Freedom of Speech Can Promote Greater Understanding- Not Intolerance, As Discussion is the Key

Bangkok

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Opinion & Analysis by Burin Kantabutra

I understand why Thai Muslims are angry at an anti-Islam video that has triggered anti- American demonstrations around the world. But the protesters misunderstand the role of the U.S. government; they think that because the U.S. government does not silence the producer, the government approves of what he is producing. Americans enjoy freedom of speech to a far greater extent than we in Thailand (and certainly Muslim dominant countries) do.

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As former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice William J. Brennan said, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment (on freedom of speech to the U. S. Constitution), it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

The millions who are offended by the video have every right to protest against the individual producer/s – but to hold an entire country or government wrong for the acts of one person is not just.

No protester has said that the video in question incites non-Muslims to violence against Muslims; therefore, the

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Muslim defense should not advocate or employ force, either.

I suggest that Thai Muslims should, through their religious leaders, help non-Muslims understand why the VDO is gravely erroneous, setting the record straight through academic discussion and debate. Show why the VDO shows something that has no basis in fact, and that those who believe otherwise have lost their way. That approach is far more likely to win friends and understanding for Islam than cries of “Death to America”.

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