News / Middle East

Mideast Protests Spark Debate Over Free Speech, Religion

Free Speech VS Religioni
|| 0:00:00
X
Elizabeth Arrott
September 13, 2012 7:47 PM
Violence this week in Libya, Egypt and Yemen has once again brought to the fore inherent tensions between free speech, however offensive, and religious dignity. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott reports from Cairo, where some political analysts invoke the dictum that the remedy for such speech is more speech.
Elizabeth Arrott
Violence this week in Libya, Egypt and Yemen has once again brought to the fore inherent tensions between free speech, however offensive, and religious dignity. Some political analysts in Cairo invoke the dictum that the remedy for such speech is more speech.

The attacks on U.S. missions in Libya, Egypt and Yemen highlight how easily passions against the nominal ally of those countries can be ignited.   An obscure, crudely-made American video mocking the Prophet Muhammed triggered rage and murder.

“This is the price of extremism.  If those who made the film wanted an extremist reaction, they got it.  They succeeded,” said Said Sadek, a professor of Political Sociology at the American University in Cairo.

Sadek argues extremists on both sides got what they wanted: for one, proof that Islam is violent, for the other, that America is the enemy of their religion - points scored at the expense of those in the middle, including slain U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.

“The majority of people, Muslims and Christians, are not extremists but they're captives of those extremists on both sides.  Each side is provoking something and then the others are responding and they try to push the silent majority into extremism and suspicion and intolerance,” Sadek said.

Sadek says it's an anti-Western political agenda easy to deploy.

“There is a misunderstanding in Muslim countries [about] the relationship between government and media," he said.  "They still believe it's like in autocratic regimes: the government orders the media to do this or to do that. President Obama did not order that movie about Islam is made.  In fact, he is being accused in America that he is pro-Muslim.”

Libya's government was clear in its condemnation of the Benghazi attack.  Egypt's initial response made no direct mention of the death of Ambassador Stevens, although a day later it rejected the``unlawful acts'' against foreign embassies.

“I don't think that the government has enough political capital to actually counter that vision. They cannot state that 'Well, okay, there's an offensive movie but it's not that important and it does not represent the U.S. administration and it's a matter of free speech.' They could never say that,” said Ziad Akl Moussa, a political analyst in Cairo.

It's a dynamic that has played out several times in recent years, with Danish cartoons of the prophet and other western images deemed insulting provoking bursts of outrage.

“It's a contention over putting creativity on a pedestal in the West and actually putting a red line behind it in the East. It doesn't mean that this is wrong and this is right, it simply means that it's different. But we never addressed that,” Moussa said.

He argues until governments frame the question as one of freedom of expression, not a fight over religion, such violence “will happen again and again.”

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: david le from: Canada
September 14, 2012 4:12 PM
Muslim people and countries are still full of violence and ignorance. Each country and religion has extreme people, yes. But nowadays, only extreme Mulisms use deadly violence & killing to " punish" the other countries and religions. And only Muslism have so many extremes. I am an Asian Canadian and my religion is Buddhism. I do not think that any Buddhist will kill the others for their insulting Buddha. Honestly, I feel scared, hate and frustrated at Muslism/ Islamic.

In Response

by: Anonymous from: Canada
September 20, 2012 11:49 AM
David has a very good point. Why is it expected that Muslim's can and will react violently to any inkling of comment or critisim of their religion while all other religions wouldn't and typically don't react? If the Muslim leaders cannot control their flock or are insighting the rage and violence then they have to be held responsible for these acts of terror.

The Muslim religion has now proven that it is out of step with the modern world and has to be viewed with suspicion of its objectives. A belief system that uses chaos, anarchy rage and violence to deliver its message of brotherhood and peace is a failed doctrine. . A religion of merit can and should be able to withstand critisim and prevail unaffected. THe West asks that Muslims modernise and act accordling for your religion to be respected not feared.


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 14, 2012 11:35 AM
This article seems to wonder whether after bathing the pig and dressing it in suit it will not return to the sludge. The answer is yes it will. After locking up the society of the muslims from the rest of the world, they are not expected to behave better. It is gratifying that some of them are beginning to speak about freedoms, but how much longer it's going to take before a greater number of the people embrace it cannot be determined. But they should have started from the understanding that USA was just coming from the grief of 9/11 remembrance to be commonsensical. The emancipation of the islamic conference will come when they begin to realize that not everything right is good to do at all times. It might be right to protest how badly mohammed is exposed, but the wild protests show his followers and himself in bad light either for bad followership or as a bad teacher. In the meantime, the conference is made of crude talents and unthinking humans who need a lot of lessons in manners and behavior that their leader has no way of imparting to them.


by: Muneeb from: India
September 14, 2012 2:51 AM
"Sadek argues extremists on both sides got what they wanted: for one, proof that Islam is violent, for the other, that America is the enemy of their religion - points scored at the expense of those in the middle, including slain U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens"
Well said!!!


by: Anonymous
September 13, 2012 9:37 PM
The violence against American embassies in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, etc. has nothing to do with an anti-Islam video. There are hundreds of such videos on the internet and they have been up for years. This violence started on September 11th for a reason, it is a renewal of the threat against America, the same threat that we saw in 2001.

The policies of Obama and Clinton are now proven to be absolute disasters, the American people ought to demand their resignation.

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 14, 2012 11:44 AM
I can't agree less. If it were possible, the duo should throw in the towel without further delay. But this is not to close all American embassies in the OIC region, instead to brace for serious action to repel some of these ill-feelings of hostility and aggression against civilization and freedoms.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid