Keith Ellison on freedom of speech: "It's a good and bad thing" [INTERVIEW PART 3]

Categories: Keith Ellison

I believe that the movie is not in the heartland of what we call political speech. I believe that when we talk about political speech, [we're talking about] people who are making controversial but perhaps legitimate points of view based on their interpretation of some set of facts. This particular movie wasn't in that realm. This was what I would describe as 'incitement.' But, for a democratic society like ours, incitement is kind of a problem.
Ellison ascribes last week's anti-America Middle East unrest to 'religious extremists and regime loyalists.'

Most of the time, political speech, even if wrong or ill-advised, it invites a counter-argument and in the course of the back and forth maybe society learns an even greater truth. The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom, right? I might pull out an idea, maybe it's good, maybe it isn't. 'Maybe blacks should be able to sit anywhere they want on the bus' -- I think that's a fine idea, let's do it. So if you ban somebody because you didn't like it you would foreclose debate and not reach higher truth.

This isn't that type of speech. It is incitement. But, given our constitutional heritage and our culture, we don't have any good way to deal with it. Let's face it, there are people in America who would ban Islam if they could. I'm not joking. So what's the answer? There's only one. The only answer is that people of good will and good faith have to use their constitutional right to free expression to condemn incitement. Trying to craft a bill or statute to ban it is nearly impossible without banning some other type of speech that may be legitimate. I think it's crappy for the guy to have [created the anti-Islam film]. I think it's despicable actually but it's like when people want to burn a Koran.

What legitimate point of view is that? It's like Nazis marching to incite Jews in Skokie. There's no way to stop them from doing it, so I don't think there's any way to have a rule to ban the kind of incitement contained in that movie.

[But] we aren't helpless. Speaking up on a more powerful truth like saying all faiths should be respected, you don't have to like their faith but you shouldn't be openly antagonized. You see Coptic leaders denouncing this film, you see Jews, Christians, Muslim leaders, it's more powerful than just banning.

[It's like Don Imus] calling the Rutgers' women's basketball team 'nappy-headed hos.' It's the right of the private employer to take him off the air, the right of the listeners to demand that the speech was wrong and then [the employer] to say, 'I don't want to be associated with that.' The best thing to do would be with this movie, Koran burning, Nazis marching, is for people to say you have a right to do it but you're wrong.

A lot of foreign leaders don't understand. Nasrallah [leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah] said if [America] was really against the film, you'd ban it. Actually, no, you're wrong about that, but you don't understand this country.

Nasrallah doesn't understand that as a law abiding person he'd be able to practice Islam more freely in American than anywhere else in the world. If you are a Shia Muslim in Saudi Arabia, life is going to be hard. A Sunni in Iran, life is going to be hard. If you want to wear a religious [emblem] in Turkey, tough times. France, they want to ban you from wearing religious symbols. In Switzerland you can't build a mosque with a minaret on it. The thing about it, freedom of speech, it's a good and bad thing. It applies to everybody. Once you start making exceptions, you start the erosion of the principle.

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Keith Ellison: "Freedom of expression [is] deeply rooted in American history. But other countries don't have that same heritage. They just don't." Why not, and would it not be more accurate to say that no Muslim countries share this heritage with us? What is it about Islam that forbids any thought, speech, or expression that disagrees with it, and why does Islam react to such thoughts, speech, and expression with threats and acts of violence, destruction, and murder?


Keith Ellison: "This isn't that type of [political] speech. It is incitement. But, given our constitutional heritage and our culture, we don't have any good way to deal with it." No, Keith, I watched the trailer. There was no incitement to violence in it, unless one counts the quotes of Muhammad, which originate in the Koran, Hadith, and Sira. Besides, if a bunch of Christians wanted to make a movie that incited violence against Muslims, why wouldn't they just outright say: "Christians, go and kill Muslims." But there is nothing like that in the film. So far, the only people responding violently to the film have been Muslims, and their targets have been Americans and Westerners - people associated with Christianity or for being otherwise anti-Islamic. Why would Christians make a film to incite Muslims to kill other [perceived] Christians?


Keith Ellison: "But, given our constitutional heritage and our culture, we don't have any good way to deal with it." No good way to deal with it? How about just dealing with it, and ignoring it. Or better yet, you could debate the points of the film, and argue that Muhammad was not a rapist, pedophile, thief, or murderer. You could argue that from the Islamic sources, and... Oh wait a minute, the Islamic sources do confirm that Muhammad was all those bad things and more. Better to just denounce as bigots and hatemongers people who point out the truth about Muhammad.


Keith Ellison: "Trying to craft a bill or statute to ban it is nearly impossible without banning some other type of speech that may be legitimate." Why not be honest, Keith, and just come out with legislation banning anything critical of Islam, then there will be no fear on your part that speech you deem "legitimate" will be banned.


Keith Ellison: "What legitimate point of view is that? [Koran burning/Nazis marching in Skokie]: Perhaps none, but who is to say which points of view are legitimate and which are not? You, Keith? Sorry, but I do not you being the determiner of which points of view are legitimate, any more than you want me to determine that for you. I doubt many Mormons thought the play "Book of Mormon" was legitimate. As a Christian, I do not think that Andres Serrano's Piss Christ so-called art is legitimate. Should those both be banned? If not, then why suggest we ban "Innocence of Muslims, “or any other criticism of Islam?


I watched the thirteen minute trailer of the Innocence of Muslims. It was not incitement to violence, but it was sort of a bizarre parody of the coming of Muhammad, as described in the canonical Islamic sources. And while I am not critical of them that produced it, I am not interested in watching the entire film. As a target of Islamic aggression, I want to know as much about Islam as possible. I think that is better accomplished by reading books and watching documentaries by legitimate scholars who stand foursquare for the West and refuse to whitewash the reality of Islam and what the jihadists would have in store for us. That said, every now and then, we need to mock the jihadists and ridicule their ridiculous religion and their mythical pedophile of a prophet. Here is my attempt at that. The following emoticon is Muhammad:  :(

Why is he sad? Why, because he is dead, in hell, with no virgins, and getting ripped open and his innards sprawled to the ground every day, for all eternity (at least per Dante’s Inferno).  Was that provocative and offensive? Yes? Incitement? No! Should some Muslim chance upon does it give him the right to harm me or others? Does it? Does it?

CinBlueland topcommenter

Too bad this was done before the news broke that the attack was a planned terrorist attack and had nothing to do with the video except as one more thing for them to be ticked off about. The admin had warnings 2-3 days in advance and the solution? Make plans to be on Letterman.


 @senatortombstone Did you miss the part where Rep. Ellison said Muslims are more free to practice their religion in the US than any other country on Earth? I don't think he was criticizing free speech...

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

 @CinBlueland One reason lying idiots like you are ignored by sensible people is you look to blame Obama for every single thing that goes wrong.   This is because you are a stupid racist asshole who has hated Obama from day one.  You have  zero credibility since you are openly racist (Cin regularly "likes" comments using racial slurs and racist language)  and people like you have blamed Obama for everything from swine flu to this latest embassy nonsense.  I'm sure your dumbass read some made up nonsense on Fox News and now you think sane people need to hear it.   Luckily most people are way smarter than stupid fools like you.  Even if your lie was true and Obama screwed up and got a few people killed its nothing compared to the last time a Republican was in charge of the United States.   George W. Bush put stupid people in charge of national security and then ignored direct warnings about 9/11.  His stupidity allowed 9/11 to happen and then couldn't catch the guy that did it  in 7 years.  It must make you so angry to know Obama is such a badass he didn't even need 4 years to kill Bin Laden.  Obama killed Bin Laden but you are so racist you think people will believe he is weak on dealing with terrorists.  It's pathetic how your tiny brain works.   Stupid racist fools like you are the reason people see the Republican Party as a joke.  Obama will easily win reelection and there is nothing stupid racist liars like you can do to prevent that. 

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