The First Amendment to the US Constitution is enshrined in American values and culture. The Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment remains even though the international community is moving forward to abolish “hate speech,” discrimination and blasphemy. One can then ask the question, why are the United States an exception regarding the protection of freedom of expression?

The American understansing is that freedom of expression and freedom of speech do not permit government to dstinguish protected from unprotected speech. But how far should this freedom of speech go? The United States has a different definition of free speech than the international community. This explains its reservations regarding the ratification of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), a Convenant which is part of the International Bill of Human Rights. The United States was founded on the values of freedom and liberty. It is not in the American mentality to limit a person’s right to free speech. Consequently, it is only in 1992 (it had been adopted by the United Nations in 1966), that the United States of America ratified the ICCPR with reservations. A reservation was made on Article 20 (1.Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law and 2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law). The United States differ from the rest of the world on freedom of expression in that they do not permit the government to distinguish between protected and unprotected speech. The First Amendment protects the right of free speech and association by all means.

This definition issue is crucial today, when a movie “the Innocence of Muslims” which ridicules Islam and the Prophet Mohammed can lead to the killing of an American Ambassador, Chris Stevens. In a world recently shaken by the Arab Spring and where American diplomatic relations are tensed with the Arab world, it is not “good timing” to insult the fundamental values, culture and religion of an entire people.

This echoes the 2005 publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban with the shape of a bomb among other mocking and offensive drawings.

The First Amendment and freedom of speech must be protected. But at what cost? Why provoking hatred and violence in a world that is already unstable?

Gareth Price, in the Huffington Post “Do they hate us for our freedom of hate speech?” expressed the hypocrisy of Americans stating that hate speech must by all means be constitutionally protected. “It is a stunning piece of tautology: by definition, anyone who feels insulted by free speech is un-American, especially if they happen to be foreign.”

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