Free speech includes responsibility to be civil

October 11, 2012

We need to return to civility and respectful disagreement in our national discourse instead of defending all types of rancorous discussions and fallacies under the banner of freedom of speech.

I am a supporter of our nation’s freedom of speech. It allows me to preach my beliefs from the pulpit, criticize my own government when need be and push back against bigots, who sow seeds of division under the banner of the First Amendment.

I also strongly believe that with freedom of speech comes responsibility, and that our misuse of it can have serious consequences.

There used to be a time in our socio-political discourse that discussing certain subjects in overly provocative and insulting forms was off-limits. Nowadays, personal attacks against politicians, even insulting the first lady, seem normal.

Let me be clear that I am not an advocate for imposing America’s standards of free speech upon other nations, nor do I advocate restricting our freedom of speech in America through legislative means. As a minority who understands well the history of selective enforcement and prosecution of laws in America, my racial and religious groups could be the most adversely affected if such restrictions were set into law.

My call is for people of faith and good conscience to remind fellow Americans of our national values of promoting diversity and inclusion. This includes readjusting our societal mores to vigorously challenge those who misuse freedom of speech to promote hate. As Americans, we are not responsible for policing the world, but we are responsible for the climate of our own society.

Dawud Walid

Executive Director

Council on American-

Islamic Relations —

Michigan (CAIR-MI)