Political Polars: Freedom of Speech or National Security?


Maria Mauti, Contributor

Thousands have protested. Endless commentary, documentaries, internet video responses have been ignited. An attack on a U.S. Embassy and the death of an innocent leader–a public call for action by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and a commercial apology from President Obama. Over what?

A film titled “Innocence of Muslims,” was made in the U.S. by anti-Islam filmmaker Nakoula Basseley. The 14-minute video originally surfaced on Youtube on July 1 without attracting much attention. It was later found by various Arab TV stations, with religious Egyptian TV channel al-Nas’ presenter Sheikh Khalad Abdalla broadcasting scenes on Sept. 8.

A clip from Abdalla’s show, dubbed into Arabic, was posted online and within days had been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. Turning a no-name Southern California writer and producer into a terrorist target.

According to abcnews.go.com, Basseley was ordered detained without bail by a federal judge on Sept. 27 for violating the terms of his probation.

“Authorities had been investigating whether he violated the terms of his probation, which barred him from accessing the internet without prior approval. He was originally convicted of bank fraud in 2010,” reported ABC News.

The video depicts the Prophet Muhammad in a not so nice light. So what’s in it?

According to the BBC, “It opens with a scene in which a Coptic family in a newly radicalized Islamic Egypt is attacked by a group of Muslims while police look on without intervening. The father tells his daughters that Muslims want to kill all Christians and that the Islamic State is hiding their crimes.

It then shows the Prophet Muhammad and his life with his family and his followers in the desert. He is shown having sex with his wife Khadija and other women.

The video implies Khadija is behind the creation of the Koran, which is described as a combination of subversions of the Torah and the New Testament.

The trailer depicts Muhammad and his followers as killers, looters and extortionists. In one scene, the Prophet sanctions the sexual abuse of children. In another, he says he is gay.”

I’ll stop there.

On Sept. 13, Secretary Clinton said, “We condemn the violence that resulted in the strongest terms and we greatly appreciate the many Muslims in the United States and around the world that have spoken out on this issue. Violence, we believe, has no place in religion.”

In that same speech, though, she questions that condemnation by saying, “Now, I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day…in today’s world with today’s technologies that is impossible, but even if it were possible, our country does have a long history of free expression which is enshrined in our constitution and our law.”

She’s referring to, of course, every American citizen’s right to the freedom of speech under our first Amendment. Or do we?

“We all, whether we are leaders in government, leaders in civil society or religious leaders, must draw the line at violence. And any responsible leader should be standing up right now and drawing that line,” said Clinton at the opening of the U.S.-Morocco Dialogue at the State Department [ Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, YouTube].

President Obama and Secretary Clinton drew this line in a paid advertisement to the Middle East.

“Marked by the U.S. Embassy seal, advertisements condemning an anti-Islam video appeared on Pakistani television…in an apparent attempt to undercut anger against the United States…to dampen chaos surrounding the film and undo some of the damage to America’s image in the Muslim world,” reported CBSnews.com on Sept 20.

But what is more important: the question of our image or the freedom of speech?

No matter what belief system you agree with, Basseley made a fictional film and posted it on Youtube.

Is every person that has an offensive point of view on Youtube now subject to arrest?