Freedom of speech?

03.07.03

A Palestinian-American was just acquitted of sending online death threats to Jews.

A federal court jury found Fowad Assed, a Palestinian-born U.S. citizen living in Brooklyn, innocent of sending threatening e-mails, referring to three messages to the Jewish Defense League that threatened bombing businesses in Borough Park, a heavily Jewish neighborhood.

Assed, 33, never denied sending the e-mails, which were sent to the militant Jewish group the day after the Israeli army declared it was going after Palestinian groups following suicide bombings.

Defense Attorney Deborah Colson had argued that while the messages might be offensive, Assed was exercising his rights to free speech.

One e-mail stated: “If you kill an Arab today over there, we will kill a Jew in the U.S. … We should go to 13th Avenue in Brooklyn and set bombs in the stores there.”

Times like these test our desire for certain freedoms. In Canada, Assed would almost certainly have been convicted under hate legislation. But in the U.S., he’s apparently free to threaten to blow up as many Jews as he wants.

Of course, that’s the whole point, right? Once you start curbing your enemies’ freedoms, you’re also giving them leverage to curb yours. Deny freedom of speech to the devil, and he can turn the tables right back on you. And the true test of a democracy’s commitment to freedom is whether it grants that freedom to its most flagrant and despicable abusers. Fowad Assed being a case in point.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peter 03.08.03 at 7:31 AM

Well, I do believe in freedom of speech.
The JDL did have every right to bring it to
the police and I’m sure the NYPD thoroughly
investigated this guy to see if he did
in fact have weapons and was planning to
kill people. But short of that and putting Mr. Assed
on notice, I don’t think he should be penalized
further. Usually if you are verbally harrassed or threatened
in the U.S., you can get a restraining
order against that person. If the harrassment
continues then the penalties become more severe.

Threatening someone with bodily harm is a very
serious matter, however, I do think that Canada
has gone too far with it’s hate speech
laws. Look at how some of the students at
Concordia have perverted it to shut down all pro-Israel activity
and speech at the university. Also, Daniel Pipes,
before his address at York University, was warned
by a Toronot detective not to say anthing “racist
or hateful” or else he would be put in jail. I mean,
what was that all about? What did the Toronto authorities
really think this guy was going to say? Maybe they were
just trying to thwart anything that might give the
Canadian Arabs cause to riots. However, from what I’ve
heard about Concordia, it doesn’t take much.

Under the present hate speech laws in Canada, the Toronto police
should have arrested Carolyn Parrish. She said something very hateful against an
entire people. I felt hurt and threatened by it. Perhaps I should call
up the Toronto police and lodge a formal complaint.
Better yet, I have a friend with dual citizenship and perhaps
I can convince him to do it. Of course, he
would probably laugh in my face, but this just shows how ridiculous
these hate speech laws are. I don’t know why Canada really needs
such laws. OK, socialized medicine is fine, but Canada doesn’t have
to follow everything Europe does.

Just my humble opinion.

Reply

2 Jonny 03.11.03 at 7:29 PM

Rules, Rights & Responsibilities:

Freedom of speech is a right, but it is also a responsibility, and if you can’t be responsible with your rights you should lose them.

Reply

3 Sam 03.12.03 at 12:32 AM

Fankly Jonny, it scares me how easily you’re willing to rid someone of their rights simply because you don’t like what they say. Who is to decide what is responsible? You? The whole point of Freedom of Speech is that it allows people to say things which others might find offensive and/or which isn’t popular. Otherwise, people could simply get together and decide that anything they don’t like to hear is “irresponsible” and therefore not allowed to be spoken.

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