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The Daily Democrat - October 1, 2012

Freedom of speech is not freedom to hate

By Khalid Saeed

The year was 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, Charles Evans Hughes was the Chief Justice of US Supreme Court. America at that time was not as diverse as it is today, and its highest court recognized Prophet Muhammad as one of the greatest lawgivers in the world, along with Moses, Solomon, Confucius, and Hammurabi, among others.

In the Supreme Court in the judge's chamber, there are friezes depicting the 18 greatest lawgivers of the world, Prophet Muhammad being one of them. The U.S. Supreme Court website and the tourist literature say "The figure is a well-intentioned attempt by the sculptor to honor Muhammad, and it bears no resemblance to Muhammad. Muslims generally have a strong aversion to sculptured or pictured representations of their Prophet."

Today, we see a nasty attempt to demonize Islam and Muhammad in all possible ways by an anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslims" which was made by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted drug manufacturer and scam artist, who was convicted of intent to manufacture methamphetamine in the 1990s, and also served time in federal prison on bank fraud charges.

Nakoula even lied to the reporters earlier that he was an "Israeli Jew," that the film had cost about $5 million and that the money had come from wealthy Jewish friends.

In reaction to this movie the world saw a rage throughout the globe in the Muslim world. We saw widespread condemnation, and we saw riots, loss of life and loss of property.

I think the Muslim world has to grow up, work on its anger management and realize that they are playing in the hands of the same people and helping them malign Muslims and Islam against whom they are protesting.

I agree with Hillary Clinton when she says, "The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there's never any justification for violent acts of this kind." As Clinton said "they have a deeply cynical purpose -- to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage. The greater the rage, the better served is their purpose."

Freedom of speech is well and good but I believe we the Americans are facing a moral issue and we must face it in an honorable way and not be selective and discriminating when we decide what freedom of speech is and what is not.

I just came across a 130-page investigative research report by, the Center for American Progress which reveals that more than $42 million from seven foundations over the past decade have helped fan the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America.

This report exposes the Islamophobia network in depth, names the major players, connect the dots, and trace the genesis of anti-Muslim propaganda. This report, titled "Fear Inc.: The Roots Of the Islamophobia Network In America," lifts the veil behind the hate, follows the money, and identifies the names of foundations who have given money, how much they have given, and who they have given to.

"Not surprisingly, such anti-Muslim and anti-Islam rhetoric has fomented discrimination, hate and intolerance against the Muslims and prompted the rise of anti-Muslim groups. According to Southern  Poverty  Law Center the number of anti-Muslim groups tripled in 2011, jumping from 10 groups in 2010 to 30 last year."

Now going back the film, shouldn't all reasonable minds ask themselves a question where did Nakoula who just got out of jail get $5 million to finance this despicable film?

In the book "The Diary of Anne Frank," the writer poses a question which is "Why is it that when a Christian does something wrong it is his own personal responsibility but when a Jew does something wrong it reflects on all the Jews?"

The seven-million strong American Muslim Community has responded to the post-9/11 challenges with intensive outreach by building bridges with all ethnic and faith groups, holding interfaith peace picnics and interfaith Iftar (fast breaking) during the month of Ramadan. At the same time the community is more proactive politically and contributing to our great country in many positive ways. This must also be noted that the Muslims have condemned their extremists more forcefully and more often than have Americans and Europeans denigrated their fellow extremists.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in his recent article titled "The Sin of Sowing Hatred of Islam," writes "This fall, when religious hate speech appears in public places, when several mosques across the nation have been desecrated and burned, when Sikhs have been murdered, it is time for our nation to raise our voices in repudiation of all manner of hate mongering. This Yom Kippur, we will once again read these words from Deuteronomy 11:26: 'See, this day I set before you blessing and curse.' Those same choices are before us today. Let us, as a nation, reject the curse of hatred and instead choose the blessings of faith, acceptance, understanding and respect for all."

-- Khalid Saeed is national President of 'American Muslim Voice' (www.amuslimvoice.org), working to build bridges among all Americans.