Advancing a Free Society

An Important Statement

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This is admittedly a slight tangent from the Lawfare’s broad themes, but Eugene Volokh drew my attention the other day to this statement on free speech, issued by a group of Muslims in the United States and Canada, and thought it worth bringing to readers’ attention. The Muslim American community gets a lot of criticism for not speaking out loudly and unequivocally on subjects of political violence. The criticism sometimes has merit; some Muslim leaders denounce terrorism while defining it narrowly enough to leave room for activity commonly understood as terrorism or defining it so broadly as to include activity commonly understood as warfare and statecraft. The criticisms also, however, often reflect a significant penchant on the part of elements of the larger society towards guilt by association and double standards; when a person wants to build a church or  synagogue, we don’t mine all of his or her prior statements, and we don’t parse those statements to see what tolerance they reflect for what sort of violence. We frequently do this with Muslim figures. Whichever problem one thinks is the dominant one here, and which one thinks is the subsidiary issue, it has to be significant that a group of prominent American and Canadian Muslims has here done precisely what the community often gets flak for not doing: taking a strong stand in favor of free speech, even speech highly offensive to Muslims. It has done so in a fashion specifically directed at the Muslim community and specifically and explicitly insistent that threats of violence against writers and cartoonists by Muslims are a bigger moral problem for the Muslim community than offensive cartoons or Koran burnings.

Continue reading Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare

(photo credit:  dcJohn)