Everyone is still reeling a bit after the brutal and deadly attacks on American targets in Egypt and Libya, which resulted in our ambassador to Libya being killed. Mano Singham expresses my thoughts better than I would have in this post:
I would only alter one thing: Everyone has a right to decide what offends them, but no one has the right to maim and kill merely because they are offended. But that’s just a minor quibble. I fully agree with him that we should be defending the principle of free speech, not the absurd notion that religions should be protected from offense. The film in question is a vile piece of propaganda, but that simply doesn’t justify violence of any kind.
This tragedy may result in renewed calls for people to be ‘sensitive’ to religious sentiment. My feeling is that no level of deference will ever satisfy all religious people and attempts to do so only enhance the sense of entitlement of the most prickly of religious elements. No one has the right to unilaterally [decide] what is religiously offensive and what is not and enforce speech restrictions on others. If people want to go out of their way to offend others, the only thing that should be used to deter them is the opprobrium that they might face, not death or physical injury.
It will be interesting to see how the US government responds to this attack. When private individuals have been attacked by religious zealots, the acts have been condemned but also resulted in calls for greater sensitivity to the feelings of religious people. That is wrong-headed. What we really need is a greater global sensitivity to the right of free speech. Muslims, like any other religious group, will have to come to terms with the fact that their religious beliefs cannot be allowed to put limits on the speech of others however deliberately offensive it may seem to them.