The recent ‘Muhammad Cartoon Contest’ held in Texas has been stirring controversy over our freedom of speech. This contest has been under heavy criticism and frankly referred to as “anti-Islam” by some. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) which rails at the ‘Islamification’ of America has been behind this contest, which awards $10,000 for the best cartoon depiction of Muhammad. Recently, two armed gunmen were shot outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, where the contest was held. This act of violence was seen as retaliation for insulting Islam and Muslims.
“This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters? Two men with rifles and backpacks attacked police outside our event. A cop was shot; his injuries are not life-threatening, thank God. Please keep him in your prayers.”
– Pamela Geller, co-founder and blogger for the AFDI posted on her blog.
It is true that Geller mentioned in other sources that the people of America are victims of supremacism and jihad. But despite the fact that Geller appears to be an anti-Islam extremist, he makes a valid point by stating that America’s freedom of speech is under attack. Free speech does not exist as an attack on any religion or race – should there even be a limit to free speech. Indeed, there are those who decide to take the major loopholes in the First Amendment and use it to moralize hateful actions towards certain individuals and groups. However, if there are no set laws, how else are we to interpret freedom of speech the ‘right’ way?
Whether or not to set limitations on freedom of speech is a commonly discussed political issue pertaining our world today, and the incident at Garland, Texas has merely shined a light on an issue that is threatening to get out of hand. The federal government should be taking immediate action by putting down their foot on the issue once and for all to prevent further clashes.
On the contrary to what the AFDI proclaims themselves to be, the AFDI is listed under another name “Stop Islamization of America” as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. If this is a hate group that decided to hold a contest on who depict the most insulting and profane caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, it would without doubt enrage the Muslims. And as people of America, they also have every right to retaliate and express themselves. The significance is that they simply decided to resort to the criminal, illegal act of murder – a deed which is clearly stated as illegal by law. But was it wrong for the AFDI to hold the contest to begin with? Both sides here have taken the loopholes of free speech a step too far.
At the end of the day, the question lies between whether we should be set limitations of freedom of speech or if we should continue to live with violent retaliations that put free speech under attack. However, keep in mind that it is an everyday occurrence such incidents like this happens. What do you think? Is freedom of speech under attack, and are there any solutions for this dilemma? Should freedom of speech be limited? And, more importantly, how should we rightfully interpret the nebulosity of our freedom of speech?
– Hyun Jung Choi (‘16)