Obama to U.N.: ‘No speech justifies mindless violence’by Associated Press, firstamendmentcenter.org
September 25th 2012
UNITED NATIONS — President Barack Obama condemned an anti-Muslim film and the violence in the Middle East that has followed its release, saying today that there is “no speech that justifies mindless violence.”
Obama said in a speech today before the U.N. General Assembly that “there are no words that excuse the killing of innocents” and “no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.”
Obama said the video “is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well.”
The president was speaking in the aftermath of violent protests in the Middle East and North Africa connected to the release of an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States. Four Americans were killed in Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, along with more than 50 others in the violence.
Obama told world leaders that attacks on U.S. citizens in Libya “were attacks on America,” and he called on them to join in confronting the root causes of the rage across the Muslim world.
“I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism,” Obama said in a speech to the annual gathering.
Obama also condemned the anti-Muslim video that helped spark the recent attacks, calling it “cruel and disgusting.” But he strongly defended the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the freedom of expression, “even views that we profoundly disagree with.”
Talking Points Memo excerpted and linked to part of Obama’s speech:
“Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views — even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame.”
The president continued: “The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.”
Obama said that “at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button,” the notion that governments can control the flow of information is obsolete.
The president said there was no way the United States would have just banned the offensive video that helped trigger the attacks, as some leaders in the Muslim world have advocated.
“Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs,” Obama said.
“Moreover, as president of our country and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so,” he said, drawing laughter from his audience.
Obama mentioned the slain U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, several times in his address.
“Today, we must declare that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our united nations,” he said.
Unlike Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Obama has not specifically called the attacks in Libya and other U.S. missions terrorism.
“There is no speech that justifies mindless violence,” such as the attack that left the four Americans dead in Libya, Obama said.
Obama said that the United States “will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice.” And he said he appreciated “that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region — including Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen — have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities and called for calm. So have religious authorities around the globe.”
Running through Obama’s speech was an overall theme that leaders of the Muslim world should also stand up for free speech and oppose those who vent their anger with violence.
“There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon or destroy a school in Tunis or cause death and destruction in Pakistan,” Obama said.
“More broadly, the events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab world moving to democracy,” he said.
But, he added, “Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue.”
“Nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks, or the hateful speech by some individuals, represents the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims — any more than the views of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans.”
More articles related to Speech News | free expression, Islam, Muslim, Obama.
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