No “Innocence” in the Freedom to Malign

Category: Americas, Articles, Faith, Featured, Society | Topic: freedom, innocence | Values: freedom | Views: 2,642

Condemnation of an Amateurish and Repulsive Movie

The release of the repulsive movie “Innocence of Muslims” on the internet that has sparked so much outrage world-wide is as disgusting in its fallacious content as it is reprehensible in disregarding the religious sensibilities of over a billion Muslims. The New Republic said that the film “includes not a single artistically redeemable aspect at all.” The reviewer described the directing as “atrocious”; the sets “terrible”; the acting as consisting of “blank eyes and strained line readings”. The New York Daily News called it “obscenely inept vanity project” that is “far beneath any reasonable standard of movie-making.” 

Freedom of Expression is a noble concept that incorporates the freedom to choose the content of expression including the appropriate manner of expression. Like any other freedom, freedom of expression is not the “right” to just say or express anything. The moral responsibility that goes with freedom of expression implies that we at least be truthful, honest and that we not wittingly transgress the honor and dignity of others. Untruths, distorting facts and hateful expressions are therefore unacceptable. 

Not a License to Insult

Freedom of expression, it must be remembered, is not a license to insult (as in the case with the diabolical “Innocence of Muslims” movie). The harm here is not the freedom of expression per se, but rather the hatefulness or vindictiveness of the expression itself. Hate speech and defamation have a public orientation and undermines public good. (Hate speech is the purposeful distortion of facts intended to unjustly ridicule or discredit any individual, class of individuals, institution or faith.) The point to free speech advocates is that we can believe in both freedom of expression and the need for that freedom to be exercised responsibly. Obviously, making an insensitive blasphemous video falsely designed to denigrate a religion and its founder should never be celebrated as a rightful act of freedom. No one should ever abuse “freedom” as a deliberate pretext to malign or to provoke; for that desecrates the noble concept of freedom itself. 

Our Commitment

We, as people of faith and people of conscience, commit ourselves to … 
– uphold freedom of expression, but such “freedom” cannot and should not be used as a pretext to deliberately insult the rights, integrity, honor or faith of others. 
– urge those outraged to respond in the dignified manner that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself would have responded. 


Shaykh Sadullah Khan is the Director of Impower Development International