The recent outrage and street protests in some Islamic countries over a video made in the United States that many Muslims consider disrespectful to their religion has American policy-makers on edge.
Compounding the problem, says Catholic University law school Professor Robert Destro, is a lack of understanding elsewhere in the world that Americans do not simply seize offensive videos and toss their makers into jail.
Destro was interviewed by Voice of America (VOA) on Sept. 24 for a segment dealing with First Amendment protected speech and its inevitable offspring, the airing of viewpoints that some people will find offensive or insulting.
“It’s part of an open, free society and the government should stay out it,” Destro told correspondent Jerome Socolovsky.
“The violence [in Iran and elsewhere] gives people the wrong idea of what Islam is about. They should stop it for that reason,” he added.
It has been pointed out by pundits in the media that that American ideals of free expression go further than almost any nation on earth. In Germany, for example, denial of the Holocaust is a criminal offense.
In the U.S., Holocaust denial would earn scorn and contempt, but not time behind bars. Destro said other nations need to understand that most Americans would not have it any other way.
“I fear for everybody’s freedom when we say the state should start shutting other people’s voices down,” said Destro.
VOA is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government, providing a wide range of programming for broadcast outside of the U.S. in 43 languages on radio, TV, and the Internet.