Freedom of Speech is a Two-Way Street

The decision to place billboards proclaiming Jesus as a prophet of Islam is both provocative and insulting to Christians. However, the organisation behind the advertisements has every right to pursue their attention seeking campaign no matter how disagreeable others may find it. It is neither hateful nor untrue (from a Muslim perspective), as Islamic doctrine really does support what the billboards state.

Unfortunately, when the spokesman behind the campaign says that its purpose is to build bridges between the Muslim and Christian communities and to enhance an understanding of Islam, he is clearly having a lend of us all.

There can be little question that the campaign is more about seeing how far the Islamic proselytisation can be advanced using Western tolerance and freedom of speech.

It is also another example of how freedom and tolerance is often a one-way street in respect to Islamic fundamentalists.

Whilst Christians are expected to accept these objectionable billboards, those who dare highlight some of the more questionable actions of Muhammad or his doctrine are publicly attacked.

The mildest response is to be vilified as a religious bigot or a racist. At the other extreme the result has been violent riots and death.

Who can forget the worldwide rampage that some adherents of the religion of peace waged in response to some cartoons of their spiritual leader? The publisher and creator were both targeted with death threats, embassies were bombed and a series of riots ensued worldwide.

Author Salman Rushdie was issued with a death fatwa simply for publishing a book that was deemed critical of Islam. Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was killed and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali lives under constant threat for daring to question the Islamist agenda.

One can only imagine what would happen if some organisation questioned Muhammad’s marriage to his child bride Aisha or any other Quranic text using public billboards. Notwithstanding the absolute truth of the material, if they were even allowed to publish such material my bet is that the billboards would be destroyed or vandalised within hours of going up.

Perhaps the current billboards would be more effective in building community support if they publicly condemned the outrageous statements of radical Islamic fundamentalists like Sheik Hilaly who compared Western women to ‘uncovered meat’ or his spokesman, the objectionable Keyser Trad.

Mr Trad was found by Justice Peter McClellan to hold racist views, appearing to condone violence and his remarks were deemed offensive to Jewish persons and homosexuals. Despite this indictment, Trad somehow remains the ‘go to’ guy for the media seeking statements on Islamic issues.

As disappointing as I find this to be, I also recognise that there is a fundamental right for all Australian citizens to express their views on -billboards or other media.

So while I disagree with the very premise of the suggestion on these particular billboards I support the freedom of speech and opinion that they represent. It would be good if others did the same.

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