Let me begin by stating, unequivocally, that the violence that has gripped the Middle East and claimed the lives of four American diplomats is not justified, and I condemn it, for whatever my condemnation is worth. I believe in the free exchange of ideas, and the use of violence in response to something like a movie, no matter how offensive, is in direct contradiction of that belief.
I have a vested interest in this position. After all, if it were to become acceptable to kill someone for a movie, why not a blog post?
Here’s the thing, though. The fact that Muslims are resorting to violence because they are offended does not justify the movie. It does not make the movie cease to be offensive, and it does not absolve the filmmaker, whatever his name is (the coward) of moral responsibility for inciting violence, even if his actions are protected by law.
I usually don’t call people names in my posts, but I truly believe that this man is a coward. He knew his film would be inflammatory. We know this because he was too scared to use his real name. The problem is that other people don’t have the luxury of anonymity. Ambassadors are known. Embassies and consulates fly the flag of this man’s country. Soldiers on the front lines of our nation’s wars wear that flag on their uniform. When Muslims hear that an American attacked their prophet, their deeply held faith, it is not the guy who did it that they are face to face with. It’s an American soldier, or a diplomat, or a missionary or an aid worker or a tourist. We can debate the appropriateness of the presence of each of those individuals in a given place, but my point is that the filmmaker is not face to face with the people whose faith he insulted.
He is in California, hiding behind those who defend us.
Free speech is a precious liberty, the cornerstone of our democracy, but it comes with a cost. The cost of my right to express my views is the right of someone else to express views that make my blood boil. It’s hard to accept at times, but we must accept it. However, when that right is abused in the service of hatred, bigotry and division, it is incumbent upon people of goodwill to exercise their free speech rights and denounce that abuse.