Does Freedom of Speech Give People the Right to Use Hate Speech?
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist” Salman Rushdie. The quote perfectly sums up the never-ending debate about freedom of speech and hate speech. It is a well-known fact that freedom of speech and expression belongs to the group of fundamental human rights of every person on this planet. Lately, we are witnessing the rising concerns about hate speech, is it protected by this basic human right or freedom of speech should have some limitations? Given the fact that every individual is allowed to express thoughts and beliefs, banning the negative comments would, in fact, deny his or her basic rights i.e. freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech reinforces all other human rights, thus allowing society to develop and progress at a constant rate. The ability to state our opinion and speak freely is pivotal for any change in society. Throughout the history, society evolved thanks to the individuals, great thinkers, brave leaders, who were not scared to express their beliefs. Back in time, those beliefs that were contrary to the typical “mindset” would be considered as hate, a hatred towards their way of life, culture, and tradition. The most reputable professors, experts, and campaigners only confirm that free speech has always been used to fight for change, for better times.
Besides reinforcement of other human rights, free speech is also essential due to the ability to hear others and be heard at the same time. We need to hear other people’s views as well as offering them our own opinions. Unfortunately, one of the fastest-growing problems of our society is that people rarely listen to others and acknowledge their takes on certain topics if they don’t agree with them. We should feel comfortable exchanging ideas and thoughts with those who have opposing views. Experts agree that way there would be less “hate speech” circling around.
We hear or read the term “hate speech” a lot, especially now with the easy internet access and a multitude of social media websites to join. It comes as no wonder why insulting comments and expressing negative ideas are considered a threat to the humanity. A lot of people are anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-gay marriage, and so on. Those who assume hate speech is not a freedom of speech, primarily, focus on the expression of a negative attitude towards certain people and ideas. However, if we start banning people from expressing their beliefs, then what comes next? After one thing, there always comes another and, eventually, the mankind would live in fear of saying anything. The reality is that the society has become oversensitive; everything one does not agree with is considered insulting and branded as hate.
Finally, freedom of speech is the most important human right that every individual has the right to exercise. This freedom comes with the ability to express one’s opinion, regardless of its nature good or bad. What our society needs today are not limitations of free speech, but making efforts to establish dialogues between people with conflicting beliefs. Listening and being heard will go a long way; that way we could build bridges instead of burning them.
Freedom of speech is something that is authorized to every person. No matter rich or poor, young or old, every person holds different opinion and it’s their right to express it. The definition of Freedom of speech is that every person has the right to express his/her opinion without the fear of government or society. This is why it is said ‘Speech is not limited to public only’. Being individuals, we are all different. We all possess different ideas, tastes and thinking. Freedom of speech is something like freedom of thoughts. If we are comfortable with each other’s freedom of thoughts like ‘every person has the right to follow his thoughts, conscience’ then why we hate when someone express their ideas or opinions despite the fact that opinions are just opinions, never right or wrong.
From today’s society, the only answer that can be considered satisfactory is that we have changed the definition of ‘freedom of speech’. We have changed our way of expressing ideas. We have become intolerant especially on the social media where we all act like having a furious debate and desperate to win it. I have myself seen a lot many cases like this, when someone does not like someone else’s article, they just start commenting criticism and disparage others by expressing their thoughts with the belief that only they are accurate. This self-centered attitude starts a never ending debate which spread nothing else but sectarianism, hatred, abhorrence and hostility.
This is why it is said ‘freedom of speech should be limited now a days’. It’s actually the reason behind needless fights when a person wants to prove his opinion right at any coast. Basically it means that now a day people insult each other for holding different opinions from them. ‘Hatred takes energy’ so why waste our energy on proving ourselves right by insulting others. Instead we should accept and respect other’s opinions and move on.
Freedom of speech is every being’s fundamental right but unfortunately, today, some people are using it to propagandize aggressiveness, intolerance and enmity. Every person should be given right to express but before expressing; it’s their responsibility to have set some limits.
Charlie Hebdo’s act which was given name of ‘freedom of speech’ was in fact a freedom to insult according to Muslim community. They published the cartoons of a highly revered personality in Islam; Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).This act is not only forbidden in Islam but also caused many Muslims to suffer emotional pain and resentment at such an open exhibition of hatred in the name of freedom of expression.Ironically the same magazine, in 2008, fired one of its cartoonists for publishing ‘anti-Semitic’ statement. On the other hand, this is also true that it has the past of issuing cartoons or articles that mock other religions. Prophet (PBHUH) is the central figure of Islam and Muslims love and respect him more than themselves, their parents and their children. Nobody likes it when some person mocks or criticizes them or their families, then how can the magazine name it ‘freedom of speech’ by cartooning a sacred human in an improper way. This defamation of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) caused indignation among many young Muslims who felt alienated at the spread of hate speech in the name of ‘freedom of expression’. Although the terrorist attack on the magazine is equally condemnable and cannot be justified in any case. But, had the magazine exhibited some responsibilities in the usage of ‘freedom of expression’ this world would have escaped a horrific terror attack.
Talking and doing are two contrasting things. No one has the mastery to change what’s in your mind but problem arise when you act on it and enforce your opinions on others. The way Charlie Hebdo chooses to express which they called their ‘opinion’ was totally wrong and unacceptable by Muslims.
Let’s take another present example in front of us. Donald Trump, a famous name and Republican Presidential candidate of 2016 presidential elections of the USA, is notorious for his racial remarks. He refused to rent homes to black people, he refuses to condemn the violence against Muslim Americans and African-Americans executed by his supporters, he asks to ban Muslims from America, he mocks Chinese and Japanese for their heritage and English. Irony is his supporters label it all as ‘freedom of speech’ but in actual it is his loathing that contains no limits.
I am not arguing that we should curtail the right of ’freedom of speech’. I espouse the fact that one should have complete liberty to describe ideas and opinions as ideas breed innovation and progress. On the other hand it is equally wrong to spread hatred, to malign and defame fellow human beings in the name of freedom of speech.
Just as the right to hold a licensed gun does not grant someone a license to shoot a human being, it is the responsibility of the gun holder to use it with extreme care, similarly the right of ‘freedom of expression’ should be practiced carefully so that we may not spread hatred and ignite violence in the society.
I would like to conclude with a prudent remark of J. K. Rowling in her famous book ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’
Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.