Exploring Freedom of Speech

Transcript Details

Event Name: Exploring Freedom of Speech
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 4/23/2022
Transcript Version: 1

Transcript Text

first of all i want to thank everybody
coming out on a monday night bay area
berkeley parking and i want to thank
the president of the gtu dr miner jiwa
also for honoring us here on the hill
sandy for coming up on a very short
notice from a very busy
schedule the obviously
this is an event that's happened
we've been here before in fact when the
cartoons happened i actually went to
and i met with the prime minister's
office i spoke to the danish people i
actually spoke on danish television
reminding them that the arabs loved
danish cheese
and that it actually harmed their
economy believe it or not
it harmed their economy because there
was a boycott on danish cheese
which sells very well in the arab world
and economics is very important right
people like good ties with
other places because they can make money
in fact
one of the worst things for business is
war unless you're in the business of war
business people do not like instability
they like stability
these are very destabilizing events that
are happening
i want to just look first of all at a
ideas and then we'll get into the
conversation one of them
i spoke here on this lectern a while
back before i even knew that we would
one day own this building
not even a thought in my head but i
spoke about
economic injustice and i used dante as a
to talk about that and during that talk
i actually mentioned
and i use the word defend and i i
mentioned that
because dante according to uh
the inferno has a character that he
calls moametto
and an ali another character and
it's believed that these are meant to
portray the prophet muhammad
and his cousin ali as schismatics anyway
i use the word defend
pointing out to a lot of christians most
of the people in the audience were
that the dante did not put the prophet
with the false prophets but with the
schismatics so i was pointing out that
nuance about the inferno well
lo and behold a remark really off the
cuff i didn't wasn't prepared but
a group in england actually anesthetized
me for that statement
saying that i was no longer a muslim
that i need to make public toba
which is repentance because i had
defended somebody who had insulted the
which was certainly not my intention but
i was pointing out a nuance well we're
living in a world where nuance is no
in our vocabularies right we are in the
cartoon world
of black and white it's not even color
so i want to talk a little bit here
about the idea of
freedom of speech because certainly in
the west this is one of our most
cherished rights
is the right to freedom of speech i will
guarantee to you i've been all over the
literally you've lived in many different
places freedom of speech exists
all over the world people speak very
freely in fact in some places they speak
far more
freely about things than they do in the
united states
but there are two areas in many places
that people are not free to talk about
one of them is religion
and the other is politics but in the
united states of america freedom of
means being able to say whatever you
want about religion
and whatever you want about politics
generally this is the idea and
these are hard-earned people died there
was bloodshed
to to acquire these rights but we also
certain laws
that prevent certain types of speech and
we know that you cannot shout fire in a
theater oliver wendell holmes we also
have the brandenburg standard
if there's a clear and imminent danger
in speech that incites to hatred
brandenburg versus ohio case and there
are other cases like this
that test the limits of freedom of
unfortunately we have now people
insignificant people really and i would
say and
you know everybody's significant in
their own way but i'm talking about
that um you know really it's quite
stunning that somebody you know who
lives in a house with wheels and has a
car in the front that has no wheels
and he's able to literally
create riots on the other side of the
who has a church with 15 people
right half of them are his own family
and then and the other half are our
right that really can affect
global situations i mean this is really
extraordinary the internet
the internet right really i mean i call
email evil mail because it causes so
problem now we have to have these little
happy faces just to make sure people
that i'm not being offensive right i
mean this is the type of world we're in
there's no nuances
people can't speak anymore freely
everybody's afraid
right so you know we have to think about
incitement to hatred and what that means
and being realistic about it
nobody argues that germany is not a free
but they have a law there that prohibits
denial of the holocaust
there's a law that prohibits denial of
holocaust there are laws
in certain countries in fact in denmark
there are not laws
uh denying the holocaust and one of the
things that i tried to point out one of
the nuances
in the arab world when i was there
because i was interviewed during that
time i went to the arab world
what i tried to point out was when the
danish people said they supported
because the the arab newspapers would
say 80 percent of the danish support
the cartoons they didn't support the
cartoons they supported the right
of the person in fact most of the danish
people were actually offended by the
and so these are the nuances that get
lost in these things
unfortunately we had a presidential
candidate say
we should never apologize for american
supporting the film people hear that in
the arab world
and they say it's an american value to
to denigrate our religious sensitivities
he was obviously saying speech freedom
of speech but the point is
as americans do we really want
to say it is an american value to
other people's face other people's
we can criticize those beliefs write
intellectual tones
about why islam is not a true religion
there are many books like that
and nobody gets upset muslims don't get
you can write all you want of why you
don't think the prophet muhammad is a
but to mock to denigrate
to make fun of somebody who's dearer
to the hearts of the muslims and this
includes jesus the muslims feel the same
way about jesus
or about moses about any of these
really this is where we have to ask
ourselves is this the type of society we
we have risen above racial denigration
in this country in the public space if
you denigrate somebody racially in the
public space
you will lose your job you will lose
your job
there are consequences to saying
to saying mick to saying to same
all of these things have consequences
why because we recognize
that people have sensitivities if you go
down to east oakland
right now if you go down if you go down
to east oakland right now
and and you shout the n-word as a white
man in east oakland and somebody comes
and stabs you
is any good anybody going to be
seriously is any anybody going to be
no but what the problem is we don't
recognize that for believers
when you die you lose your racial
identity but when you die you maintain
your religious identity this is
this is how the muslims understand it
now i'm not going to justify anything
the muslims did
in their reactions i'm not going to
justify that
the prophet muhammad never never
ever attacked any ambassador in fact
when a false prophet sent his
ambassadors he actually honored them and
sent them back
he never denigrated ambassadors in the
ancient world it was a declaration
of war to kill an ambassador
this is a wretched thing that happened
but a small minority of people and
let me remind you that there were
libyans who died defending that embassy
trying to keep the americans safe
and they are recorded there are
recordings of them saying
protect them make sure they're inside
and they lost their lives and they would
see that as a martyrdom in their faith
just like amir abdul qadr al-jazeeri
defended the christians and the french
legation in syria against the
riots in which they were attacking
christians he went out and defended them
the french sang his praises even though
they had conquered his country and
driven him out of his own country he
defended them
in damascus he was honored in this
country khadar ohio
is named aft iowa is named after him
because he was honored as a noble
human being this is our prophet this is
how we see our prophet
now i would argue
that there is an element i i called this
years ago i gave a talk
at the globe theater about othello
it was after 9 11. and i argued that
you know iago santiago matamoros was the
patron saint
that drove out the moors from spain and
so shakespeare called this character
right the spanish advisor to hotel
the the moor and there there's an
argument that
iago was actually represented a certain
inside england that wanted to prevent an
alliance with queen elizabeth and the
moroccans against the spanish
because monsoor dahabi had argued for
that alliance
we have iagos working on both sides
whispering trying to get us to kill each
other to strangle the desdemona of hope
i mean this is what's going on and we
have to be very careful about that
i want to argue that when the
the first amendment which is such a
beautiful testimony
to the ideals of this country when that
was enacted we tend to forget there were
dueling laws in the united states of
the dueling laws were actually a caveat
to make sure that you did not use
freedom of speech to abuse
other people you could actually demand
satisfaction we have one of our founding
fathers was killed in a duel
because his honor was disparaged honor
is something real people hold to honor
i i'm actually a kentucky colonel
right and in kentucky if you're sworn in
to a a
a state uh public service
you have to swear that you've never been
in a duel because kentucky was the last
state to outlaw dueling
now in place of dueling they brought in
defamation laws defamation
laws to prevent defamation of character
during the warren court they had
sulaiman sullivan versus
the new york times to remove defamation
from public
officials and public characters so my
wife is protected under the defamation
laws but i'm not
it's not equal i don't think it's fair
you can't mess with my wife you can mess
with me
it's not fair she does it all the time
but i want to say honor is an important
thing and
anthropologists sometimes divide
societies into honor societies and into
law societies
honor is sometimes in place of law when
you don't have a strong legal system
honor becomes the way that people
problems that's why in the ghettos often
where you have a type of lawlessness
there's codes of honor
right you don't step on people's toes
because there's consequences to doing
that you don't diss their mothers
you don't diss their fathers right
because there are
consequences to that right you talking
to me
you talking to me you must be talking to
me i don't see anybody else here you
talking to me
right that's how it works in the hood
that's how it works in the hood right
so it's very important for us to really
deeply about these things and the harm
that these things cause
right and finally i want to say that if
this country would only apply
the advice of the united states army
from 1943
we could end all of the problems all
right so i want to read from
instructions for american servicemen
this was during the iraq when they were
in iraq in 1943. okay
page 12 no preaching
this isn't preaching
you probably belong to a church at home
and you know how you would feel towards
anyone who insulted or desecrated your
church the muslims feel just the same
perhaps even more strongly in fact
their feeling about their religion is
pretty much the same as
ours toward our religion although more
if anything we should respect the
the more for the intensity of their
that's the u.s government in 1943
i mean where the hell are they in in
right if you should see grown men
walking hand in hand
ignore it they are not queer
be kind and considerate to servants
iraqis consider
all people equals avoid any expression
of race prejudice 1943
avoid any expression of race prejudice
the people draw
very little color line
yeah so
finally we're living in the age of
mockery one of my favorite poets yates
wrote a poem about this come let us mark
at the great
that had such burdens on the mind and
toiled so hard and late to leave some
monument behind
nor thought of the leveling wind come
let us market the wise
with all those calendars where on they
fixed old aching eyes they never saw how
seasons run
and now but gape at the sun come let us
market the good
that fancied goodness might be gay and
sick of solitude might proclaim a
mock mockers after that that would not
lift a hand
maybe to help good wise or great to ba
bar that foul storm out for we traffic
in mockery