Surrendering the First Amendment to Islam
The authors of the Bill of Rights placed so much importance on certain issues that they were included as the First Amendment. For those of you who need to brush up on your American Government, below is what is stated: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Now we have arrived at a time in our history where a single worldwide religion threatens the very important right we know as “freedom of speech.” This phenomenon is not limited to the United States although we enjoy more freedom of speech than any other nation. For lack of a better term this is the revival of the blasphemy laws that were enacted in an attempt to prevent religious defamation or religious insults, primarily involving Islam. I’m sure everyone remembers Salman Rushdie’s 1989 novel “Satanic Verses” and the call by Islamic leaders for him to be killed stating it was the duty of every Muslim to insure his death. Then there was the incident in 2005 when a Danish newspaper published cartoons of Mohammed resulting in a worldwide Islamic uproar.
The First Amendment still protects us against being charged for criticizing Islam but more publishers are bowing to pressure to censor publications in an effort to avoid insulting Islam or inciting acts of violence by Islamic believers. In 2009 Yale University Press removed all illustrations of Mohammed from its publication about the Danish cartoon crisis. It also removed Gustave Dore’s 19th century illustration of Mohammed in hell from Dante’s Inferno. Another publisher, Random House, rejected at the last minute a historical novel about the wife of Mohammed by American writer Sherry Jones. According to Random House this was done to protect the safety of the author, Random House employees, and anyone involved in the distribution process. Furthermore, the comedy show South Park refused to show an image of Mohammed dressed in a bear suit although it frequently mocks other religions and religious leaders.
As a response to this refusal by South Park producers a Seattle Weekly cartoonist suggested an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” but quickly withdrew the suggestion after receiving several death threats including from Al-Qaeda. She was advised by the FBI to go into hiding. These are just a few examples of the censorship and suppression of free ideas and discourse that are being implemented by the Government, corporations and educational institutions under the guise of religious sensitivity.
This attack on the First Amendment reaches the highest levels of our Government. As an indicator one only has to look as far as President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo where he stated it was his responsibility to “fight against negative stereotypes of Islam whenever they appear.” Furthermore, Secretary of State Clinton co-chaired a meeting with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey in July 2011 titled “High-Level Meeting on Combating Religious Intolerance.”
As innocuous as this title may seem, to partner with an organization whose members support and practice religious persecution, teach the killing of Jews in their schools and in some cases ban Christian churches, appears disturbing to say the least. The implementation of the restrictions on speech concerning Islam is nothing more than a direct attack on every American’s right to free speech guaranteed in the U. S. Constitution.
We have become a nation that bows to the threat of violence instead of challenging the threat. Rather than censor debate and open discourse we should be embracing it. By restricting freedom of speech and promoting censorship we have begun to surrender our rights to Islamic fundamentalists. While I may not agree with the Florida Pastor Terry Jones and his Koran burning publicity stunts I do support his right to freedom of speech and expression.
American authorities must not shy away from their responsibility to protect and defend the rights of their citizens. We as Americans should expect and demand that freedom of expression be free from censorship and government interference regardless of the subject and regardless of the threat.