#MuslimLivesMatter & An Assault On Free Speech

Internet trolls have spewed a tremendous amount of vile hate at me since I began participating in the #BlackLivesMatter movement after the murders of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, but none of it has been so openly hateful of an entire group of people as what I experienced during the #MuslimLivesMatter demonstrations over the weekend.

After three Muslim Americans were murdered in North Carolina last week and an Islamic Community Center was torched in Texas, people took to the internet and the streets to demand an end to Islamaphobia in the press, investigations of both tragedies as terrorism, and a serious examination of anti-Muslim hate speech for inciting violence:

  I attended a powerful rally here in NYC and live-tweeted photos and video:   

As usual, trolls affirmed the need for the demo by marginalizing injustices done to minorities from their place of privilege.

However, where #BlackLivesMatter trolls tend to mask their phobia of an entire group of people by attacking specific individuals and examples – Mike Brown, Eric Garner, even Akai Gurley and Tamir Rice – #MuslimLivesMatter trolls openly expressed their hatred of an entire group of people, literally proclaiming that Muslim lives don’t matter:

I imagine people don’t proclaim that “Black Lives Don’t Matter” because they don’t want to believe they are racist, or at least do not want to be socially stigmatized as such. So why are they comfortable being openly xenophobic of the world’s second largest religion?

Many seem to justify it by insisting they value all human life – they just hate the Muslim religion:

But religion is not a thing unto itself. It is made up of people – a group of people with shared beliefs. So these trolls are devaluing human life simply because a person holds a certain belief.

Furthermore, excluding a religion from a country would be to exclude a group of people, based on their belief, which would obviously be unconstitutional.

It strikes me as odd that the same people who purport to love America ignore the constitutionally protected freedom of religion.

Expressing religion, or any other belief, is even more firmly protected as free speech.

Throughout American history, our courts have fiercely upheld attempts to ban speech based on content.

The only, very narrowly defined type of speech that is not protected is that which is “intended to incite violence” (Brandenburg v. Ohio). (Intent is a very high legal threshold)

Of course, many of the #MuslimLivesMatter trolls assert that they hate Muslims because they believe that Islam incites violence:

Most analogies to Hitler are complete hyperbole, but not in this case!

Suggesting that the Muslim culture is as violent as the acts of ISIS is exactly like suggesting that Christian culture is as violent as the acts of Nazis.

Some #MuslimLivesMatter trolls argue that violence in the name of Christianity (or any other religion) is a distortion of that religion, but that violence in the name of Islam is being true to Islam – that Islam is an inherently violent religion – because of some passages in the Quran:

It’s true. The Quran has many passages that appear “intended to incite violence.” Of course, so do many other religious texts, including the Bible.

If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods…do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12)

Now if that’s not “intended to incite violence,” I don’t know what is. So unless we are ready to seriously discuss banning most religions and religious speech, stop saying Islam should be relegated in any way.

On the other hand, let’s have a serious discussion about what speech is intended to cause violence these days, and what is likely to cause violence (another threshold in Brandenburg v. Ohio).

As I mentioned, religions are not things unto themselves – they are made up of groups of people who share ideas, and the trolls of the #MuslimLivesMatter discourse literally assert that Muslim lives don’t matter:

That’s right, there is a whole hastag on which trolls praise, justify, and – one could argue – intend to incite violence.

Since the #MuslimLivesMatter hashtag, a Michigan Family was attacked by a man shouting slurs against Islam, and a Rhode Island School was vandalized with anti-Islamic messages.

This hate speech is not only troublesome for its threats of violence, but for its threat to democracy.

While these trolls are attacking people for their religion and the expression of their beliefs – both Muslim and otherwise – they are attacking free speech with the one form of speech that is not protected.

They are attempting to end an open, democratic dialogue with threats of violence.

We should not stand for this, and I hope everyone will speak up against it.

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