FREE SPEECH ZONES
The recent #garlandshooting was allegedly provoked by controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammed displayed in a community center in Texas, U.S. As shown here, these award-winning artistic expressions according to news report are religious sensitive and provoking materials that made some people in the Islamic world very angry.
Similar to Charlie Hebdo magazine’s satirical cartoons of Prophet Mohammad that later led to the killing of 12 people in Paris early this year, these cartoons also received a deadly response. Clearly, our inherent freedom to voice or express one’s opinion has lethal consequences when abused or intended to ridicule a leader of a major religion.
Academic institutions recognized the right to free speech but similar to artistic expression; it must be restricted to a safe level. The purpose of Free Speech Zones is to restrict student protest, activism, and free speech to certain places on campus to avoid disruption of classes and other educational activities. However, although the constitutionality of this content-neutral conduct restrictions rule is strongly criticized, it had reduced occurrence of derogatory comments that stigmatizes individual on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, and others.
The content-based restriction is a law that restricts free speech on the basis of content, subject matter, or speaker’s viewpoint. For instance, a school may allow public speeches supportive of school-board policies but prohibit protester’s speech opposing critical school board policies as it such constitutes a viewpoint restriction. U.S. Courts according to study, normally allow schools to apply reasonable restrictions on oral, written, or symbolic expression such as banners promoting violence (read Fraternity Violence), use of illegal drugs, and others. Overall, schools can apply reasonable restriction on speech or expression that is likely to affect public safety.
Censuring work of art (see Art Essay) is made difficult by controversies associated with the term “objectionable content”. The appropriateness of artistic work, for instance, varies from person to person thus a student’s sculpture of a nude female torso that received an A+ from his art teacher may be displayed draped under a cloth if the old and conservative female school principal strongly objects to nudity.
In the same manner, cartoons depicting and making fun of a highly respected religious leader are appropriate and display-worthy artistic expressions for some, may be so humiliating to others. In fact, these offensive works of art and creation of individuals enjoying the freedom of expression already frustrated millions of people and recently took a number of lives.
It is, therefore, critical to apply content-based restrictions on similar artistic expressions to avoid further conflict and deadly responses from the affected side. Satirical artistic expressions undoubtedly constitute artist’s personal viewpoint, promote violence, jeopardize public safety, and therefore deserving of reasonable restrictions. Some major U.S. publications already imposed self-regulation and avoiding publishing of offending cartoons or provocative images.
Along with news media’s total restriction on provoking cartoons, free speech zones and artistic censorship in educational institutions, there is a strong possibility that anger of tens of millions of Muslims caused by previously unrestricted satirical artistic expressions will be reduced to a level that a deadly response is no longer necessary.