The official website of Mohammed Ansar
RT: There’s been a whole string of incidents in Europe similar to the attack in Texas, in which two gunmen were killed Sunday outside a controversial art event depicting the Prophet Muhammad cartoons and dedicated to free speech. Has a new threat now arrived in America?
Mohammed Ansar: Clearly what we have seen is that the attacks have been going on in Europe is the opening of a long-held debate around freedom of expression, against freedom to offend. Now we’ve seen this being picked up by what they call the counter-jihadists movement here in America. And there is an estimated $200 million Islamophobia industry now in the US. And so we’ve seen – shortly after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo – there was a stand by the Prophet Mohammed conference at this exact same conference center in Garland, Texas, and now we’ve seen hate preachers who have been banned from coming to Europe like Geert Wilders, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, now have something which will ostensibly incite hate and violence. Now we’ve seen a reaction and I think it’s to be deplored on all sides – the right to offend, the right to incite violence and hatred, but also the violence and hatred that ensues. At this time our thoughts and concerns have to be with the families of those people who were slain.
MA: The answer to hate is not more hate. The answer to hate has to be to increase love, peace, tolerance and coexistence in society. In the US they have a far more difficult situation. In the UK and in Europe we have Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which talks about the freedom of expression. Much is then held in Article 10, part 2, which talks about limitations on freedom of speech. So we have nation states in Europe who are quite used to putting certain limitations around hate speech, around attacking minority groups and spreading hate and fear and incitement of violence even in the national interest in certain instances. In the US, in their Conventions, they do have a constitutional right to freedom of expression. However we’ve seen three Democratic Congressmen, I think we saw Keith Ellison, Andre Carson, and Joe Crowley who came forward and asked the Homeland Security and also the Secretary of State, John Kerry, to put limitations on this. They said that there is bedrock of freedom of speech in the US; however what we don’t want to have is incitement of violence and hate speech.
RT: Incidents like this do breed hate for Islam, while there are millions of Muslims who are non-violent law abiding citizens all across Europe and in the US. How can governments address those tensions?
MA: Hate preachers like Geert Wilders, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer will want to give the idea that there are millions of Muslims who have radical and extremist ideas. Muslims have been living, co-existing and integrating in communities. They are in fact the bedrock of the European civilization whether it’s science or learning or education. So I think the first thing we have to do is to stop the provocation and stop the hate speech. There is no kind of apology for the retaliation through violence. So people have the right of freedom of expression. People also have the right not to be limited by taboos of other people in the society. However there is a burgeoning industry now in provoking non-Muslims in Europe and in the US to attack Muslims. And this is disproportional. We saw the argument with Charlie Hebdo before: they are not equal opportunities offenders; they are targeting disproportionally ethnic minorities and Muslims. So I think we have to restate what the ground rules are. You have the right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech. You don’t have the right to incite hate; you don’t have the right to incite violence. And it is certainly far more offensive to respond in violence than it is to have the freedom of expression which some people may find troublesome.