Protests and death in Middle East spark debate over religious tolerance, free speech
Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, senior religion editor for the Huffington Post, called making a film like "Innocence of Muslims," which depicts Islam's founder as a fraud, is "akin to shouting fire in a movie theater."
"Sam Bacile and his Islamohating cohorts appear to have created a symbiotic relationship with the violent Muslim extremists — each give the other a sense of self-righteousness and victimhood with a perfect circle of destruction."
But James Joyner, managing editor of the Atlantic Council, wrote in The National Interest that the right to free speech — no matter how offensive that speech may be — trumps the reaction it might provoke.
"We’re a country that recognizes the right of citizens to burn our flag in protest, understanding that the very fact that doing so outrages so many Americans demonstrates how powerful a form of speech it is."
And American Muslims are fearing a backlash here to the latest violence aimed at Americans.
Religion News Service reported that American Muslims condemned the violence in Egypt and Libya "but remain concerned that the deaths could rekindle anti-Muslim sentiment just as post-9/11 resentment was starting to ebb."
Some Muslims said the violence was not spontaneous, but rather orchestrated by Islamic fundamentalists, RNS reported.
"This is no coincidence, and I suspect the work of the public relations units of sophisticated terrorist groups who have been spoiling for a fight,” said Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. “It might be time that religious leaders in the Muslim world desist from playing the blasphemy card if they do not wish to hand a victory to provocateurs who are hell-bent on destabilizing their societies.”