Freedom of speech
By: SHAHZAD AHMAD
Addressing the subject of the anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims,” which has sparked riots and violence across the globe including killing of the US envoy to Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “…our country does have a long tradition of free expression, which is enshrined in our Constitution and our law, and we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.
”Simultaneously, the Secretary of State called the video “disgusting and reprehensible”, saying that the US government had “absolutely nothing” to do with the creation of the film. But the earlier part of her speech shows the US government’s indirect support to the filmmakers. Without doubt, First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.
” However, there are some major exceptions to the First Amendment. The US Supreme Court has interpreted the guarantee of freedom of speech and press to provide no protection or only limited protection for some types of speech. For example, the court has decided that the First Amendment provides no protection to obscenity, child pornography, or speech that constitutes “advocacy of the use of force or of law violation…..where such advocacy is directed to”.
“The right to free speech in the United States is not unlimited. The most stringent protection would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing panic,” remarked Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in one of the most famous 1st Amendment cases in U.S. history, Schenck vs. United States. Thus, “Innocence of Muslims,” is not, arguably, free speech protected under the US Constitution and the values it enshrines as its video trailer indirectly triggered the deaths of US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other embassy staff in the eastern city of Benghazi.
How seriously could her statement condemning the blasphemous film be taken by the Muslims across the world? Furthermore, she was of the view that, ‘Islam, like other religions, respects the fundamental dignity of human beings, and it was a violation of that fundamental dignity to wage attacks on innocents. As long as there are those who are willing to shed blood and take innocent life in the name of religion, the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.’ On the other hand, eight, of course innocent women and girls gathering firewood were killed by a Nato airstrike in Afghanistan early on last Sunday, a couple of days after Ms Clinton’s statement.
There is also the issue of violence and US unilateralism and military aggression that rubbishes claims of human dignity and respect for human life. As per a United Nations report, in the year of 2011, the civilian death toll in Afghanistan was 3,021 while 4,507 Afghans were injured.
The Centre for Research on Globalization, an independent research and media organisation based in Montreal, quotes other sources, saying the actual number of civilian casualties was probably five times as large as the number that the UN mentioned. Though Pakistan has constantly protested against the US drone attacks, more than 35,000 civilians have died in suicide bombings in Pakistan since 2001. Pakistan has suffered approx more than seventy billion dollars loss in this war including precious lives of soldiers and civilians should the US not respect the fundamental dignity of human all beings all over the world? Are such civilians’ killings not a violation of that fundamental pride? Will they continue to talk about human rights and keep violating them in Muslim nations under the guise of one excuse or another? How long do they want us to practice patience and silence over their continuous killings?