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Freedom of speech or hate speech: Where’s the line?

by Julio Castro, Contributor

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Freedom of speech.

This is what democracy permits. This is what makes America great. Whether it’s on campus with the occasional clashes of the Christians versus the Atheists, or even within American media outlets that may be indirectly promoting a misconstrued, politicalized image of certain religions.

It is a key thought to keep in mind, that like with any individual right found within the U.S. Constitution, there are clearly limits. For the basis of this article, I explore the question of where that limit exactly is.

When fellow Aztecs make their way to class or enjoy a meal outside of East Commons, they may find a group of other students near them surrounding an individual who begins preaching of certain religious ideology.

More specifically, I’m referring to the instances when these individuals hold up signs stating “Muhammad is a pervert” or “Muhammad is this or that” or preach about the religion of Islam.

The problem here is not the act of preaching, but of what is being communicated. Sure, one can turn away from ignorance but does that then mean that ignorance is no longer existing or has an influence on the misconceptions toward the religion of Islam?

Especially during a time of heightened tension between the Middle East and the U.S., should ignorance be tolerated? The point I want to make clear is that anyone is allowed to say anything — America is a free country — but does that then give a green light for one to disrespect another’s religion, is this the American way?

The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution was drafted to protect unpopular speech. However, one must acknowledge that such speech pertaining to bigotry is not positively accepted, socially or politically.

Furthermore, it is truly troubling being a part of a college audience that has been taught over the years in the education system to soak up information like a sponge, rather than engage in the lost art of critical thinking.

Or simply questioning the basis of what is being communicated by the one preaching.

One may even dare to refer back to John Dewey, an educational reformist in the early 1900s, and his philosophy of teaching and education, that it shall be an interactive questioning process between the teacher and the student.

So, question, my fellow Aztecs.

Some of us may think that these preachers are completely ignorant of sensibility and respect, but unless we engage in an academic form of debate, we tend to fall victim to emotional remarks without any basis of reasoning for counterarguments. This just adds fuel to the fire. Plus, we reside at the most convenient setting to permit us to question, so let us use this as an opportunity to apply what we’re learning.

We’re not just learning to pass exams … right?

Nevertheless, the main issue at hand here is that what is being preached by these individuals may be indirectly feeding Islamophobia. In order to understand the religion of Islam, you cannot believe everything you read on the Internet or hear from your peers or these preachers. Especially during a technological age where we Google everything.

Freedom of speech can be a beautiful or horrible thing depending on perspective. Especially during an era where some of the American public actually supports some of Republican candidate Donald Trump’s propounded ideas.

And that’s tolerable.

Again, it’s the beautiful or horrible thing about democracy, depending on perspective. At the same time, it is an understatement that Islam seems to be the scapegoat of modern society, mainly because of recent terrorist acts committed by groups claiming to be belonging to Islamic faith.

Although some belonging to the Christian faith may state that they do not condone the views of those who condemn other religions, it is still valid to state that these ill-informed comments indeed affect the negative view of Islam.

Similarly, many Muslims publicly stated that they did not condone the acts of the terrorists during the attacks in Paris. It’s rather interesting to inquire why that fact wasn’t front page news on the major news networks.

Ultimately, where is the line drawn between freedom of speech and hate speech?

Some may completely disagree with my article.

And that’s fine. Because of the freedom to disagree.

The dialectical tension within the fabric of democracy is indeed congested with the amount of differing opinions. However, human dignity and respect is perhaps a commonality that everyone should be able to understand and relate to.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Freedom of speech or hate speech: Where’s the line?”

  1. Gary Fouse on March 16th, 2016 6:52 pm

    There is another phobia, which is much more prevalent on college campuses-yet mostly ignored.

    As a part-time teacher at the Univ of Calif at Irvine (and a Gentile), I can personally attest to the anti-Semitic nature of the never-ending campaign against Israel on our campuses.

    Pls read the below report for empirical evidence of the link between BDS and anti-semitism.

    http://www.amchainitiative.org/first-hard-evidence-antizionism-fueling-antisemitism

    Anti-Semitism is resurgent world-wide. In the US, the focal point of this resurgence is on our college campuses.

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