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Cardin in Senate 368x331

Debate on “Present World Crisis Regarding Freedom of Expression and Respect for Religious Beliefs”

In the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, the people’s right to freedom of speech, including freedom of the press, and the people’s right to peacefully assemble to protest both, are guaranteed.

As political leaders, we have a special responsibility—words have consequences.  When words can lead to anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic or anti-Christian actions—we have a responsibility to speak out against such expression.
 
The recent political cartoons published in the European press which mock the Prophet Mohammed and equate Islam and practicing Muslims with terrorism are not only offensive but also irresponsible because they foster anti-Muslim sentiment. We should protect the right of the press, but we should condemn such expressions as wrong.
 
If we do not act, we risk leaving a terrible legacy to our children. 
 
Such a legacy would condone hate speech and racial and religious incitement.  Such a legacy would lead to more tragic and unjustifiable violence, more discrimination against Muslims and more attempts by government to improperly control the media.
 
We should act effectively and peacefully. 
 
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most profound civil rights leader in the United States in the 20th Century, cautioned all of us that the legacy of hate and violence must not be hate and violence.  The violent response to the cartoons must be condemned, but our response to the cartoons must be decisive.
 
The OSCE has acted against anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and all forms of religious discrimination.  We have an action plan reinforced by ODIHR and our special representatives.
 
We need to reinforce our efforts to educate respect and understanding among all religions.  We need to strengthen training on the right and responsibility of a free media.  We need to promote specific and appropriate activities in each of our States to facilitate these goals. 
 
As leaders, let our legacy be for each of our States—freedom of the press and greater understanding and respect for religious diversity.
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