Hate Speech, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), US Ambassador Chris Stevens, US First Amendment Rights, Violent protests across North Africa and Middle East
Bodies of Libya Ambassador Chris Stevens and Three Colleagues Return to USA
On the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, an Internet video clip of the film, “Innocence of Muslims,” triggered a wave of ongoing violent protests in Muslim nations across North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. During the protest outside the U.S. Consulate in Libya, the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans lost their lives.
The California-made film, according to reports, depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a womanizer, child molester, and fool. In the United States, such an expression of hate speech is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
During my first year as a newbie immigrant, I had difficulties adjusting to the freedom of expression I did not enjoy for many years in my native land. The ways in which Americans ridicule the president and other political leaders on national television shocked me. At my workplace, a co-worker was exercising her right of free speech when she told me that “(my) food stinks,” and left the table we shared with two other co-workers.
That offensive remark is nothing compared to the hateful insults hurled daily at others in our schools, work and public places. Once a person is not inciting violence or there is no danger of imminent violence, hate speech is not a criminal offense in the United States. This is not the case in the majority of other nations. Under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (treaties.un.org), “any advocacy of national, racial or racial hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” While there is no agreed definition of hate speech in international law, many nations have clearly defined hate speech regulations.
The producer and propagator of the video denigrating Islam have created a crisis situation for our nation, cost the lives of four Americans, the destruction of American property, and put the lives of Americans living and working in those countries at risk. These events should serve as a warning to our nation that, in the age of the Internet, hate speech can quickly spread beyond our borders and return to hurt us, and may even threaten our national security.
Hate speech begins with me. Hate speech begins in my home. Although I have the right to use hate speech, today and henceforth, I endeavor not to express hateful things to or about others regarding their religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical appearance, and more. I can disagree with others without using hate speech.
Hate speech can erode the self-worth of another person. Hate speech can cause the victim to take his or her life. Hate speech can cause the victim to plan and execute vengeful killings. Hate speech can cause innocent people to lose their lives. Hate speech can start another war.