Last week, the Middle East and North Africa erupted in a series of protests against the anti-Islam trailer — available on YouTube — for the amateur film “Innocence of Muslims,” which was produced in the United States. The film, a blatant mockery of Islam and overarching insult to Muslims worldwide, has also resulted in violent protests that led to the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Since the uprisings, Google, the company that owns YouTube, has disabled access to the film in Egypt, Libya, India, Indonesia and Afghanistan, causing uneasy reactions worldwide.
I would like to start out by saying “Innocence of Muslims” should not have been produced. The 14-minute trailer available online is a pathetic and blatantly disrespectful depiction of a group of people; it is rude, unwarranted and racist. The production of this film, especially in a country where Islam is unfortunately a sensitive topic, exists for no other purpose than to make fun of a religion and to incite hatred. It is neither funny nor acceptable.
With that said, I believe Google is perfectly justified in blocking the film clip in the aforementioned Middle Eastern countries. As of now, America is the number one enemy for many people of the region. Many have died as a result of viewing this video. In order to restore relative peace, it is important for viewing “Innocence of Muslims” to be limited; its accessibility will only make people angrier. I believe Muslims and non-Muslims alike are perfectly justified in feeling angry over this film. Unfortunately, anger often translates into destructive and regressive violence, especially when the violence occurs at the expense of innocent people who had nothing to do with the film’s creation.
As for the First Amendment right to free speech, I understand the director and producer of “Innocence of Muslims” has complete legal rights to post the video, even though I disagree with the decision to do so — let alone create it. Those who disagree with Google’s limitation on the potential viewing of the trailer on the grounds of free speech should take note that Americans have complete access to the video clip. However, we should not forget the infamous exception to the right of free speech: the clear and present danger clause. Since this trailer was released, four people have been murdered, and U.S. Embassies have been under attack for days. I would consider these protests directed at our fellow Americans abroad to be a perfect example of clear and present danger.
The Obama Administration suggested that Google reexamine its policy for removing videos, with specific reference to the appropriateness of “Innocence of Muslims.” This was a smart move for the Obama Administration, as it respects Americans’ right to free speech while encouraging a closer look at what exactly should be spoken about freely. India and Indonesia specifically requested that Google block the video in their respective countries, and Google has adhered to their request.
While I firmly support free speech, I want to stress the limitations guarding this freedom. “Innocence of Muslims” is cheap and pathetic, becoming a means of inciting violence and hatred. The danger for Americans, as well as Middle Easterners, is clear and present. As such, I fully support Google’s decision to block the video in certain countries.
Terri Burns is a contributing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.