Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Freedom of Hate Speech | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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White nationalists carry tiki torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Reuters)

The late author Ghazi al-Gosaibi was one of the most prominent figures to confront the hate movement during the early 1990s. His book “Until there is no more strife” is a significant historical and intellectual reference during that Saudi era plagued with the extremist awakening “Sahwa” movement.

Public declaration of hatred and social incitement on media outlets is still a common culture, but is carried out under different pretenses.

In earlier times, hate and hostile rhetoric against different ideologies were religious principles taken out of context and adopted by followers of a movement against their rivals.

Today, some justify its usage by claiming to be freedom of expression. But freedom of expression is limited to time and place and is against collective incitement that is considered a crime.

Blatant statements and incitement are not the same as freedom of expression and discussion which can be tolerated even if it included racial ideas.

During the 1990s, hate speech first emerged in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf accompanied by regional and political disturbances and the development of technology. It also concurred with the imported ideas of Awakening movement which exploited religion that basically copied the culture of Muslim Brotherhood and brought foreign political agendas into the kingdom.

Standards of freedom differ according to the country and cultural experience.

The concept of a national Arab state is still new and requires a lot of time to mature. This can happen through fusion of society into a harmonized civilized system. But it’s not an easy task.

This is the case today with Syria, Libya, and Yemen. All of the wars erupted in those countries to promote notions such as nationalism, reform, demanding rights, and rejecting dictatorships of Assad, Gaddafi and Saleh. However, they ended up being narrow-interest partisan projects.

Hate speech might seem a spontaneous simple expression to some and fits in with the inherited racism, but in reality, it is the most basic threat to the state’s entity. Allowing groups to call for antagonizing groups within a single society endangers the whole country and paves way for tribal and regional discrimination.

Hatred occurred in two different places at the same time which only means that the disease is present even if the country is developed.

The first incident was when racist bigots antagonizing the society against mourners for the death of the great Kuwaiti actor Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda in our region. The second occurred when white nationalists protested in Charlottesville against other races.

For anyone supporting their freedom of speech, please note that almost none of the US media supported or defended the racist protesters.

Hate speech is rejected even though freedom of expression is protected by the constitution.

In the US, as well as our countries, social media is a challenge for the state because it is out of control and used by racists to promote their ideas and mobilize public opinion for their support.

Surely, if racist rhetoric became a phenomenon that threatens the society’s stability, US legislators will most likely intervene to set limits and sanctions on using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. But things didn’t get that far yet.

Racism might seem prevailing in the US and people are allowed to express it, but in reality they are banned from practicing it. The law prohibits refusing to hire someone or educating people for racial reasons and prohibits discrimination.

We are aware that sectarian people criticizing tributes to Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda are in fact not targeting him personally or insulting and rejecting him, but rather exploiting the occasion to impose their opinions in order to create clashes.

Like wars, racism is a disease that is present in all societies and will always exist. Civilized countries aim to fight racism via laws, batons and also via education.

Expressing hatred towards another citizen could undermine the whole country. So, when we reject hate promoters, it is not only out of respect for the late Abdul Hussein or defending him, but also to protect the entity of the nation.

Racism is a series of endless practices against anyone who is not of the same region, town, sect, color, race or against those who have different opinions. Such behaviors lead to division and clashes in society.