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Uriah J. Fields

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IN DEFENSE OF THE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
by Uriah J. Fields   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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"Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the
free exercise thereof or abridge the freedom of speech."
- Article 1 of the United States Constitution

In the second decade of the twenty-first century Muslims, adherents of Islam, have reacted viciously, violently and destructively to the anti-Islamic film "Innocence of Muslims," produced by filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian Coptic Christian living in the United States. The film depicts Prophet Mohammed as a thuggish womanizer.

Protests have occurred in many parts of the world, inluding Libya, Indonesia, Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Afghanistan. During the protest in Benghazi, Libya, the U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Protesters have attacked embassies of the United States, Great Britian and Germany.

Soon after the release of this film the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo presented obscene cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed showing him naked that has also enraged Muslims. France banned protests against cartoons denigating Mohammed.

In democratic societies, unlike in Muslim-dominated countries, free speech and religious freedom are protected. Article 1 of the United States Constitution  forbids Congress from making any law respecting the establishment of religion or the free execise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech. Citizens in a democracy do not live by Sharia law as pescribed by Muslims. In America a person has a constitutional right to express ideas about Mohammed and Jesus that adherents of these religions may find offensive. There are many things that offend people but this cannot be a basis for denying freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Christianity and Islam are the focus of these protests, whether people, especially Americans, admit this. Here are some facts about these two religions:                                             As of the early twenty-first century Christianity has approximately 2.2 billion adherents, about one-third of the world's population. It is the world's largest religion. About 37.5% of the Christians live in America, 25.7% live in Europe, 13.1 % live in Asia and 0.9% live in the Middle East. In Christian belief Jesus is the Son of God, fullly divine and fully human and the savior of humanity. Worldwide the three largest groups comprising Christianity are the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and various denominations of Protestantism. In America there are 246,780.000 (79.5%) Christians. About half of them are Catholic and half Protestant. (According to the Pew Forum on Religon and Life.) The holy book for Christians is the Bible.
         Islam with approximately 1.7 billion adherents is the second largest and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. Mohammad, founder of Islam, is considered to be the last Prophet of God. He was born in 570 A. D. and died in 632 A. D.  At the age of 40 he received his first revelation from God. Some 70-80% of all Muslims are Suni. The second largest sect is Shia. The holy book for Muslims is the Quran.

Christianity and Islam have been at war with each other before and it could happen again. Christianity that existed approximately 500 years before Islam conducted the crusades. Crusades were a series of religious expeditionary wars blessed by Pope Urban II and the Catholic Church with the goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem. Primarily, these crusades that occurred beween 1095 and 1291 A.D. were against the Muslims. Some historians have given many of them earlier numbers. Over 200 years some 200,000 people were killed. They were composed of military units of Roman Catholics from all over Europe but were not under unfied command. The debate as to what these crusades accomplished continues even to this day. Yet, one can only imagine what shape the world would be if there had not been crusades. Would the Western world be controlled by Muslims?

Today, the question is whether or not Western democracies will allow Muslims to perform acts of violence against their interests as evidenced by these present-day protests while they remain passive and in some instances pander to them as some governments have done while simultaneously criticizing the filmmaker and magazine publisher for being provocative. Criticism of these producers along is not sufficient to respond to protesters committed violence to express their anger over this film. The violence should be denounced, the protesters condemned and justice served.

Christians are being mistreated in Muslim countries and in some instances driven out of countries where they have lived and practiced their faith for centuries. This is unacceptable. Actually, there is no such thing as a Muslim country, i.e., a country just for Muslims anymore than there is a country just for Christians. In the United States, unlike Saudi Arabia, this principle for all faiths is practiced. All one has to do is to see what freedom or lack of it Christians have in Saudi Arabia and see what freedom Muslims have in the United States to recognize the significance of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Christians' Bible declares, "The earth is the Lord's and the earth has he given to the children of men." It also presents Jesus directing Christians to "Go into all the world and preach and teach." How long will Christians consider so-called Muslims' lands to be off-limit to them? How long will Christians consider Sheria law to be preferred to the law presented in the United States  Constitution and to God's law? Even when Christians are in so-called Muslim countries they should not surrender their beliefs and convictions to Sheria law.

All people should oppose  blasphemy and mocking Mohammed but just because some people use words, not violence, to depict Mohammed or Jesus or any other religious leader, that cannot justify those offended engaging in violence. Vengeance belongs to God, not man. Neither God,  Jesus or Mohammed needs human defenders.

Furthermore, in democratic societies there are enough laws to constrain abuses of the right to free speech and religious freedom. Beware of those who become irate over a film or cartoons depicting their chief religious authority, especially, with words. Leaders of democratic governments must not pander to those criticizing free speech and religious freedom. Instead, they should express loud and clear the need for those countries prohibiting free speech and freedom of religon to cease and desist such practices. It is obvoius that one lesson learned from this discussion is how to start a war, not just a battle.

Hopefully the future will not give birth to new religious crusades. However, crusades may be necessary in order to cultivate and preserve free speech and freedom of religon, not just for Western societies, but for people throughout the world.

Copyright 2012 by Uriah J. Fields

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