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Denigrating Other Faiths


GeorgeW
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Again, in the last few days, we have another example of people denigrating Islam with a violent (and predictable) reaction. I am referring to the film defaming Islam and the Prophet.

 

Mitt Romney immediately criticised the president for the U.S. embassy condemnation of the provocative film. Romney said that the president had "apologized for American values." This begs the question, what values does Mr. Romney refer to. I assume that he means freedom of speech (not anti-Islamic values) which includes the right to denigrate the religion of others.

 

If freedom of speech is the value to which he refers, I agree that we do have that right. But, having the right doesn't mean that some speech is not despicable and should not be condemned because, IMO, there is another American value at play - respect for religious diversity and differing beliefs.

 

I wonder how Mr. Romney would react to a film denigrating Mormons and depicting Joseph Smith as a deranged monster. Would he criticise the Mormon church if they condemned the film?

 

George

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You have the freedom of speech, but also the responsibility of it. You can say what you want, but the cost is on you. At least, that's how I've always interpreted it.

 

I have to wonder - by "American values," does he mean "Christian values"? Is it an implication that Christians are automatically Islamaphobic (or at least anti-Islamic)?

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I have to wonder - by "American values," does he mean "Christian values"? Is it an implication that Christians are automatically Islamaphobic (or at least anti-Islamic)?

 

I wondered that as well. Was this a dog whistle to the Islamophobes? The Republicans are accustomed to other dog whistles, like racist ones.

 

George

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I've never quite understood this 'freedom of speech' thing in America. Are people there completely free to say whatever they want publicly, regardless of whether it's sexist, racist, homophobic, denigrates religion, or is otherwise discriminatory? Is there no threat of legal action?

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Are people there completely free to say whatever they want publicly, regardless of whether it's sexist, racist, homophobic, denigrates religion, or is otherwise discriminatory? Is there no threat of legal action?

 

Yeah, pretty much so. We do have libel and slander laws. I can't say false and harmful things about another person.

 

I think this is very much misunderstood around much of the world, particularly the Middle East. People there think that something like this must government concurrence otherwise it couldn't be done.

 

George

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Yeah, pretty much so. We do have libel and slander laws. I can't say false and harmful things about another person.

 

I think this is very much misunderstood around much of the world, particularly the Middle East. People there think that something like this must government concurrence otherwise it couldn't be done.

 

George

 

Thanks George. Although the government isn't directly complicit in such activity, I guess the country and government do carry the can to some degree in that their laws allow people to behave this way toward certain others, with full immunity.

 

In Australia we go further than just libel and slander and have laws prohibiting the denigration of others based purely on sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

 

I'd like to think that helps with the 'responsibilty' aspect of free speech that Raven touches on.

 

Cheers

Paul

 

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If anyone is interested, here is a link to watch the trailer that has stirred up so much trouble:

 

 

I have seen it described as "amateurish," "bad taste," 'incoherent," etc., etc. I agree. If someone wanted to denigrate a religion with a film, they should, at a minimum, do a good job. I don't think this would convince anyone of anything other than what a bunch of incompetent idiots the producers are.

 

George

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Paul,

 

 

FYI....

 

The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals".[1][2]

 

Exceptions would include....

A false publication, as in writing, print, signs, or pictures, that damages a person's reputation.

A false and malicious statement or report about someone.

Threatening a person or group.

 

Some supreme court rulings on free speech ................

Freedom of speech includes the right:

  • Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag).
    West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
  • Of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”).
    Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
  • To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
    Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
  • To contribute money (under certain circumstances) to political campaigns.
    Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  • To advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions).
    Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976); Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977).
  • To engage in symbolic speech, e.g., burning the flag in protest.
    Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).

Freedom of speech does not include the right:

  • To incite actions that would harm others (e.g. “hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”).
    Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • To make or distribute obscene materials.
    Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
  • To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
    United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
  • To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration.
    Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1983).
  • Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
    Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
  • Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
    Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).

Joseph

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George,

 

What a poorly done movie about Islam. I certainly wouldn't pay to see it nor give it much weight except for sick entertainment. However, i could envision someone taking the Old Testament and doing the same to the Jewish/Christian faith and make a laughing stock out of it also using many Leviticus sayings/laws and practices and some stories elsewhere.

 

Joseph

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Thanks Joseph. I wonder if what we do here then to limit harmful free speech, relies upon some legal interpretation of those 'responsibilities', or whether I just live in an oppressive society :)

 

I do note that Wikipedia says "Unlike what has been called a strong international consensus that hate speech needs to be prohibited by law and that such prohibitions override, or are irrelevant to, guarantees of freedom of expression, the United States is perhaps unique among the developed world in that under law, hate speech is legal".

 

I expect the Supreme Court rulings you mention rely upon your First Ammendment rather than Article 19 ICCPR.

Edited by PaulS
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In Australia we go further than just libel and slander and have laws prohibiting the denigration of others based purely on sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

 

I'd like to think that helps with the 'responsibilty' aspect of free speech that Raven touches on.

 

Cheers

Paul

The problem with hate speech laws is that what counts as hate speech is often subjective and these laws have often been shown to be open to easily be abused by the government to suppress dissenting voices. An example is that there was a case in India where a man was arrested just for saying a miracle claim wasn't true because merely saying a miracle wasn't real was somehow offensive and worthy of arrest. A website like The Center for Progressive Christianity could easily be considered "denigrating" to other people's religion because most of us here don't believe in the divinity of Jesus or most of the beliefs considered traditional by most Christians.

 

What a poorly done movie about Islam. I certainly wouldn't pay to see it nor give it much weight except for sick entertainment. However, i could envision someone taking the Old Testament and doing the same to the Jewish/Christian faith and make a laughing stock out of it also using many Leviticus sayings/laws and practices and some stories elsewhere.
There has been some considerable debate as to whether this "movie" actually exists at all and that this was all just used as an excuse by terrorists who had already planned to attack the U.S. Embassy months ago on the anniversary of 9/11.
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There has been some considerable debate as to whether this "movie" actually exists at all and that this was all just used as an excuse by terrorists who had already planned to attack the U.S. Embassy months ago on the anniversary of 9/11.

 

This may well be the case with the embassy attack in Libya. But, the demonstrations in Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere were almost certainly reactions to the film. This isn't the first time that a Western action interpreted as anti-Islamic has caused such a reaction. There was the Danish cartoon several years ago and more recently the idiot preacher burning a Qur'an.

 

George

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Australian Federal Police are investigating a protest ###### violent riot that occurred in Sydney on Saturday after a computer-generated text message was sent to over 2500 mobile phones encouraging protest against this movie. Questions are being asked if the messages were generated in Australia or offshore, and whether it is part of a bigger effort to cause mayhem using this 'movie' as an excuse.

 

Naturally there were a number of non-violent muslims who attended this protest and some were seen trying to calm things down before they got ugly. The crowd went from about 300 to 100 when it turned bad.

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The problem with hate speech laws is that what counts as hate speech is often subjective and these laws have often been shown to be open to easily be abused by the government to suppress dissenting voices. An example is that there was a case in India where a man was arrested just for saying a miracle claim wasn't true because merely saying a miracle wasn't real was somehow offensive and worthy of arrest. A website like The Center for Progressive Christianity could easily be considered "denigrating" to other people's religion because most of us here don't believe in the divinity of Jesus or most of the beliefs considered traditional by most Christians.

 

Such laws certainly can be abused by a corrupt or misguided government, but I wonder if that is less a risk that the harm protected hate speech causes? I don't have an answer specifically.

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Here in the U.S. the Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro Baptists have the right under the first amendment to protest at funerals. While I may personally find the speech of the Westboro Baptists to be disgusting and hateful, if the government were to ban them from being able to protest, what we are saying then is that the government has the permission to tell individual citizens when and where they can speak what beliefs the government approves of as being appectable. The freedom to say what you like even if it's not popular was one of the freedoms the Founding Fathers fought for and there's a reason it's the first amendment in the constitution. The freedom to be able to think what we want and say what we want is what enables us to protect our other freedoms. While hate speech should always be combated against, hate speech can't be fought by restricting speech but it must be fought with more speech.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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Neon,

 

I don't think it's a case of giving the government the permission to tell individual citizens when and where they can speak what beliefs the government approves of as being acceptable, but rather giving the government the power to curtail harmful speech that is used irresponsibly.

 

We have laws to say you simply can't wee wherever you like (in the street, against a shop window, etc) - it's not that government is restricting people's right to wee wherever they like but rather government has the power to stop people from weeing in inappropriate circumstances.

 

I do wonder what freedoms Australians are missing out on for not having the right to hate speech enshrined in their legislation?

 

Cheers

Paul

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Again, by what standard are we determining that a particular speech is "hate speech" and who gets to make the decisions? Just recently in the UK a 19 year old teenager was arrested just because he made a Facebook post that said something offensive about the military. Keep in mind that nobody was actually physically harmed by this teenager's actions but he's still being arrested just because he hurt someone's feelings. Recently in the news there was a case of a young Christian girl who was framed by a Muslim cleric who sneaked a burned copy of the Koran into her shopping bags and tried to frame her for blasphemy. This was a young girl in Pakistan under the age of 18 who was going to be arrested for a victimless crime she didn't even commit herself but was framed by a Muslim cleric. In the UK there was another case of an atheist who was arrested in the John Lennon airport for distributing anti-religious tracts. Again, he didn't cause any actual physical harm but was only arrested just because he hurt somebody's feelings. The irony of an atheist being arrested for hurting someone's feelings in an airport named after a rock singer who said he was bigger than Jesus and wrote the anti-religious song Imagine was obviously lost on the UK authorities. I can name countless other examples where people in minority faiths where persecuted by the majority faith of that country in the name of protecting said religion from mere speech. People may have good intentions in supporting hate speech laws but I have yet to see a single example of when a hate speech law was executed in a fair and just manner and wasn't being used to discriminate against a viewpoint.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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Neon,

 

Naturally hate-speech laws are used to discriminate against a viewpoint - a viewpoint that the community has said has no place in their society. For instance, in Australia there have been several arrests and convictions for race hate speech inciting hatred and discrimination against others. I would argue that there are a number of examples here of hate speech law being executed fairly and justly. Our society has decided such speech is not what we want here and we feel it does nothing to add to sensible debate over issues. To the contrary, such speech can misinform people and causes anger and angst which our community doesn't want.

 

Ultimately, in a democracy, it is the pople that should decide what particular speech is hate speech. They get to make the decisions. I am certain that if unfair laws were used to unjustly silence opinion in Australia, those politicians responsible would suffer.

 

A prosecution is one thing, a conviction is another. I think our justice system works similiar to yours where a person can be charged but is innocent until proven guilty, and subsequently the defence provides arguments to the court as to just why there speech is not hate or otherwise. Similarly there is an appeals process to overcome poor decisions.

 

I think it's too easy to play down hate speech by saying it simply 'hurt somebody's feelings'. I think what I regard as hate speech goes much further than such a simple definition and I would regard speech that should be limited as speech which incites hatred, discrimination, is designed to cause angst, fear, stress, etc. Saying "I don't believe what you do" and providing reasons is not hate speech in my book.

 

The Pakistani girl you mentioned who was framed - well, framing can occur with many laws. Possibly if a knife used in a murder had been dropped in her bag by the Cleric then sdhe may have been charged with murder, yet we don't fail to legislate against murder because somebody might be framed.

 

"Hate speech laws in Australia" in Wikipedia might explain to you better detail of what we utilise here.

 

Cheers

Paul

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If freedom of speech should be determined by popular vote, then what if you lived in somewhere like Ireland where the majority of Irish people are Catholics and they decided by popular vote to ban any criticism of the Catholic church as hate speech because that would go against what the majority of Ireland's culture would find to be acceptable speech? The problem with letting the people decide on what counts as free speech through popular vote is that the majority often forgets the rights of the minority and it's popularity-based voting like that that often lends itself most easily to abuse. This is why here in the U.S. we have a representative democracy rather than direct democracy and this is why our constitution protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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In the U.S., speech is not completely free; we are not allowed to incite violence. I can't stand on a street corner and advocate killing, as an example, Muslims. There is, I think, is a thin line between this and hate speech that might reasonably be expected to lead to violence.

 

Given the recent history of these denigrations of Islam in a sensitive period of time (with American military forces in one Islamic country, recently withdrawn from another and maybe attacking another one soon), it would be hard, I think, to argue that this particular film had a benign intent and the producer was just naive.

 

As an aside, to my knowledge, Romney while defending "American freedoms" has also not condemned the content of this film. This, I think, implies that he does not find the content objectionable, or more likely thinks that many of his supporters would not find the content objectionable. Given the Islamophobic attitude of many on the right, this is probably a reasonable assessment.

 

George

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If freedom of speech should be determined by popular vote, then what if you lived in somewhere like Ireland where the majority of Irish people are Catholics and they decided by popular vote to ban any criticism of the Catholic church as hate speech because that would go against what the majority of Ireland's culture would find to be acceptable speech? The problem with letting the people decide on what counts as free speech through popular vote is that the majority often forgets the rights of the minority and it's popularity-based voting like that that often lends itself most easily to abuse. This is why here in the U.S. we have a representative democracy rather than direct democracy and this is why our constitution protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

 

I certainly didn't mean it to sound like the people make flippant decisions about what they will accept as acceptable speech, but rather that the community over time moves in a certain direction which sees old laws overturned and new appropriate ones implemented. Gay marriage used to be illegal (talk about a minority suffering tyranny) but more and more of the US's citizens are seeing the laws beginning to change and overturn the old.

 

Similarly it seems to be the case here that Australians have voiced what they see as destructive in their society and have moved to curtail it, when it comes to hate speech that is. It seems to be fair and just and I have confidence that our society still protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority without allowing some to cause harm to others by espousing hate speech.

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I certainly didn't mean it to sound like the people make flippant decisions about what they will accept as acceptable speech, but rather that the community over time moves in a certain direction which sees old laws overturned and new appropriate ones implemented. Gay marriage used to be illegal (talk about a minority suffering tyranny) but more and more of the US's citizens are seeing the laws beginning to change and overturn the old.

 

 

Gay marriage should be legalized whether a majority of Americans support it or not and to invoke an argument from popularity either for or against it would be a logical fallacy. A significant portion of American society also considers abortion to be murder and thinks it should be banned but the courts have ruled in favor of protecting a woman's right to have an abortion regardless of popular opinion. I don't see why free speech shouldn't be held to the same standard that we would hold any other right. Rights are something unalienable that should not be voted away by cultural relativism or popular opinion.
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invoke an argument from popularity either for or against it would be a logical fallacy.

--o----------o-

 

And So are extreme examples.

The court has reversed itself before and may do so on abortion. They changed the course of political discussion by judging that corporations were persons. Their decisions are not final and reflect society 'best' thinking at the time.

 

Dutch

 

 

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So if we're going to criminalize people for hate speech, what should the punishment for hate speech be? Should people go to jail for it? For how long and what for? Should they have to pay a fine and how much? Should we arrest members of the Tea Party for their racist speech and hate speech against Obama and Democrats? Should Todd Akin go to jail for his offensive speech about women?

Edited by Neon Genesis
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