Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle: Abandoning hate speech and opening dialogue is key to understanding

Abandoning hate speech and opening dialogue is key to understanding

An incendiary banner that recently was posted on Washington Metro buses demonstrates that anti-Muslim sentiment remains a huge problem in our land.
THIS AD, SPONSORED by a hate group led by Pamela Geller, falsely claims that the Quran encourages Muslims to hate Jews. Her organization, Stop the Islamization of America, is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC also named Geller as a member of the “anti-Muslim inner circle.”

This is a propaganda campaign designed to incite hatred against American Muslims, and has been based on false information, taking things out of context from the Quran. Her SIOA group recently was denied a trademark after an appeals court ruled that the name disparaged Muslims.

The Quran clearly states the following:

“Verily, those who have attained to faith (in this divine writ), as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.” (2:62)

“SAY: ‘WE BELIEVE in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus; and that which has been vouchsafed to all the (other) prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them. And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.’” (2:136)

“O humankind! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” (49:13)

The right to free speech under the law is a freedom from government interference with speech. Still, we also hold it deeply as a value outside of the law.

Yet free speech is limited in many contexts. One can lose their job because of speech, and can be thrown out of all sorts of venues for inappropriate or offensive speech. It doesn’t have to rise to the level of crying “Fire!” in a crowded movie house.

Even hate speech must, barring an incitement to violence, be free from government intervention. But that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate it in our communities.

INSTEAD, WE SHOULD employ the complementary principles of defending a broad and open debate, even when some views disturb us deeply, and equally strong opposition to hate speech.

That combination leads to progress, broader tolerance and greater harmony for us all.

(The writers are, respectively, the imam of the Islamic Society of Augusta; and the coordinator of the Interfaith Fellowship of Augusta.)

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