‘Words Matter’: No One Is Calling For the Curbing of Free Speech in the Wake of New Zealand

The claim by some is a distraction from the real issue of incitement

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

About “censorship” he said:

Already tonight you’re hearing calls — in this country — for curbs on free speech in response to the New Zealand massacre. Jeff Bezos’ newspaper wasted no time in blaming the entire thing on the free flow of ideas that are “spreading hate.”…Censorship does not make us safer. Instead, it drives forbidden ideas underground, where they fester and explode.

No one is calling for censorship. When I — and many others — wrote that those people who have been constantly demonizing Islam and Muslims need to be taken to task — and even having “blood on their hands” — the response of some is to claim that we are “shutting down free speech.”

This is a distraction. No one is trying to shut down free speech.

There is a big difference between criticizing the beliefs of Islam and calling Islam “the religious equivalent of fascism.” There is a big difference between saying, “Terrorists who are Muslim are evil” and saying, as Joe Ricketts wrote in an email, “Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims,” which is an abject falsehood. There is a big difference between criticizing the actions of Muslims and saying, “The entire religion of Islam is not like any other faith…And just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless.”

Speaking out against the generalizations made about Islam and Muslims — such as calling Muslims “our enemy” or saying Muslims are not “blameless” — is not an “attack on free speech.” Taking to task those who say that every “practicing Muslim who believes in the teaching of the Quran… cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America” is not “censorship.” These are not “forbidden ideas.” They are hate speech and incitement, and as New Zealand (and Quebec) shows, incitement can lead to violence.

And this goes for Muslims as well. There is no shortage of Muslim savages who rail against the “infidels” and “Jews” and “Crusaders.” There is no shortage of Youtube videos and Facebook posts of Muslims attacking those of other faiths and calling for violence and murder against them. There is no shortage of Muslims who use the Quran as justification for the spilling of innocent blood. We must call out and condemn these people as well.

Why, the savages who claim to be Muslim have no qualms attacking houses of worship. They have attacked mosques all the time and even churches as well. Their savagery, their barbarism, and their hate speech and incitement must be condemned and stopped at every turn. It is part of my mission to speak out against and condemn their savagery in the name of Islam.

I am completely in support of, in Tucker Carlson’s words, “the free flow of ideas.” It is good; it is healthy; it is what makes our country the greatest on earth. People can disagree with my religious beliefs, and I can disagree with theirs. At the same time, your disagreement with my beliefs does not make you “my enemy.”

One of my friends and colleagues reached out to me in support after the NZ shootings. I thanked him profusely, and he responded by saying, “You’re welcome. We are multiple faiths but one people.” That is the beauty of our country and its free flow of ideas.

Disagreement should never lead to being violently disagreeable. When we say, “Words Matter,” it is not calling for “curbs on free speech.” Rather, it is attacking the incitement against another people which, as recent events have shown, can lead to the death of scores of innocents. It must stop, and it must stop now.

Reflections on Faith by Hesham A. Hassaballa. Books: “Beliefnet Guide to Islam” and “Noble Brother,” the Prophet Muhammad’s story entirely in poetry.

Reflections on Faith by Hesham A. Hassaballa. Books: “Beliefnet Guide to Islam” and “Noble Brother,” the Prophet Muhammad’s story entirely in poetry.