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Hate Speech Versus Freedom of Speech

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Message Sam Hamod

There is a significant difference between "freedom of speech" as guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution, and "hate speech," which is not allowed, and is a violation of our American laws.

This illiterate and theologically disadvantaged minister, Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, has crossed the line into "hate speech," and cannot be protected by the First Amendment because he is inciting people to violence against Muslims, and Muslims in America and overseas to violence against American citizens. The Hate Speech Law makes clear that if you incite violence against anyone, especially on religious, racial or ethnic grounds, you are breaking the law and you are "Guilty of Hate Speech." As the famed German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine put it, "first they burn the books, then they burn the people." Let us hope we don't have another holocaust because it was not done by Hitler alone, but by people who were ignorant and who fed the flames of anti-semitism, bigotry and self-adulation under the banner of God.

As with other Americans, I believe in the First Amendment, but this man has crossed the line; he created a situation that will lead to violence against American troops, against Americans anywhere in the Muslim world, and will create violence and polarization against Muslims in America and other places who speak for moderation. In a sense, this man is like the person who yells, "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!" in a crowded auditorium. He creates a problem that can lead to the deaths and destruction of many -- all for his own egotistical stand by his desire to burn Qur'ans.

If this is allowed, for even a moment, this picture of a burning Qur'an will be spread all over the Muslim world and will not only turn moderates into radicals but will give more ammunition to radicals. It will also show Muslims that the American government, the government of Florida and the city of Gainesville were afraid to act to prevent this man from yelling "FIRE!" It will allow this rabid egotist to show that he has a right to endanger our citizenry, insult Muslims (Muslims make up 30% of the world) and put not only our soldiers in further danger, but American citizens throughout the world as well. Thus, this would be a sad day for America, for Florida and it would besmirch the city of Gainesville.

I have talked with the city attorney's office and the city manager of Gainesville -- Mr. Nee and Mr. Blackwell -- and have left messages for the mayor, the fire chief and the police chief explaining that those of us who went to law school and know Constitutional Law know that the First Amendment does not protect the hate speech of Mr. Jones. I also made clear to them that if Mr. Jones is not arrested before he begins burning Qur'ans, it will cost the city of Gainesville at least $50,000-$60,000 to deal with this situation. Thus, Mr. Jones, for the sake of his own ego -- certainly not doing the work of God -- will cost the citizenry of Gainesville both money and reputation, and will cost the lives of our troops, as General Petraus has pointed out. This will make it harder for moderate Muslims like myself to be able to stop the radicals from further attacks against Americans who are working for peace.

Let us hope U.S. Attorney General Holder, the City Attorney of Gainesville, and the Attorney General of Florida will enforce our laws and stop this illiterate and very un-Christian man from his evil act of burning Qur'ans. Surely, God would not sanction the actions or hate speech of Terry Jones.

Let us hope there will be no "copy cat" ministers who try to get in on this along with Terry Jones. If this occurs, it will be extremely bad for America and any chance for getting along with the Islamic world because the radicals will have a field day with this madness.

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Sam Hamod, Ph.D. is a graduate professor; he has taught courses in creative writing, politics, religion, mass media and intercultural relations. He has one of the very few PhDs awarded by The Writers Workshop of The Univ. of Iowa, has published 12 (more...)
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