Did The President Attack The First Amendment Today, Or Was It An Attack on Blasphemy?

Every conservative website seems to be carrying the following sentence from the President’s speech today and my own Facebook page shows folks are apoplectic over it:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.

By those words, some make the case that the sentence is proof of anything from Obama’s disrespect for the First Amendment to his support for terrorists who kill for cartoons.

Obviously I would not support the President on any of those things.

Yet when I read the transcript and saw the larger context, I couldn’t help but wonder (just wondering here – not asserting) if the President was actually making the case that blasphemy is bad no matter whose religion is under attack. I can support that (not laws against blasphemy, but I’m a fan of politeness).

Now, analysis of these things usually goes something like this: If one generally dislikes the speaker, bad intentions are presumed and future bad acts based upon those intentions are feared.

If one generally likes the speaker, good intentions are presumed and no future bad acts are feared.

I’m not saying that is a bad way to go. Character matters, as does what we know about a person. If I’m an odds maker, I’m laying pretty good odds that I can infer bad intentions from a speech by Charles Manson and good intentions from a speech by Pope Benedict.

When dealing with the extremes it’s easy. It’s a little tougher when not.

So please take a read of the full context below and let me know what it all portends for his future acts, based upon what we know about the man who said it:

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

  1. Lucy Pevensie

    At first I thought you were right, Tommy.  Then I reread the passage, and this is what jumped out at me:

    The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims.

    There is an equation here between those who criticize Mohammed and those who destroy churches or deny the Holocaust, as though Muslims had an equal amount to fear from their enemies as we have to fear from some Muslims.  That is just wrong. Those same people who destroy churches also kill Christians and Jews, and to act as though the two groups are morally equivalent is just wrong.

  2. david foster

    Why should *religion* be more protected from offensive speech than any other belief system…and what, precisely, qualifies as a religion? If we mock the extreme-environmentalist believers in a conscious Gaia, are we committing blasphemy? How about believers in astrology, or magical crystals? How about Nazi believers in the ancient Teutonic gods?

    And why should beliefs with a supernatural belief content receive more protection than comprehensive but non-supernatural belief systems? A dedicated Marxist has as much emotional investment in his beliefs as does a fundamentalist Baptist or an extreme Muslim.

  3. Leslie Watkins
    KC Mulville:  … Islamic fanatics killed our ambassador two weeks ago, and Obama’s response is to reject intolerance, and question where the roots of Islamic rage come from?

    If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an embassy, or to put out statements of regret and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis — because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes that we hold in common.

    Peace through therapy. · 22 minutes ago

    Apparently Obama has never heard of the will to power—in the case of jihadists, absolute power. For someone who thinks of himself as being extremely well-read, the president is sorely lacking in an understanding of basic human psychology.

  4. Johnny Dubya

    “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

    True, taking this sentence out of context makes it sound creepy, and seemingly ammunition for those who believe the president is a closet Muslim.  In context, it reads differently.

    And I applaud the president for the sentence that follows the one above:  “Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied.”

    However, this is the more important point:  Earlier, the president stated, “The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt…”

    Do you see what he did here?  He created a false equivalence.  The future must not belong to (1) those who discriminate against, attack, and brutalize Coptic Christians, treating them like second-class citizens and worse; and the future also must not belong to (2) those who make rude comments, videos, cartoons, etc. about Muhammed or Islam. 

    The actions described in (1) and (2) are not remotely similar.

  5. Tommy De Seno
    C

    The thought being put into the analysis in this thread is amazing.  More ways to look at this than I could have imagined.  

    I’m in awe of the Ricochet membership!

  6. bagodonuts
    Misthiocracy

    Tommy De Seno:

    The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. 

    The problem here is the hypocrisy of it all.

    When has Barack Obama ever condemned Andres Serrano?

    When has Barack Obama ever condemned Trey Parker and Matt Stone?

    When has Barack Obama ever condemned Richard Dawkins?

    As far as I’m aware, the President of the United States has never condemned any of those people … nor should he. · 13 minutes ago

    RE: government condemnation of those who desecrate images of Jesus. Condemnation??? I’m a Christian, but I don’t need this. Rather, I’d be happy if Obama merely took a strong line against funding it. I won’t hold my breath.

  7. Leslie Watkins

    I’m totally with you, David.

    david foster: Why should *religion* be more protected from offensive speech than any other belief system…and what, precisely, qualifies as a religion? If we mock the extreme-environmentalist believers in a conscious Gaia, are we committing blasphemy? How about believers in astrology, or magical crystals? How about Nazi believers in the ancient Teutonic gods?

    And why should beliefs with a supernatural belief content receive more protection than comprehensive but non-supernatural belief systems? A dedicated Marxist has as much emotional investment in his beliefs as does a fundamentalist Baptist or an extreme Muslim. · 5 minutes ago

  8. Albert Arthur, 16th Earl of Tuftonboro, Lord Dime-Hacker, not an Editor, etc.
    Lucy Pevensie: At first I thought you were right, Tommy.  Then I reread the passage, and this is what jumped out at me:

    The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims.

    There is an equation here between those who criticize Mohammed and those who destroy churches or deny the Holocaust, as though Muslims had an equal amount to fear from their enemies as we have to fear from some Muslims.  That is just wrong. Those same people who destroy churches also kill Christians and Jews, and to act as though the two groups are morally equivalent is just wrong. · 3 minutes ago

    Great point! Insult Mohammed, get your head chopped off. Insult Morani… win some Tony awards.

  9. R. Craigen

    We’ll see if he is serious about it when he excoriates Hillary for her enthusiastic, public approval and support of the P*ss Christ exhibit a few years back, along with her strongly supporting the public funding for that project.

    Oh yes, and the elephant-dung madonna.

    Trouble is, nobody wants to go back to blasphemy laws, but Obama will likely do this and then magnanimously announce that it was with sadness that he had to bend to compromise on Freedom of Speech “because of pressure from Conservatives”. If conservatives can’t unspin this sort of putrid lie, were doomed. 
  10. doc molloy

    But does  this 1979 newspaper column offer any clues?

    “It also might be considered more than coincidence that the author of that 1979 newspaper column was from Chicago, where Barack Obama settled in 1986 a few years after his stint at Columbia University. It is certainly surprising that the author of that column was none other than Vernon Jarrett, the future (and later former) father-in-law of Valerie Jarrett, who ultimately became the consigliatore of the Obama White House.”

    Obama’s strange dependance on Valerie Jarrett 

  11. Schrodinger

    Truth is an absolute defense against “slander”. To the extent that the comments about Islam and Mohamed are true, then there is no slander.

    To call Mohamed a pedophile is not slander because it is acknowledged, even by Islamic sources, that Mohamed had sexual relations with Aisha when she was nine years old.

    Some of what is said about Islam and Mohamed in the “disgusting” video is true and NOT slander. See, http://www.pi-news.org/2012/09/fact-check-the-innocence-of-the-muslims/#more-7364

     

     

  12. Misthiocracy

    One last point:

    Does President Barack Obama condemn Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses?  It’s a slander of the prophet of Islam, is it not?

  13. Eeyore

    President Present proffers pusillanimous platitudes

    You can take almost any position about blasphemy, freedom of speech, tolerance and a bunch of other stuff, and Obama could say “I supported that,” or “I didn’t support that,” or “I condemned that” -whatever the needs of the moment are, given to whom he is speaking. 

    Unfortunately, when you stick your tongue out far enough to make those sorts of twists and turns, you’ll eventually trip on it and fall on your face. Hopefully he will find himself in a position where he will have to explain to a national audience how he holds two contradictory positions in the same place at the same instant. And it happens before Nov. 6.

  14. David Williamson

    It’s that darn Constitution with its negative rights – so inconvenient  when you want to follow Europe and Canada into some form of ban on blasphemy – especially for a certain unmentionable religion.

    I’m sure its just a coincidence that this is also the desire of the UN, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. 

  15. Essgee

    More to the point.  This is the perspective that can change the meaning of that speech:

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2012/09/25/Islamic-States-Free-Speech-Code

    Tomorrow, the Islamic states will be pushing for criminalization of free speech and the institution of international blastphemy laws.  In this context, the above quote might prove to be worrisome.

  16. Raw Prawn

    The speech is a representative sample of Obama rhetoric in that every hearer can take from it whatever they wanted to hear.  The islamists will hear only “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” while the can’t we all just get along crowd will hear a defence of free speech and an appeal for tolerance.

    Back in 2008 a majority thought they were promised free health care.

    Usually, it’s impossible to slander Mohammed, or his followers, at least not if truth is a defence, but I note that in this speech the One managed to do it.  It was not Muslims who funneled public money to a museum showcasing Serano’s “Piss Christ” and it was not Muslims who thought it was clever. 

    Note that the One did not say it outright; he just implied it by juxtaposition and moved on quickly so few would have time to recall it was his “tolerant” left wing intelligentsia who did those things.

  17. Umbra Fractus

    I have to agree with John Murdoch. I was willing to give the President the benefit of a doubt until I got to that part about intolerance being a form of violence. If that’s true then the “fire in a theater” analogy suddenly becomes operable; it’s fairly universally agreed that free speech is inapplicable when violence is imminent.

    It’s like the “you didn’t build that” line; the President’s defenders’ context is itself taken out of context.

  18. Skyler

    I intend to blaspheme, and I demand that my president protect my right to do so.

    I intend to slander their prophet, and I demand that my president protect my right to do so.

    I intend to speak for freedom of speech, and I demand that my president protect my right to do so.

  19. Astonishing

     

    Tommy De Seno: . . blasphemy is bad no matter whose religion is under attack. I can support that  . . .

    So it’s bad to “blaspheme” this religion?

    codex_magliabechiano_human_sacrifice.jpg

     The insidiousness of moral and cultural relativism makes me want to tear my hair out . . . a reaction which, according to the relativists, makes me no better than the ones who want to tear my heart out.

    I guess in the end it really does depend on who gets to define “blasphemy.”

  20. Sweet and Low
    Astonishing:  

    Tommy De Seno: . . blasphemy is bad no matter whose religion is under attack. I can support that  . . .

    So, a Christian who tries to convert Muslims deserve to die?

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