I pop into BT this morning to see if I can find out when the spying hearings are on and I find an endorsement by SusanHu and others of the completely offensive portrayal of the prophet Mohammed. How utterly disappointing and devastating.

Does the issue deserve discussion? Absolutely. Does that image deserve to be reprinted on a progressive, left-wing blog? Absolutely not.

Is this a free speech issue? Definitely. Are there acceptable limits on free speech? Absolutely. Free speech laws exist not only to provide people with the opportunity to voice their opinions, but also to protect those whose voices/opinions/beliefs may be marginalized to such an extent that they are then placed at risk. I’m proud to live in a country (Canada) that has hate speech laws so that those who choose to defame others to the extreme have no public voice. Let their hatred fester in their sick minds. It doesn’t deserve a public forum.
Liberals constantly berate right-wing extremists like Pat Robertson for his insane rantings because you know that his dangerous ramblings attract eager followers, yet it’s okay to support this portrayal of the prophet (remember this – Islam does not allow any images of Mohammed) by stating that it’s just some right-wing propaganda trick to garner support for a war on Iran? What kind of rationalization is that?

The fact that some Muslin extremists are reacting with violence ought not even be a factor here. This is offensive to all Muslims. Those extremists are just using this opportunity to cause violence. This is about the broader picture and I think it’s more than appropriate to recall the sick characterizations of Jews that fostered Hitler’s murderous campaigns when considering this issue.

This isn’t the free speech hill to die on. This is about understanding that respect for all people, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, social status, disability etc is a core belief of liberals – at least it is for this liberal.

Since 9/11, the Muslim community and community leaders of all stripes have sought to foster understanding in the world of the real aims of Islam. It seems that some have yet to learn those lessons, despite years of education. Sadly, I find some of those people here.

Don’t respond with something like: ‘this has nothing to do with Islam; it’s about the protection of free speech’. That’s simply choosing denial over reality and if you claim to live in the ‘reality-based community’, take those blinders off because you have totally missed the point. This is about spreading yet another ugly and abhorrent distortion of the Muslim religion and that’s all it’s about. And if you believe that Muslims should give up their right to be protected from hate speech, then you must be prepared for your rights to be stripped away as well. Haven’t you had enough of that already? Or, will you simply just sit back and take it?

Many of you know what it’s like to feel utterly powerless in the face of those who seek to destroy your beliefs – no matter which category they fall into: abortion rights threatened? same sex marriage crushed by a constitutional amendment? racial status marginalized? privacy invaded? You fight against every effort to take away your equality. Why would you lay down and surrender when others rights are at stake? Is that what it means to be a liberal? That definitely is not what it means to this liberal.

Today, I find myself deeply saddened by these developments. Having listened to the incredibly inspirational speakers at Coretta Scott King’s funeral this week, I was struck by the fact that greatness is a calling that we are all born to hear. Only a few actually heed that call and take up the extraordinary challenges that greatness demands because the responsibilty is overwhelming. Greatness, however, does not occur in a vacuum. It must be surrounded with the love and support of others who are like-minded and equally bound to the cause. Humility ensures that we seek those people out and challenge those who would choose to set us back – always acknowledging that truth and an understanding spirit must be the ultimate goal.

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