Not long ago, in Garland, Texas, two radical Islamists tried to blaze their way into an event hosting a Muhammad cartoon contest. Thanks to an alert security guard, the only fatalities were the terrorists who came looking for blood.
Of course, this is not the first time that radical Islamists have responded to expressions of free speech with violence. The French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which wastes as much ink slandering Jews and Christians as it does Muslims, had twelve employees killed in cold blood by Islamic terrorists in January. And in February, a free speech event in Copenhagen was the scene of yet another massacre at the hands of Islamist terrorist gunmen. In each case, the perpetrators were radicalized Muslims who oppose free speech and believe that all of us should be subject to the same repressive laws under which the entire Middle East – except Israel – lives.
When we look at the Bible we are taught that speech – in the form of slander, gossip, incitement, or anything emotionally, mentally, financially, or physically damaging – is strictly forbidden. “Do not go about spreading slander among your people,” says Leviticus 19:16.
Jews have been not just slandered, but violently oppressed, throughout history. The Holocaust, the Spanish Inquisition, and countless massacres of Jews were all the result of propaganda that began with the slandering of Jews that incited anti-Semitic hatred.
However, the Jewish people have not responded – nor has any self-respecting people ever responded – to hate speech with a gun or a suicide belt.
A person’s right to choose what kind of life they want to live, what religion they practice, what food they place in their mouth, and what speech comes out of it, is the basis of the Jewish tradition.
The Bible has laws on how to live, how to think, how to talk and interact with others. It covers every area of life. But the Bible also makes it clear that we have free will to follow God’s laws or not. What value is there to acting in a godly manner if we are coerced into those actions by the violent fanaticism of man?