance with any religion, Muslim, Christian or Jewish (sorry Israel and Texas).

I’d like to ask what a lot of people have asked before: where is the American Muslim outcry against Islamist tyranny?  I just spent a lot of time searching for something like this on the web and, well, I can’t find anything of the sort. Why doesn’t CAIR have anything to say about this? I mean, how can they see a major threat to American Muslims with Juan Williams’ relatively harmless off-the-cuff remarks and not see the danger in keeping silent on the tyranny of Pakistani sharia? This is like upbraiding a smoker for polluting the air while sitting behind the wheel of an idling SUV.

I have friends and neighbors who are Muslim.  We tend to keep the conversation outside of religion and away from international politics. But tonight I might risk propriety and ask for their take on this. Do they think  my question is a valid one?   I’ve also met some interesting Muslims on this blog and would like to ask for their thoughts  as well.


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Our constitutional rights are not absolute: it is perfectly acceptable to restrict our freedom of speech

This is the sign that greets you at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. Notice the words “sacred shrine” and “hallowed grounds”.  Notice the instruction to conduct ourselves with dignity and respect at all times. Remember that this sign is on Federal property, in a Federal district and is the stated position of the United States government.  When I first saw this sign (not that I was considering breaking these rules)  I assumed that anyone doing so would at least be escorted off the grounds, if not prosecuted by the law.

But don’t I have the right to speak freely, to assemble freely, to politically protest against things that I feel strongly about?  Don’t I have this right, guaranteed by the First Amendment, especially when on public property that is, at least partly, maintained by my taxes?

Actually, no, I don’t.  And neither do the morons from Westboro Baptist church.  If you are following the current Supreme Court case on TV or the web then you might notice that outside the courthouse they are prominently displaying their obscene signs while standing on the Marine Corps flag and spewing vile soundbites to the press.  But…those signs, those remarks, are in no way allowed inside that court house.  Their speech, our speech, is effectively restricted by the government  (which is us, by the way) and no one questions this.

So, why would they, or anyone else, have the right to disrupt the burial service of a fallen Marine (or soldier or sailor) on legally recognized hallowed ground?  They answer is, they don’t.  It is not only wrong, it is illegal.

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Now, here’s something both the Left and the Right can agree on

That the members of Westboro Baptist Church (and others who protest at the burials of soldiers) are unconscionable, irredeemable, anti-American morons and that the bikers who protect the families of fallen service men and women from these pathetic and contemptible grave-side ‘protests’ are true patriots. Right? I mean that’s a no brainer.

On his show this morning, Les Kinsolving, a local conservative radio talker, praised the bikers  as they peaceably defended the family of Navy Seal Lieutenant Brendan Looney, a Maryland native who died last month in a helicopter crash.  He was being buried with honors in Arlington National Cemetery.  I  never catch Kinsolving’s program anymore, having left Conservatism behind, but lately I’ve been monitoring the Right Wing pundits  in order to get a feel for where that movement is going.  I can’t help but wonder what Mr. Kinsolving (and other conservatives ) thought of Westboro Baptist before, when they were only harassing the families of gay service men and women.  Did they finally recognize Westboro as the virulent pox on America that it is, now that they  no longer focus only on gays,  but have joined other stupidly self-righteous  scum-bags in heckling the mourners of anyone killed in the line of duty?  If he has noticed Westboro’s actions before, and properly condemned them, then I apologize.

I’ve always liked bikers.  I like them even more, now.  I hope the Supreme Court has the same sense of honor that these folks have. Today they are hearing a case about Westboro’s  disruption of the burial of a another localMaryland native, Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder. His father is suing them for $5 million dollars and the outcome of this case may have considerable impact on what the phrase ‘freedom of speech’ will come to mean. I can only hope that, at the very least,  their decision will put Westboro (along with similar protesters on the Left) out of business for good. (In case you were wondering how stupid these people are, consider their disastrous sense of timing.) As the father of a serving Marine, for once I am not in favor of caps on punitive damages.

Semper fi!

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Let’s be honest: the proposed Quran burning is no longer about free speech, if it ever was.

I think that most people, most of the time, are pretty reasonable. That’s why they tend not to get all excited about what those other people, the unreasonable ones, are saying. Because these kooks are usually just doing a lot of talking and not much walking. A lot of posing but no closing.

Most of history’s political tragedies started out as a lot of hot air blowing in from the fringe. The tendency of the majority is to wait and see; things will just blow over. The crackpots will come to their senses when they realize they are being ignored.

But the current pack of crackpots aren’t dispersing in the wind, they are growing larger and stronger. And their rhetoric is about as bigoted and hateful as one ever hears. Not from their leaders per se – they are much too politically astute to really speak their minds. But their followers are not compelled towards any such moderation, and yet their leaders never chastise them or redirect them towards a more polite line of debate. Where, for instance, is the Christian Right Wing’s voice condemning this planned book burning in Florida? They may not be openly lauding them, but their followers certainly are. The tip of the iceberg merely hints at the danger below.

I normally don’t like to give these folks too much attention, but If you haven’t had the pleasure of the uncensored vitriol of today’s Islamophobes, then I suggest you check out the comments thread on this article posted on Atlas Shrugs. The author, Pamela Geller, takes the President to task for restricting the speech of the gun-toting pastor and his little church down in Florida.

Of course, all Obama did was strongly urge the ‘church’ to change their plans, as it will likely spark a powder keg of violence. It’s not like he ordered them to cease and desist, or threaten any of the church members with prosecution. But he might.

Taking lead of past chief executives, from Adams to the last Bush, if the president is convinced that someone’s actions pose a significant risk to the security of Americans then he could, and most likely should, take action. The broad, open-ended mandate given the president by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 may even make it easier for him.

But whatever your opinion on this is, it is impossible to justify the kind of rhetoric found on websites like Atlas Shrugs. It is not reasoned. It is not thoughtful. It’s not even, strictly speaking, political. It is no different than the types of words that bigots have used for years. Though I am hesitant to say it; it is nothing more than ‘hate speech’. As repugnant as these words are, I do believe that they have every right to use them. They are protected by the Constitution.

But this is a right that the vast majority of the world’s population does not enjoy. Most of the Muslims who are visibly angry over the proposed book burning do not understand why it is that our government, if it is serious about forging friendships with them, won’t just order the Dove Outreach Center to cancel their plans. They certainly don’t understand why our leaders can’t do this.

So then the burning question is this: is this ‘church’, by destroying these Qurans, attempting to engage in free political speech (the speech the nation’s founders were thinking of) or are they now deliberately inciting people to riot?

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