When free speech costs human life

Ibrahim Alaguri AP A Libyan man holds a placard in English during a demonstration against the attack on the U.S. … Continued

Ibrahim Alaguri


A Libyan man holds a placard in English during a demonstration against the attack on the U.S. consulate that killed four Americans, including the ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya.

As with many of you, my Twitter feed spiked Wednesday with tweets about an anti-Islam film and ensuing murder of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. Moments later and likewise, posts demanding an unequivocal condemnation from American Muslims flooded my Facebook.

Though it astounds me that some hold Muslim Americans accountable on behalf of extremists 5,000 miles away, here goes. I can speak specifically on behalf of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to condemn this senseless violence in the strongest terms. Likewise, I have seen only similar explicit condemnation from my colleagues in countless different Muslim communities worldwide. But this condemnation is not new. We condemned the post-Danish cartoon violence that resulted in dozens of deaths and countless more injuries in 2005. We condemned the post-Terry Jones Koran-burning violence that killed 31 in Afghanistan in 2010. And now we again condemn this senseless violence in 2012.

View Photo Gallery: U.S. diplomatic compounds came under attack Tuesday in Egypt and Libya, where State Department employees were killed.

But if you haven’t noticed a pattern, let me illustrate this sadistic re-run. First, anti-Islam propagandists create and promote anti-Islam propaganda under the guise of free speech—knowing it will incite extremists to violence. Second, extremists react to the propaganda, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians including U.N. aid workers, American citizens, and what we often callously refer to as “collateral damage,”—i.e. innocent women and children. Third, anti-Islam propagandists sit safely in their abodes, thousands of miles away and innocently shrug, “Too bad. This offensive speech is my right.” Finally, Muslims worldwide are put on trial to again condemn the violence—failure to do so is perceived as implicit approval. Yet, Islam remains maligned and, most importantly, innocent people continue to suffer.

To think this vicious cycle can stop simply if extremists stop being extremists is an extreme view itself.

At this juncture, anti-Islam propagandists typically claim that, “only Muslims are extremists.” This view is entirely ignorant. Former President John F. Kennedy needed to issue an executive order to protect southern Black churches from KKK terrorism in the 1960s. The Sri Lankan government used force to stop the Hindu-Secularist Tamil Tigers from spreading suicide terrorism ideology in the 1980s and 1990s. Just last month, the American Atheists group removed their own billboards prior to the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention due to a “large volume” of “vitriol, threats, and hate speech” from Christians. Extremism has no religion.

But to be sure, in comparing a video insulting Prophet Muhammad to Muslims responding violently to said video—the bigger insult to the prophet, and the bigger atrocity to humanity, is the latter. The Koran repeatedly and specifically instructs Muslims to simply “turn away” when non-Muslims insult their faith or prophets. The Koran further restricts Muslims from insulting non-Muslims, instead imploring Muslims to “argue in the way that is best” and with “absolute justice.”

Prophet Muhammad’s example demonstrates this point. When Meccan miscreants threw camel entrails on his back while he prayed, he forbade any offending retort and prescribed no punishment. When the woman who mutilated his uncle’s corpse asked for his forgiveness, he granted it. And the ignorant person who baselessly accused his wife of infidelity—Prophet Muhammad forgave him too, even offering his funeral prayer.

Islam teaches that free speech is a valuable right—but not at the cost of the much higher value of and right to life. Stevens, no doubt, championed free speech and human life. But, because others valued their own right to speech more than they valued his right to live, Stevens’—along with many others—has now lost both.

Qasim Rashid is a leader for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. Follow him on Twitter @MuslimIQ or email at qasim.rashid@ahmadiyya.us.

Qasim Rashid
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  • tony55398

    I can’t imagine Christians demonstrating with such violence against those who insult Jesus, perhaps Muslims have an inner fear that Muhammad may not be the great Prophet that they claim.

  • tony55398

    It has been predicted by Christian Saints, that all people eventually will follow Christ, the sooner the better.

  • DNY_

    Alas for the world, the vast majority of Muslims adhere to fiqhs that place far less emphasis on the hadiths which show Mohammed accepting insults and responding pacifically than do the Ahmadis.

  • Secular1

    IRT SimonTemplar @ 9/13/2012 7:01 PM GMT-0500/9/14/20 7:03 AM GMT-0500 stop blowing smoke up our kilts. You claimed that Obama administration is being asked to track down teh fellow who made the movie. Can you substantiate that claim. Are you suggesting that administration is looking for him? neither is true as bets as i can tell. What were you doing when teh Bushies were suppressing teh free speech rights for 8 year. i did not hardly hear any outrage from you right-wing-nuts.

    IRT ur response to my posted you made yet another unsubstantiated claim ” My concern is that we in the West are slowly losing the right to speak freely.” That is utter nonsense, can you point to one instance of your much loathed Obama administration thwarted any ones first amendment rights.

    True to your right-wing-nut-case profile, you mouth off this “If an American, under the First Amendment, makes statements or even a movie critical of socialism, causing socialists world-wide to take to the streets in violence, should we remove first amendment protection from speech that is critical of socialism? ” Who is saying anything similar to such on any topic. Are you really taking exception to the embassy staff issuing its denunciation of the stupid movie or Clinton’s denunciation of teh same, later on. Just because that movie maker has right to produce a absurd controversial movie, does not mean rest of the world should be just keep mum about it. We all also have the 1st amendment right to denounce his works. If anything the creep who made teh movie did not suffer a bit, it was the ambassador and three other government employees paid for his exercise of his rights. The four were not killed by the US administration.

    It is teh right-wing-nut outrage industry manufactured all this senseless outrage in this country, starting with that dimwit candidate Willard of yours. You want to be taken seriously make serious arguments, not kneejerk vomiting of your bile against the POTUS. Get it through your RWNC

  • PerpetuaofCarthage

    “But, because others valued their own right to speech more than they valued his right to live, Stevens’—along with many others—has now lost both.” This is a very offensive conclusion. Stevens died because some Islamists believed they had a right to kill him merely because someone across the world had created a stupid movie. The fault is solely with the murderers!!! Your attempt to place the blame for Stevens murder on other than the murderers is creepy and seems anti-American. We enshrine the right to free speech in our Constitution. You are undermining the right to free speech.

  • PerpetuaofCarthage

    I agree. The fear of ridicule seems to imply doubt, that their religion can’t hold up to scrutiny.

  • brucehodge9

    There is much to say about Mr. Rashid’s commentary.

    First, he claims to represent the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Ahmadiyya “Islam” is a 19th Century sect (now split into two factions) of Islam, created by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in India.

    Broadly speaking, Ahmadiyya “Islam”, stripped out all of the fanaticism and violence/hate found in the Koran/Hadith/Sharia, claiming that Islam’s core message is akin to Christianity (symbolized by the “peaceful” Jesus, if you will).

    Ahmadiyya Islam is regarded as an absolute heresy by “mainstream” Islam, represented by the vicious, cruel, warlike, supremecist Islam Sunni, Shia sects and their supporting “legal” systems Salafi, Hanbali, and Wahhabist.

    Amadiyya Muslims have been severely persecuted and often killed in massacers by other traditional Muslims, particularly in Pakistan, where by its Constitution they are declared Non-Muslim.

    Next, in its attempt to rewrite the Koran, Amadiyya Muslims concentrate on the “Koran of Mecca” (the camel allusion for example in Rashid’s Commentary) when Islam was weak, when first “created” and while Mohammed lived in Mecca (and driven out) departing for Medina (the “Koran of Medina”) where the “crazy stuff” was created.

    The crazy Islam you see predominant in the Middle East is in no way related to
    the Amadiyya. It is foolish to conflate the two. It is deceptive to do so.

    I will not here comment on “traditional” Islam, except to say that Osama-bin-Laden is a “better” (more faithful and “true”) Muslim than Rashid. From the perspective of the Koran, Hadith, and Sharia Osama is the modern day Mohammed, not Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

  • brucehodge9

    The second part of my comment on Rashid’s artice is that he is trying to pull a Jeddi mind trick argument, suggesting that Islamic “rage” on a worldwide scale must be excused because it would be too extreme of us to expect that extremist Muslims would renounce their extremism. (i.e. we must accomodate “bow down” to Islam if we wish the violence, rage, killing, suppression, etc. to stop). The harsh truth is that traditional Islam cannot renounce its extremism. It is impossible. They cannot become Ahmadiyya.

    Islam is absolutely incompatible with the Western system. Get used to the idea.

  • mbeck1

    It’s nice to blame this murderous behavior on free speech (in poor taste?) and a violent reaction by the Muslim street. The kind of ridicule that has landed on Mohammed’s head is nothing compared to the ridicule that is heaped constantly on Christianity and most of the other religions and religious offshoots in this country and the rest of the western world. You might ask why the difference? Truly evil (?) religious intolerance within Christendom was common and pervasive throughout much of European history.

    Essentially, Christianity (Catholic or Protestant) was tamed by it’s own bad behavior as Europe groped its way from theocracy to liberal democracy’s open society. It was incredibly costly and exhausting and eventually people became fed up with it. It was only when religion was not all-pervasive that free thinkers in little pockets throughout Europe managed to carve out more space for themselves, until Christianity became a shadow of its former self. We still have Christian zealots, but they have been tamed by civilization (?) and are very unlikely to go on the killing sprees of the past and now seen only in parts of the Islamic world. Islam has to go through the same taming fire that Christianity went through, but in a shorter period of time because of the pace of the modern world.


    Free speech didn’t cost human lives. Rioting Arabs with RPGs cost human lives. If extremists used islam to incite the mobs, then islam helped kill those Americans.

  • brucehodge9

    Islam kills. Islam: the Koran, Hadith, and Sharia teaches/demands that “blasphemers” be killed (crucified, torn apart with iron hooks, beheaded, burned, etc. ).

    The Koran, Hadith, and Sharia defines “blasphemers” as, among other things, those who “insult” the “Prophet”. The Koran, etc. defines “insult”: which includes (more or less) anything that is not slavish devotion.

    People “of the Book” (Christians/Jews) are given a choice to convert to Islam. If not they are to be killed, or suppressed with special taxes/retrictions, etc. People who may have other religions, or none, are given a chance to convert. If they do not, they are killed.

    Jihad can be violent or “stealth”. Stealth is lying, trickery, psychological manipulation, etc. which often requires an uninformed/ignorent target, ignorent of his own (Western) tradition.

    Jihad can be a combination of violent and stealth. Such as what now is occurring. (Violence and crazy behavior in one place, coupled with the “threat” of violence elsewhere unless Muslims are granted special consideration: for example suppression of free speach to protect Muslims, thus creating a self-fulfilling downward spiral of bowing to Islam.

    That is traditional Islam, clearly written down for all to read. There is no way to get around it, except by lying about it, or being wilfully ignortent. That’s the way it is. Get used to it. It

  • brucehodge9

    One picture is worth a thousand words.


  • glorialauren

    I wonder…If someone made a movie with Jesus having sex with a donkey, and Mary giving a blow job – how the Christian Right would take it. Might they attack a few Muslims walking by??

  • AgentFoxMulder

    Does anyone remember Bill Maher and “Religulous”?

  • Secular1

    I do it was a splendid movies.

  • persiflage

    BTW, that was a agentfoxmulder quote……if anyone wondered about the origins.

  • Secular1

    ST, did you even read that article? This martyr of yours was previously convicted and is probation. Terms of his probation were not to impersonate. The general discussion about this man is that he impersonated as one Tom Bacile, if true that is violation of terms of his probation. If so then federal LE would be interested in him. So what is it with you right-wingers, now that this imbecile made a movie bashing MO, he should be given a pass? Is Obama make him do all this crap?

  • AgentFoxMulder

    @ persiflage: The movie, called “Christ, the Man” is directed Paul Verhoeven, member of the Westar Institute, the sponsoring organization of The Jesus Seminar.

    That is the WHOLE truth.

  • AgentFoxMulder

    By the way persiflage, you are quite the spin master. You’ve done a masterful job of trying to paint the movie as non-controversial, however the movie reportedly DOES present Jesus as being the product of rape.


    The religious right-wingers got pretty upset at “Life of Brian”.

    And even more upset at “The Last Temptation of Christ” which is a very christian movie. But that’s because, according to their own Western form of christianity (and since 451 AD), the vast majority of Western christians are heretics who endorse one form of monophysitism or another. Only the Copts and the Eastern Orthodox branches accept that heresy.

  • persiflage

    The movie is based on the book – both by the same individual.
    It’s all there in my link – but this is hardly a project sponsored by the Jesus Seminar…….which by the way is a fairly large collective if you google it for a more complete overview.

    The rape angle is pure, unfounded conjecture – an imaginative flight of fancy that could hardly be supported by highly acclaimed scholars of religious history.

    I never said it was non-controversial. Anything that presented Jesus as an ordinary man would be controversial to believing Chrisitians – as my link pointed out. On the other hand, highly educated people schooled in religious history seldom express a belief in Jesus as a deity either.

  • PhillyJimi1

    Leviticus 24:16 “And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death”.

    The Interesting is now that I am an atheist (by definition not choice) I see the hatred that is a by product of religions towards other of a different faith. Now I just see humans not Jews, Muslims or Christians.

    If you’re a person of faith just use the same justification and logic as to why you don’t believe in the other faiths towards your own faith and if you’re honest with yourself you may see some problems.

    If you want to believe in a god that created the Universe fine. But it is a major stretch to believe that this same Universe creating deity really needed to tell Abraham to kill his son to test his faith. There is nothing moral about Abraham. At best Abraham is insane at worst evil. I gladly burn in hell forever rather then obey an evil god that would command me to kill my son or anyone just to see if I was his puppet.

  • PhillyJimi1

    “Free Speech” doesn’t cost lives. The “content” within free speech can cost lives or ruin lives. If I start a panic and/or a riot and people die I should be held responsible.

    That said, you don’t need a PhD to understand that it doesn’t take too much provoking to start a riot in the middle east by making fun of a certain prophet. While Americans enjoy free speech no matter how insane the content of someone’s free speech is it something that can cost Americans and other innocent people their lives overseas due to stone age superstitious beliefs that are held by uneducated humans. Dropping more bombs on them only makes us feel good for a little while and in the long run only makes it worse.

  • edbyronadams

    There are enough murderous extremists in the Muslim population to make any criticism of the religion, especially problematic for anyone who might want to do so. Since that is the case, a general condemnation of the religion as intolerant and violent is at least partially true.

  • edbyronadams

    Nothing was burned and no one was killed.

  • SimonTemplar

    to ccn regarding Chilton:

    Developing an idea sounds like fun. Proving it sounds like work. For example, the New Testament clearly states (more than once) that Jesus traveled throughout Judea teaching in the synagogues. That hardly sounds like someone who was excluded from full participation in the life of the community. What, after all, was the center of Jewish community life at that time but the synagogue itself.

  • Ebn_Roshd

    Me as a Muslim man condemn any kind of violence , and we have been learnt in Islam that any single soul is most valuable than Kaaba ( in Mekka) for God , and if someone killed someone else Deliberately , he will sure be in the hell >

    BUT , i just want to give you a small notice , : you ‘ll never see any Muslim insult or make fun or even spoke in a bad way about Jesus , did you ask your self why is that , why you have never seen any Muslim insult any other religion or any other Prophet ?????

    don’t bother you self thinking about such matter , i’ll give you the answer !!
    the answer is that : our religion learned us not to insult any other religon or any prophet and if i did the opposite for these things i’ll not be a Muslim nor a believer either .

    I’m a Muslim and i respect all the religions and i love Jesus & Moses because Islam ordered me to do so >

  • ThomasBaum

    I guess one could say that since islam or at least part of islam declared war on the rest of the world that all of the US Presidents have been guilty of “dereliciton of duty” according to you, not just Obama, wouldn’t you say?

  • tianxiang69

    That is your religious belief regarding the so-called insulting of religions. To expect others to abide by the regulations of your belief system is preposterous and offensive to me. Yes, that is right, Islam’s insistence that religions are beyond criticism is offensive. Our society recognizes the value and importance of free speech, which includes the right to criticize ideas and beliefs, whether religious or not. I really don’t care whether you insult or disparage the prophets or gods of other religions, which, by the way, Islam does do. It is in the Quran that those who fail to convert to Islam have the choice of either battle unto death or accepting a subordinate position in society. If that is respect, than certainly respect is insufficient in a modern context to ensure the equality of all before the law. And statements regarding unbelievers which label them as apes and pigs are, by definition insults.