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Limits to free speech

January 23, 2015
Lenny Barretto
Daly City

The massacre in Paris on Jan. 7 at the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo rightfully deserved universal condemnation. No matter what the provocation settling through violence is never justified, although Charlie Hebdo cartoons were hurtful and racist and should not have been published. Many Muslims have said “Nothing is more immoral, offensive and insulting against our beloved prophet than such a callous act of murder.” But I do stand for freedom of speech. There should be no limits on free speech, unless it directly incites violence – the cartoons did incite violence – so should not have been published.

Pope Francis en route to the Philippines said that there are limits to freedom of speech especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith. Defending free speech he said is the fundamental human right, but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of some good. But, he said there were limits “You cannot provoke, you cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” He illustrated his view by saying that if his friend Cardinal Gasparri were to insult his mother, he can expect a punch. Pope Francis said throwing a pretended punch his way.

Recently the Vatican and four prominent French imams issued a joint statement that denounced the attacks but also urged the media to treat religion with respect. Muslims expect respect for the prophet the same way as they value the prophets of Judaism and Christianity. Attack on the prophet was intended to humiliate Muslims, but violence is no answer to this – dialogue is.

Religion has always been a sensitive issue as history as shown over and over again. We do not go around ridiculing other peoples’ religion or beliefs and not expect some reaction. We should be concentrating on mutual respect and good will and not alienation.

We should live together in peace and with respect for each other. 

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