Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bigotry, Islam and free speech by Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

Eric E. Vickers
Robinson was wrong about ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and Muhammad, By Eric E. Vickers For The St. Louis American.

Although I am one of Eugene Robinson’s biggest fans, as a black man who adopted Islam as my religious faith more than 30 years ago while in law school, I am deeply disappointed in his recent column about the terrorist attack on the French publication Charlie Hebdo, because it reflects the double-standard thinking that only exacerbates animosity towards Muslims.

On the one hand, he argues that “lampooning the Prophet Muhammad” is permissible because “the right to free speech must encompass the right to offend without fear or fervor,” while on the other hand he rightly and correctly argued that radio host Don Imus was not entitled to any free speech protection – or his job – for his racist words. Robinson argued that Imus should be taken off the air for his racists remarks, yet argued that Charlie Hebdo’s offensive portrayal of Muhammad was protected speech because “obnoxiousness is grounds for denunciation but not for censorship.” 

As a Pulitzer Prize winner, he certainly knows that there is no such thing as absolute free speech, and that speech that is hateful can constitute a crime in this country. Consequently, I am left to wonder why he thinks that speech vilifying Muslims is acceptable free speech, while speech vilifying African Americans is not. It seems that this stems from ignorance – the breeding ground of hate – about Islam, as reflected in his statement that “many mainstream Muslims consider comic portrayals of their prophet to be offensive.” Actually, every Muslim on the planet – all 1.2 billion – considers any portrayal of Muhammad offensive. Islam prohibits any picture or image of the Prophet because it violates the basic tenet of the faith that no human being, including Muhammad, is to be deified and worshiped. Thus Robinson needs to understand that an attack on Muhammad is an attack on the sensibilities of one-fifth of the world’s population, and that while condemning terrorist attacks made in retaliation for hate speech directed at him is a no-brainer for the Muslim community, there are, and always will be, those Muslims who consider themselves guardians of the faith.

And despite the Muslim world’s condemnation of their terrorist means and the Qur’an’s explicit teaching that Muslims are to “argue with them [critics] in the most kindly manner,” they will, unfortunately, use any means necessary to guard against Muhammad being ridiculed. If we want to live in a world of harmony between the races and religions, then we cannot condone either prejudice or bigotry under the guise of free speech. Courtesy of St. Louis American. 

No comments:

Post a Comment