Stanley Fish - sobre o mundo árabe

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    Stanley Fish September 17, 2012, 9:00 pm311 Comments

    Libya, Violence and Free Speech

    By STANLEY FISH

    Stanley Fish on education, law and society.

    Tags:

    First Amendment,free speech,john locke, Libya, religion

    Back when Salman Rushdie was made the object of a fatwa because his book TheSatanic Verses was regarded by many Iranians as a blasphemy against the prophet, I

    went to a conference where a panel discussion was devoted to Rushdies situation. A

    member of the audience raised his hand and, without a trace of irony, asked, Whats

    the matter with those Iranians? Havent they ever heard of the First Amendment?

    The implication was that if they had heard of it and read it and gotten its message, they

    would have understood that you dont target or attack people because of what they have

    written; you dont respond to words, however harsh and wounding you take them to be,

    as if they were physical blows. Now, in the wake of the events in Libya, the same kind

    of thing is being said by American politicians and commentators. If youre listening to

    the radio and tuning in to the cable news shows, youre hearing any number of people(including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton) declare, first, that of course the

    video vilifying Islam is reprehensible and, second, that nevertheless nothing can justify

    the eruption of senseless violence.

    Senseless means without reasons, and the assumption is that it cant be a reason to set

    a consulate on fire that someone in the consulates home country made a movie saying

    nasty things about your religion. After all, if your religion is worthy and strong it will

    survive a malicious representation of it. And besides, an assault on your religion is not

    an assault on you; its not personal. This is the point made by the Florida pastor Terry

    Jones, who insists that the video (with which he is associated in some way not yet

    specified) was not designed to attack Muslims, but to show the destructive ideology of

    Islam. In other words, were not attacking you, just some of the ideas you hold, an

    assertion that makes sense if you think that your religion is just an add-on to your

    essential personhood, like the political party you belong to or the football team you root

    for.

    That is the view of religion we inherited from John Locke and other

    accommodationist Protestants, Protestants who entered into a bargain with the state:

    allow us freedom of worship, dont meddle in our affairs and we wont meddle in civic

    matters or attempt to make public institutions reflect theological doctrines. In his Letter

    Concerning Toleration, Locke is eloquent when he explains how this parceling out ofthe world into two distinct spheres a private sphere and a public sphere will put an

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    end to the violence that is likely to occur when religious imperatives stray from their

    proper home in the heart and the chapel (or mosque or synagogue) and insist on

    ordering every aspect of life. If church and state will each of them contain itself within

    its own bounds, the one attending to the worldly welfare of the commonwealth, the

    other to the salvation of souls, it is impossible that any discord should have happened

    between them.

    Those who buy into this division of labor and authority will themselves be bifurcated

    entities. In their private lives they will live out the commands of their religion to the

    fullest. In their public lives their lives as citizens they will relax their religious

    convictions and display a tolerance they may not feel in their heart of hearts. We give

    witness to this dual identity when we declare, in fidelity to the First Amendment, I hate

    and reject what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

    It hardly needs pointing out that the protesters in Libya and Egypt wont say that not,

    however, because they dont understand the First Amendment or the firewall that should

    separate religion from civil life or the distinction between ones identity as a citizen andones identity as a believer or the difference between words and blows, but because they

    reject all four and, indeed, regard them as evil. In their eyes, a religion that confines

    itself to the heart and chapel, and is thus exercised intermittently while the days

    business gets done, is no religion at all. True religion does not relax its hold when you

    leave the house of worship; it commands your allegiance at all times and in all places.

    And the you whose allegiance it commands is not divided into a public you and a

    private you; it is the same at home as it is when abroad in the world.

    And since for them religion is not an internal, privatized matter safe from the worlds

    surfaces, but an overriding imperative that the worlds surfaces should reflect, a verbal

    or pictorial assault on their religion will not be received as an external and ephemeral

    annoyance, as a mere representation; it will be received as a wounding to the heart, as

    a blow, and as a blow that is properly met by blows in return. No sticks and stones will

    break my bones but names will never hurt me for them.

    So the entire package of American liberalism the distinction between speech and

    action, the resolve to protect speech however distasteful it may be, the insistence that

    religious believers soften their piety when they enter the public sphere is one the

    protesters necessarily reject. When they are told that the United States government had

    no part in the production of the video and deplores its content, educated Libyans and

    Egyptians reply (reporters tell us), Well, if they think its bad and against their values,why didnt they stop it or punish those who produced it? The standard response is that

    we Americans dont suppress or penalize ideas we regard as wrong and even dangerous;

    in accordance with the First Amendment, we tolerate them and allow them to present

    themselves for possible purchase in the marketplace of ideas.

    But that means that protecting the marketplace by refusing to set limits on what can

    enter it is the highest value we affirm, and we affirm it no matter what truths might be

    vilified and what falsehoods might get themselves accepted. We have decided that the

    potential unhappy consequences of a strong free speech regime must be tolerated

    because the principle is more important than preventing any harm it might permit. We

    should not be surprised, however, if others in the world most others, in fact disagree, not because they are blind and ignorant but because they worship God and

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    truth rather than the First Amendment, which not only keeps God and truth at arms

    length but regards them with a deep suspicion.