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Respect the Right of Freedom of Speech

Palwasha Quasim

As a Muslim living in America, I have seen that Americans have the best of everything. We have maximum resources, efficient trans­portation, responsible government, and more than that, we are making the best of all these facilities. We have the latest technology and can do almost anything within seconds, which is nothing less than a mira­cle. We have the freedom of speech which means we do not have to con­ceal our thoughts and can express our opinions in any way or any­where we like. But how far can we go with all this? If we utilize all the resources in the end we will deplete them, leaving us with nothing. If we are too dependent on technology, then we make ourselves mere ser­vants of it, as it will control us and our actions. If we misuse our free­dom of speech, then we might insult or offend another person, group, or community. One such recent act has been done by filmmaker Sam Bacile by producing a movie titled Innocence of Muslims which con­tains disrespectful material against Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him). This film is a violation of free speech because it presents harmful stereotypes about Muslims and therefore needs to be taken off the Internet.

America is said to be one of the few nations in the world which tru­ly exercises freedom of speech, but sometimes it leads to trouble and opposition. This film is an example of the American freedom of speech creating negative reactions on an international level. The problem I face in writing this paper is the lack of information about the movie as I am not able to watch it myself, but I have two strong reasons for that. The first reason is that I am a Mus­lim, so it is just impossible for me to watch the film because it hurts my sentiments to the core. It is the same as if someone had beaten up or in­sulted one's parents and some other person had videotaped the incident. Now the child of the insulted indi­vidual is supposed to write about it but will not be able to gather the courage to see the recording. The second reason I am unable to watch the video is that if I do, I will not be able to keep a neutral point of view because the content will definitely make me angry. But here arises a question of why I am talking about something that causes me so much paint: I think it is important to let the people know what the truth is and to clear all the misunderstandings surrounding the content of the film, and in the end, it might eventually result in removing that video from YouTube.

For all those people who are still wondering what I am talking about, I would like to give a brief summary of the film. According to The Huff­ington Post, the movie was original­ly titled Desert Warrior, and it was about a character named George. The movie was supposed to show life in Egypt 2,000 years ago. The trailer was uploaded onto YouTube September 12th, 2012 under the name Innocence of Muslims (Ma­karechi). The trailer itself shows Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) as a rapist, child abus­er and a corrupt person (Naoozubillah) which is entirely based on falsehood.


It seems that even the actors of the movie were unaware of the fact that the movie would include such hateful content. They reported that they had been manipulated and their actions misused. One actress named Cindy Lee Garcia even filed a lawsuit against the producer and YouTube, as she claims she was misinformed about the content of the movie. Unfortunately, she was unable to prove she was unaware of what was taking place. Peter Bradshaw writes in his blog for The Guardian, "It is quite possible that the actors had no idea what they were doing." In my opinion, the actors knew what they were doing, and now, as a result of all the pro­tests, they are opting out of what they had actually done. Nobody wants to take the blame and be held responsible for this movie, but that doesn't stop the continuous unrest it is causing in different societies that have been offended by its content.


Considering another angle, one can say that nobody benefitted from the creation of this movie, not even the makers themselves. So why did they do it? These actors or produc­ers were not given any reward from the American government. They were not appreciated by the international media. They were not nom­inated for any prestigious movie awards. The only logical answer is that it was produced to create so­cial and political unrest in societies around the world. There have been rallies in different Muslim coun­tries of the world, including Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Pa­kistan involving thousands of Mus­lims filling the streets, carrying slo­gans against America, and burning the American flag. Because of this one video, almost seventy-five peo­ple lost their lives including the U.S. ambassador in Libya,J. Christopher Stevens, and hundreds of people have suffered from injuries and fi­nancial losses (Kay). I have the same question again for these pro­testors: What did they gain from all this? The blasphemous video is still on YouTube. They did not get any sympathy from most of the nations of the world and no action was tak­en against the movie. All this could have been avoided if only an action was taken to remove the video from the Internet.


The movie might be an example of freedom of speech to the fullest, but it violates so many other human rights. Above all, it undermines the right of respect that every human, living,or dead, deserves. I think that in order to survive in this world, it is very important to respect each other. Even love sometimes may cause you to hurt someone else, but respect makes you cautious of your actions and words. Respect tile right of freedom of speech as it helps you in respecting all other people, nations or communities. This respect could be between the Americans and the Muslims or between the Non-Mus­lims and the Muslim; I don't think these terms make any difference. The most important thing is respect, and it should be present among hu­man beings belonging to different or similar cultures, religions, com­munities, and societies. For the sake of respecting humanity, any action that stops spreading that video would be appreciated. 

The opinion of a few Americans who publicly condemn Islam ob­viously cannot represent the population of 313 million, and Muslims need to recognize that. The violent protests do not help their cause nor do they harm the Ameri­cans'. They will only destroy the peace of the world and undermine the teachings of Islam. On the other hand, those few Muslims who show higher levels of aggressiveness do not represent the whole Mus­lim community. People around the world think of Islam as an aggres­sive religion which is a big miscon­ception. Like other major religions of the world, Islam preaches peace and friendliness, and it prohibits the taking of even a single human life. Unfortunately, people of the world - mostly westerners - get a different idea of what Islam is about through media and widely held misconceptions. This video further encourages these inaccurate perceptions by false portrayals; therefore its removal is necessary. Instead of violent reactions, there should be peaceful protests and wise action. The website shows that people belonging to a certain Muslim organization distributed the English translation of The Holy Book Quran to the Non-Muslims so that they can understand what Islam is (Sheikh). This is the best way of making people understand and re­moving the misconceptions.


Some things have been done about the video but to no avail. Peo­ple like Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney have condemned the mov­ie and have seen such acts as rep­rehensible, unacceptable and violat­ing the right of freedom of speech. The disappointing thing is that the video is still on YouTube in spite of demands for its removal by Muslim nations and also the governments of Turkey, Russia, and Brazil. In contrast, Google refused to remove the video because they "already de­termined that the video did not vi­olate its terms of service regarding hate speech. In this case, the video stays up because it is against the Islam religion but not Muslim peo­ple" (Miller). It is beyond my un­derstanding as to why hate speech is only against a living human being and does not maintain the status of hate speech after the person's death. A person who has died deserves as much respect as a person who is alive; the loss of life does not mean loss of dignity. A hate speech for me is anything that attacks the sentiments of another person or group of persons, and this video is all about that. Therefore, I do not want the existence of such hate speech in our world.


Above all else, if Google and YouTube would consider the sen­timents of millions of people out there instead of their policies, it would stir major actions towards making peace between both the sides of this controversial video. As I said earlier, America has access to the latest technology, and we know how to use it to our benefit. Unfor­tunately, American citizens, Muslim and Non-Muslim alike, lack the compassion to use it for the best of humanity. We have all the possible resources to voice our opinions on different issues, so why rely on vio­lent means? It is actually quite easy to make people understand that one needs to be respected if one uses a respectful and peaceful way to say it. There is no need to yell on Face­book posts or YouTube comments, no need to create hatred pages or websites, and definitely no need to target any specific group or commu­nity through any means. 


Bradshaw, Peter. "Innocence of Muslims: a dark demonstration of the power of film." The Guardian, 17 Sep. 2012. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.


Kay, Jonathan. "Don't let the idiot speak: The case against Terry Jones." National Post, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. 

Makarechi, Kia. "Anna Gurji & 'Innocence of Muslims': Horrified Actress Writes Letter Explaining Her Role." The Huffington Post, 17 Sep. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012

Miller, Claire Cain. "Google Has No Plans to Rethink Video Status." The New York Times, 14 Sep. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012

Sheikh, Naif. "UK Muslims distribute Koran in response to anti-Islam film." France 24, 19 Sep. 2012. Web 15 Oct. 2012

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