Are Radical Imams Going to Redefine Freedom of Speech?

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Now there are threats of violence directed against France for the publication of a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammad in violation of Islamic law.  This is simply the most recent manifestation of a worldwide effort to censor freedom of expression and make it conform to the most radical interpretation of Islamic tradition.  The bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie was recently increased and this distinguished author remains in peril.  Theo Van Gogh was murdered for violating Islamic Law.  And numerous people have been killed as the result of cartoons being published in Denmark and a video shown on YouTube.

I have seen several minutes of the stupid little film that has, arguably, incited so much violence and the deaths of four distinguished public servants, including a United States Ambassador who was uniquely sympathetic to Islam and Arab interests.

There is nothing good that can be said about the low budget film.  It has little redeeming social value and the world would be a better place if it had never been made or shown.  Nevertheless, it would be wrong, and under American law unconstitutional, to censor or punish such despicable expression.  Freedom of speech means freedom for those who you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views.  It also means that the government cannot pick and choose which expressions to authorize and which to prevent.

There are several exceptions recognized under American law to untrammeled freedom of expression.  These include falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater, fighting words and speech that present a clear and present danger of inciting violence.  Even if these exceptions were applied to anti-Islamic expressions that would not solve the problem.  It is easy to argue that a video such as the one on YouTube could be banned without doing much damage to freedom of expression, but that would only be the tip of the iceberg.  The radical Imams who incite the violence would not be satisfied until they could decide what could be seen and heard. They want to become the ultimate judges, juries and executioners when it comes to anything that relates to Islam or its prophet.  But religious fanatics who are easily offended by those outside of their religion who violate the rules of their religion cannot serve as censors in democratic societies.  The threat or fear of violence should not become an excuse or justification for restricting freedom of speech.

Those who blame America for allowing what some Muslims regard as blasphemous speech must come to understand that by not censoring such speech, the government does not place its imprimatur upon it.  That may be difficult to understand for people who have come of age in repressive regimes which do not permit any expressions disfavored by the government.  In such regimes, the publication of bigoted materials can be taken as representing the views of the government.  For example, when Iranians newspapers publish anti-Semitic diatribes, the views expressed in those diatribes are the views of the government.  Not so with democratic states.  Indeed it is probably true that more anti-Semitic material is published in the United States than in Iran, simply because so much is published here and almost none of it is subject to any kind of restriction or censorship.  That does not make the United States an anti-Semitic country, but rather a country in which there is freedom to express anti-Semitic views.  It does make Iran an anti-Semitic country, because all views that appear in the media must be approved by the government.

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  • Jaladhi

    Ah, those radical imams – is there any other kind??? Time to check out all other imams and see if they are aany different those radical imams. All imams enforce message of Mo/allah and Quran and they are all radical!!

    • Kufar Dawg

      Yeah maybe the "moderate" imams just ignore the rabid, pervasive antisemitic vomit found throughout the holey texts of islam — even those which call for the extermination of Jews.

  • @Big_Foot

    Thank you, Mr. Dershowitz, for correctly using the "fire in a theater" analogy by including the often-omitted word "falsely".

  • rjh

    I agree with the basic premise of this article. However, anyone that believes that two simultaneous attacks using military grade weapons on September 11th were the result of a you tube movie is a fool.

  • Jack

    Thank you for your defense of free speech. Restricting speech deemed offensive to Muslims would be the tip of the iceberg call creeping Sharia; we cannot and must not venture down that path any further.

    As I see it, there are two choices facing our country: surrender our freedoms and submit to Islam, or Muslims learn to accept freedoms that make them uncomfortable.

    There is no middle ground here.

    • Kufar Dawg

      Fascist ideologies like Islam can't co-exist w/freedom. For proof I point you to any and all muslim states of the OIC.

  • Indioviejo

    Mr. Dershowitz, as a good attorney your command of sophistry seeps through the post. I can't forget that you supported the Obama Regime in 2008, and probably still do, in spite of their constant but subtle attack on our civil liberties, including Freedom of speech. The mantra "never let a crisis go to waste" embraced by this WH, is the parameter for their attack on free speech, and other rights. The Obama administration is pro-Muslim, and this terrorist attack on 9/11/12 is a response to his contention that we won the war against a few misguided radicals. He tried unilaterally to move the goal post but they won't let him. He supports them against Israel, and they want more. They suspect that if they can't force his hand now, he may lose the election and they will never have a better chance to permanently damage and transform America to their liking. Can you still support a Regime with such nefarious intentions?

    • southernsue

      dershowitz's answer would be very interesting!

      dershowitz seems to be a very highly intelligent man, plus he is jewish, go figure!

      just can't understand this kind of person, who would vote for this anti-Amercian man called obama!

  • Aisha2

    Let us all declare a fatwa on all Muslim clerics who declare fatwas on us. Off with their heads!!!

  • HOFFY561

    The First Ammendment calls for Freedom of Speech. This also allows American Nazis to march in a predominately Jewish suburb of Chicago (Skokie).. As a Jew, although I'm offended by anti-semetic speech and acts, I am frankly desensitized by it. I know who I am and feel no ominous fear from the great majority of these bigots. The only fear I have is from Muslims who may bomb a temple or blow up a bus.due to some perceived slight. If enough "good" muslims would stand up and criticize the "Savages" in their community, the muslims would also become desensitized by the rhetoric. However, the "Slilence is Deafening"

    • southernsue

      did you vote for obama?

      will you vote for obama?

      do you care about ISRAEL?

      i do understand that a lot of jews living in America are far removed from ISRAEL, however, that country is your root, how can you not care about the escalation of war drums from the surrounding countries of ISRAEL and the non support that obama is giving Netenyah{sp?}

    • Kufar Dawg

      Personally, even if the "good" muslimes were begin to condemn the actions of their more violent brethren, I, for one wouldn't care because:

      i. words are cheap
      ii. they could be merely practicing Al Taqiyya, as lying is part and parcel of their faith

  • DansDaMan

    "Are Radical Imams Going to Redefine Freedom of Speech?" Good question, but one that should be directed to the man Dershowitz is supporting for president: Barack Obama

  • mmichlin66

    —"Individuals have the right to pick and choose which expressions to condemn, which to praise and which to say nothing about. Governments, however, must remain neutral as to the content of expression"

    That's exactly write and this should be directed at Obama and Clinton who don't have any business in criticising the film. Unfortunately, Alan Dershowitz doesn't go far enough to name them specifically, although this step should be so obvious from his own words.

  • mmichlin66

    Alan Dershowitz brings a principled defense of the freedom of speech. One thing that still bothers me is why people including Obama, Clinton and even Dershowitz call the film "despicable". I saw the 14-minute clip and can call it poorly-made, not serious, not up to the task, even stupid, but I don't find it despicable. Of course it is despicable from the point of view of devout Muslims – as is any reference to Muhammad, which is less then ideal. However, I wonder why Obama, Clinton and even Dershowitz embrace this point of view?

    • Eric Zarahn

      I agree. The film is not "despicable" as people like Dershowitz and Hannity have uttered. The film is a courageous warning warning about Muslims. The violence and hatred iof Muslims is despicable, and the submission of the liberals is despicable. Coptic Christians (and all Christians and non-Muslinms) have suffered great persecution under the Muslims and the media is almost entirely mute on the issue. We live in a time when men cannot believe what they are told to believe. Even Fox news capitulates often to Muslims, because Fox news is not immune to fear. Until the non-Muslim world understand and accepts that Muslims are a foreign entity and must be fought only and never accepted, we will lose more and more of our precious freedom.

    • Kufar Dawg

      The best an amoral lieberal can do is call the film "despicable" because they can't refute the fact that what it portrays might be true.

  • daninkansas

    Is this a joke? Somebody pretending to be Dershowitz? "The film that arguably incited violence"…? That is arguably the dumbest thing Dershowitz ever wrote. Later it's the imams who incite. The irrelevant "film" is so bad it's funny. But telling the truth about Islam is what will really get you in trouble with the imams and their mobs, and with the left. Lastly, the power of ideas is going to stop the likes of the Iranian Hitler? Yes, Mr. Professor ideas are important. Western leaders have failed to defend ours, and that is real incitement. There is a time for everything. Sadly we seem to be approaching a time when force will be required.

    • Kufar Dawg

      I didn't even notice Dershowitz had written that. The film didn't "incite violence" it didn't tell muslimes to go on a murderous rampage. It didn't advocate violence of any kind.

  • chowching259

    Disrespect of Muhammad will end when his followers start respecting the right of non-Muslims to prosper without fear of being beheaded. One million Jews have been booted out of Islamic held territory; it is their land as well as the Muslim majority. Muhammad deserves to be badmouthed, and he will continue to be blasphemed until the rights of all people are respected.

  • Shouting Fire

    I AM EFFING TIRED of people saying it is like shouting fire in a crowded theatre. What a false and inane analogy.

    First, the movie (and the Danish cartoons) was released months before some clerics decided to cynically use it to inflame the Muslim masses. So if it were like shouting fire etc., it would be more like someone shouting fire in a theatre that contains a recording device but otherwise is almost EMPTY, and then some clerics take that recording and plays it while the theatre is full to the brim — so who is really the one to blame?

    Second, when people saying shouting fire etc. they don't qualify it with "crowded with Irish people" or "Chinese people" since the thinking is (and it might be wrong) that since there is an imminent danger then ANY crowd would panic and there will be some trampling deaths. This is not the case here: first it doesn't happen when you insult other people, and second, there is no imminent danger that (arguably) makes MOST HUMANS lose control, and you have enough time to choose whether to simply protest like a civilized person or to act like an average denizen of the 'Mad Max' universe.

    • Kufar Dawg

      No one muslime had to watch the film at all if it offended them. They watched it BY CHOICE.

  • janelasdedeus

    For their own good, we need to desensitize Muslims from feeling insulted by blasphemy by idle-minded idiots, so they can refocus on building a better life for members of their societies. In the West, we already consider anti-religious comments by the likes of Bill Maher merely trite. If only we can find a Bill Maher who actually has the onions to turn his sarcasm on those who pose a genuine threat.

  • Eric Zarahn

    What has rarely been mentioned is that Muslims incessantly mock, insult, and bait people from other religions. They produce movies , books, pamhlets and news stories that do the same, with the intention of provoking hatred and violence. It is of course no surprise that hardly anyone mentions this elephant in the room, sitting next to his brother of Muslim barbarity.

  • fadetogray

    Amazing. Dershowitz talks this way about the freedom of speech, but he voted for Obama, and he will vote for Obama gain. If he means what he wrote here, he should be raging against this Administration, vowing to do whatever it takes to bring it down. He should be calling on those who respect his opinion to turn their backs on the Democratic Party until the Party mends its ways.

    The good Professor is either a clueless fool or a willful deceiver.

  • Belfast

    Dershowitz's critique of the film is totally irrelevant. His opinion of it has nothing to do with the case. However, he got that bit in to tell Muslims he does not agree with the sentiments of the clip, so that he could cuddle up a little.
    There is no need whatever to read anything objectionable when it comes to freedom of speech.

  • Bryan Schmick

    Just another irony.

    The Obama administration has made an issue of school yard bullies and has worked to legislate against it. How do you deal with a bully? There are two options. You can cave in to the bully's demands or you can stand up to the bully. Caving in just rewards the bully and assures that bullying will continue. Standing up to the bully (sometimes with allies) is the only way to end the bully's control.

    The radical Islamists are using a bullying tactic. The white house is advocating caving in.

  • Ghostwriter

    For a long time now,I've heard Muslims complain about how they're portrayed in American pop culture and the media. Maybe they wouldn't exist if they weren't screaming for our death twenty-four hours a day!

  • Anonymous

    Dershowitz's question: "Are radical Imam's going to redefine freedom of speech?" for Americans living in the U.S., the answer is "No, curbs on free speech won't be enacted by radical Imams, but by Barack Obama." Last December, Clinton met, behind closed doors with IOC (Islamic organization) members, to discuss the proposition of limiting the First Amendment so that the defamation of religion would not be tolerated. I can easily see a curb placed on free speech to silence Americans who dare critique Islam. This is not out of the range of possibility for the current president — the prevaricating panderer to radical Islam and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
    Also, this article needs to be edited — as is now known — there were NO movie trailer protests at the Benghazi consulate when Ambassador Stevens was murdered.

  • PermReader

    Dershowitz`s dodgy move to defend free speech with the help of Obama reelected.