Saturday, January 17, 2015

Je suis Charlie, a cry raised in support of freedom of the press, was an admirable reaction to the terrorist attack on a French weekly publication that specialized in satirical  cartoons guaranteed to insult  Muslims, Catholics, Jews , and more.  Hats off to the million plus demonstrating in Paris on behalf of  freedom of speech, even if many of those marching did not agree with the editorial policy of the publication, Charlie Hebdo.

No one in the US mainstream media has published or reproduced the kind of editorial content like Charlie Hebdo.  Why?  After all, doesn't the Constitution protect free speech like Charlie Hebdo's?  It does.  Even hate speech is protected from government action in our country, but with limits. Hate speech as defined by the American Bar Association offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits. The US Supreme Court has frequently redefined those limits and ruled hate speech that promotes imminent violence against a protected group can be prosecuted. Charlie Hebdo’s offensive cartoons do not promote imminent violence.

Why has mainstream media not reprinted or shown pages from the French magazine? That is not censure by the government and it is available elsewhere and on line. It is their editorial policy not to offend religions or others.

There is a moral reason, too.  It is a matter of respect of other religions.  Pope Francis said it best January 15 :“ ..both freedom of faith and freedom of speech were fundamental human rights” and that "every religion has its dignity “ : He continued,  "... in freedom of expression there are limits. cannot make fun of faith" and that “anyone who throws insults can expect a punch."  That is a pragmatic statement.  It is not blaming the victim as some have charged.  It is a comment that we should not be surprised if there is a reaction if we insult a religion. These are lessons Europe has not learned very well, resulting in centuries of bloody wars and religious conflict.  We in the US carry our own baggage, but our political leaders have set the standards that get it right, though disrespect still boils below the surface in many quarters and some fume against “politically correct speech”.

The causes of terrorism are more complex than theological interpretations. Most Muslim terrorists are angry young people who come from countries with oppressive regimes or areas of military conflict with the West. The concept of free speech is alien to much of the world where governments control and approve all speech. They mistake hate speech by our citizens for officially sanctioned government policy.  If we insult the entire 1.6 billion Muslims because of the actions of a relatively few, we should expect a reaction directed at both our government and citizens.

 Many Muslim leaders and clerics condemned the Paris attacks and proclaimed terrorism as an aberration of their faith. In reacting to terrorist attacks, we Americans should do more to understand the differences among Muslims and take personal responsibility to condemn and refrain from hate speech.

An edited version of this appeared in the January 22, and the print edition January  23 2015

In the Sky Hi News, January 28, 2015, a letter to the editor appeared which distorted my position on hate speech and freedom of speech.  Ken Anderson attempted to paint me with a distorted brush. He attributed a quote from Pope Francis to me (I am quite a bit below the Pope's grade level) and he  missed the point of my column entirely in his haste to condemn liberals. If the above column was not clear enough, in the US hate speech not citing imminent violence is protected by the Constitution, but because we can does not mean we should..  This applies to all religions, not to selected ones, and there are moral and pragmatic reasons to refrain from it. Our actions should be  not to condone and not to participate and we should even speak out against such insults. While we live in a diverse America full of passion and hateful words, it is not the America that should be our ideal.  Below is the Anderson letter or visit :

"To the Editor:
I just read Felicia Muftic’s column online at regarding the terrorist actions in France regarding Charlie Hebdo. My first reaction is what universe do Ms. Muftic and liberals live in?
She states, “One cannot make fun of faith” and “our politcial leaders get it right…” I assume that includes insulting those of faith since that is the title of her article. Huh? Have I missed something? Have I been in a coma for the last few decades? Maybe she and her left-leaning friends need to look around – right here in the United States.
There are many examples the left “tolerates” when it comes to insulting Christians. I will name just one and it is probably the most disgusting example of insulting those of faith the left allows to be displayed. It is called (Urine) Christ.
(Urine) Christ, the actual name is Pi-- Christ, is a 1987 photograph by the American artist and photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. The piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art’s “Awards in the Visual Arts” competition, which was sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects, without controlling content.
In 2011 MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had no problem showing this on her show, but last week NBC would not allow the Charlie Hebdo cartoon for fear of insulting Muslims. For the last two years (urine) Christ has been on display at a gallery in New York. President Obama was asked to denounce the “art” right after he denounced the Anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims.” He refused.
Yes, our own government, its leaders, and a government agency – the National Endowment of the Arts — “tolerates” insulting Chriatians but not Muslims. Our government even tolerates insulting Christians with awards. While Ms. Muftic says insulting groups of faith will have predictable results – I have yet to hear of a group of Christians running amok in New York killing dozens of people over this ”art.” Maybe she should get her “religions” straight.
Just where do Ms. Muftic and other liberals live? I don’t know, but it certainly isn’t in the United States of America."
Ken Anderson

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