Sunday, May 24, 2015

Who Needs The First Amendment? Part I

On May 3, there was a "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" held in Garland, Texas. It was sponsored by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders was an invited speaker. As we know, 2 shooters - both Muslim - tried to shoot their way into the facility where the contest was being held. Fortunately, a police officer at the scene was able to shoot both perpetrators, who died from their wounds.

No great surprise that Muslims would react violently to what they call blasphemy. What may be a surprise to some, however, is what Paul Harvey would call "the rest of the story." It turns out that even Muslims sworn to uphold the Constitution do not believe in it - and certainly not the free speech provision in the First Amendment.

There are 2 Muslims in Congress - Keith Ellison, Dem-Minn, and Andre Carson, Dem-Ind. Together, they joined with one other congressman, Joe Crowley, Dem-NY, in an effort to prevent Geert Wilders from getting a visa to come to the US and speak at the Garland event. These congressmen lobbied both State and Homeland Security to deny the visa.

Wilders has made comments about Islam that are taken as controversial. He has expressed concern about the Islamization of his country, the Netherlands. He wants to halt further immigration to the Netherlands from Islamic countries. And he wants to ban the construction of further mosques. Gilders has even called for banning the Koran; reasoning that if Mein Kampf is banned, then the Koran should be also. (This writer does not believe in banning either book.)

In seeking to keep Wilders out of the US, these congressmen wrote: "Freedom of speech, however, is not absolute. It is limited by the legal and moral understanding that speech that causes the incitement of violence or prejudicial action against protected groups is wrong." Not quite. If speech is likely to cause imminent illegal activity or harm it may not be protected. Those uttering such speech may suffer legal consequences. But "speech that is prejudicial against protected groups?"

What does that even mean? Speech that is "prejudicial" is still protected speech in this country, thanks to the First Amendment. It certainly seems as if these congressmen would prefer a different system, one akin to that proposed by the Organization of Islamic States to the UN. That group wants to outlaw speech that insults religion; although what they really care about is speech that insults Islam.

These congressmen also expressed concern about Wilders "participation in inciting anti-Muslim aggression and violence." While I do not doubt that one can find instances of attacks on Muslims just because they are Muslim, I suspect that the reverse happens with far greater frequency - attacks on non-Muslims by Muslims. Which is just what the two perpetrators in Garland attempted to do.

I was asked by one friend and reader if I agreed with the idea of a "draw Muhammad" contest. The question entirely misses the point. No, I do not go out of my way to insult other people. But the Nazis were allowed to march through Skokie, Illinois, home of many Jews and Holocaust survivors. Because under our system even hurtful speech is permitted. The Jews did not go on a killing spree as a result of that march.

Said Salia Salem, executive director of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of CAIR: "Free speech is not the same as responsible speech." Thankfully, she does not get to decide whose speech is responsible and whose is not. But it is quite telling that Democrats feel comfortable in trying to prevent people from hearing speech with which those Democrats disagree. After all, that is what free speech is all about - my right to hear what others say, whether you agree with it or not. Then again, I'm not a Democrat.