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Errol P. Mendes

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Don't Let Extremists Speak For You

Posted: 09/19/2012 4:26 pm

The hate-mongering film produced by an extremist anti-Muslim individual in the U.S. who is also a convicted criminal has triggered hate-filled Muslim extremists engaging in anti-U.S. violence. Among the tragic victims so far as four dead U.S. diplomats, including the Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and the fracturing of hope for good will between the West and countries of the Arab Spring.

The fact that most governments and citizens in the west supported the cause of democracy and human rights in the countries of the Arab Spring shows that there is a growing clash of extremists rather than a clash of civilizations.

The film in question, whose purpose was to incite hate, was a fraudulent one even to its American actors who were not aware what its purpose was and actual words were dubbed to make deeply insulting statements about the Prophet, the most sacred figure in the Islamic faith. However, such vile expression designed to stir up hate is protected under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

There are some exceptions but they are very limited. In contrast to Canada where the wilful promotion of hatred against identifiable groups is subject to criminal prosecution, in the U.S. the most hateful expression such as those promoted by neo-Nazi groups against racial and religious minorities and even those who insist on hate-filled signs at military funerals are protected. Even the burning of a sacred religious text by a Florida pastor was deemed to be protected under the U.S. Constitution. Even, in Canada, where publications that stir contempt or ridicule on certain religions and minorities that fall outside the parameters of the criminal code or human rights legislation on hate propaganda are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Such publications can still stir up violence against Canadian individuals and governments in other parts of the world.

However, in much of the Islamic world there is no such legal or constitutional protection of hate propaganda. Indeed the reverse is true that blasphemy laws are used in places like Pakistan to shut down real or perceived slights against the religion. The extremists in some of the Muslim world, not the majority, care little for the fact that the majority in the U.S. and other western countries detest the use of such hate mongering by their own extremists. Sadly, even the majority in some countries are unaware of the constitutional restraints on the U.S. government to stop such attempts to stir up hate, that a pathetic vile film does not represent the government, let alone the views of the American people.

In this gap of understanding and knowledge lies the potential for recurrent triggers for a global crisis that pits the violence of extremists against the representatives and institutions of the American and western nations. There is a urgent need for leaders in the U.S., Canada and the west to demonstrate to the moderate majorities in all their countries that the extremists in their midst should not be allowed to speak for them and to isolate, disrupt and dislodge them from creating the unrest that now threatens the stability of so many countries and indeed the world.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo besieged by the violence of the extremists summed up the call to action that must now be taken up by leaders from the west and the Islamic world: "We firmly reject those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others." The extremists on the other side who use such abuse to instigate hatred against an entire country and peoples should also face the condemnation of their fellow citizens.

 

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