CAIR board member Mazhar Rishi maintains there is no right to defame religious figures — in other words, no right to free speech at all, for if any person or group or idea is beyond criticism, then the society is no longer free. Note also the words of Rachel Lawton: “You cross the line when you threaten, intimidate or harass, and that is when free speech is limited.” Very well; but the Muhammad cartoons do none of those things. By the standards of political cartooning they are tame. It has been Muslim groups worldwide who have threatened, intimidated, and harassed because of them.
Six local Islamic figures gathered Saturday for a panel to address the recent controversy over the Danish cartoons that negatively depict the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations sponsored the event, which took place in Houston Hall.
The discussion — held in a town-hall style and followed by an audience Q & A — covered a variety of topics, focusing largely on the alleged marginalization of minorities in Western media and culture.
“We need to analyze what democracy means and to recognize and represent not just the majorities but the growing minorities as well,” Philadelphia CAIR vice-chairman Sofia Memon said. “In view of this, we need to ask how to broaden our democracy instead of narrow it.”
During their introductory speeches, several panelists denounced the cartoons as slanderous while discussing limitations on free speech.
“People have every right to give an opinion on something,” Rachel Lawton, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, said. “You cross the line when you threaten, intimidate or harass, and that is when free speech is limited.”
CAIR board member Mazhar Rishi agreed.
“The right to free speech is not absolute,” Rishi said. “It does not give a right to defame Prophet Muhammad or any other” religious figure.