November 6, 2020

Freedom of Speech or Hate Speech

Freedom of Speech and expression is having great value around the globe. The constitution of each country guarantees the freedom of speech and expression in their constitutions. In Today’s world, discussion is being held on France, who used freedom of speech against one minority religion (Islam). The right wing ideologies around the world appreciated the freedom of speech. However, they are little aware about what is freedom of speech. After the French Revolution, the Country adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The declaration has 17 articles that were adopted between August 20 and August 26, 1789, by the National Assembly of France. The Article 1 of the declaration states that “All men are born and remain free and equal in rights”. Similarly article 10 and 11 are related to freedom of religion and freedom of speech respectively. While coming to the freedom of speech, a person has right to criticise everything, however, this freedom has limits in terms of racism, anti-Semitism, racial hatred, and justification of terrorism. Speaking on such issues is not considered as freedom of speech but they are offences. In modern legal test of the legitimacy of proposed restrictions on freedom of speech was stated in the opinion by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Schenk v. U.S. (1919): a restriction is legitimate only if the speech in question poses a “clear and present danger,”i.e., a risk or threat to safety or to other public interests that is serious and imminent. Many cases involving freedom of speech and of the press also have concerned defamation, obscenity, and prior restraint. In France, President Emmanuel Macron in a series of speeches started to criticise Islam and Suggested to defend the radical Islam against the Secular Values of France. However, his speech did not remain limited and he started to advise the global world by saying that “Islam is in Crisis all over the world”. Through his speech he attacked the Muslims worldwide.
Violence in any way should be stopped and such violence can be stopped in terms of Merkel said that freedom of speech has its limits. Those limits begin hatred is spread.
Soon after the several attacks on Islam, the Cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) were flagged on the buildings of France. After Two-Weeks, the crisis uplifted again when a school teacher namely Samuel Paty showed the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class, which resulted his assassination by an 18 Years old Chechen student. Instead of putting down the fire, Macron allowed the right to publish religious caricatures and showed his teeth not only to the French Muslims but all over the world. The hostile political rhetoric against Islam has increased polarisation France, which resulted that two Muslim women were stabbed in a park near the Eiffel Tower. The attackers were shouting racist slurs such as “dirty Arabs”. The attackers were not shot dead and even police did not record the attack as a hate crime. It is also been stated that in 2019, there were around one thousand Islamophobic incidents that took place in France including 70 physical attacks. However, no such event has been recorded by police as hate crime. Freedom of speech is a fundamental principle of all democracies. European Countries should restrict freedom of speech which would create law and order problem in the country. In a speech in 2019, Angela Merkel’s German Chancellor stated that “we have freedom of speech in our country and this freedom of speech has its limits and those limits begin when hated is spread. The limit starts when freedom of speech violates the dignity of other community. If such limits cannot be imposed on the freedom of speech, our society will no longer be the free society that it was. In France, even homophobic hate speech is prohibited, anti-abortion speech is ruled out, and then why anti-Islam speech becomes freedom of speech. Instead western countries should also know that Muslims have also embraced secularism, still Prophet Muhammad is also valuable to them. Not only Prophet Muhammad, even Jesus, Moses and other prophets that came on the earth are valuable for the Muslims worldwide. Insulting Muslims, offending their religious feelings and vilifying Islam hurt the sentiments of Muslims and if it continues it leads to extreme dislike, detestation, abhorrence and hatred, when lead to violence. Violence in any way should be stopped and such violence can be stopped in terms of Merkel said that freedom of speech has its limits. Those limits begin hatred is spread.
(The author is a post doctoral fellow at the Centre for Gandhian Thought and Peace Studies School of Social Sciences, Central University of Gujarat. Views are his own)
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