Free speech, religion clash over film

Published: Wednesday | September 19, 2012 Comments 0

CERRITOS, California (AP):

While the man behind an anti-Islam movie that ignited violence across the Middle East would likely face swift punishment in his native Egypt for making the film, in America the government is in the thorny position of protecting his free-speech rights and looking out for his safety even while condemning his message.

It's a paradox that makes little sense to those protesting and calling for blood. To them, the movie dialogue denigrating the Prophet Muhammad is all the evidence needed to pursue justice, vigilante or otherwise, against Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, an American citizen originally from Egypt.

In America, there's nothing illegal about making a movie that disparages a religious figure. And that has the Obama administration walking a diplomatic tight-rope less than two months before the election, how to express outrage over the movie's treatment of Islam without compromising the most basic American freedom.

"The thing that makes this particularly difficult for the United States is that ... we treat what most of us would refer to as hate speech as constitutionally protected speech and Americans don't appreciate, I think, how unusual this position seems in the rest of the world," said Lawrence Rosenthal, a professor at Chapman University's School of Law in Orange, California.

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