In response to the recent violence across the Muslim world over the anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims”, U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed, in various speeches, the power and responsibility of freedom of expression, especially the unnecessary violence that ensues in certain circumstances.
Obama, in this week’s speech at the United Nations, condemned the video produced by Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in the United States that set violence raging across the Arab world as “crude and disgusting.”
“Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism … Slander of Prophet of Islam should be condemned just as desecrated churches are and the denial of Holocaust is,” Obama said.
But he said that however vile, no exercise of free speech that is protected by the U.S. Constitution could justify killing and violence.
“Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.
“Moreover, as president of our country, and commander-in-chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so.”
Obama also warned that in 2012 “when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.”
“The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.”
Meanwhile, Clinton said Washington rejected the film's message absolutely, and added, “It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and provoke rage.”
At the same time, Clinton noted U.S. religious tolerance and commitment to freedom of speech and said there was no justification for violence.
“I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not just prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day,” she said. “I would note that in today's world, with today's technologies, that is virtually impossible.”
“But even if it were possible, our country does have a long tradition of free expression which is enshrined in our constitution and our law. And we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.”