The heartrending reality of bigotry and Islamophobia in today’s American environment is overwhelming. The Islamophobes use the media as a propaganda tool to poison the minds of the American people under the disguise of "freedom of speech." This was evident when Mr. Glen Sheller, editor of The Columbus Dispatch newspaper’s editorial page, defended the Dispatch’s distribution of the fear mongering DVD "Obsession," which was intended to instill fear in the hearts and minds of the unsuspecting American people.
While we should relish and strive to benefit from our freedom of expression without fear or favor, we should also be mindful that the way we use our "freedom of speech" speaks volumes about us. The gate keepers of public forums should remain neutral moderators and not compromise their ability to objectively protect the principles of this American value. Once reason is overshadowed, and objectivity diluted with hate, positive public discourse becomes more elusive.
Writer Abukar Arman warns us in an article titled "DVD’s makers used newspapers to spread hatred," published in The Columbus Dispatch: "Gone are the days when the perpetrators of hate would march with banners that explicitly express their negative views of other groups. Today, hate messages and propaganda often are camouflaged as talk-radio punditry, political speeches and infomercials."
Attesting to his legitimate concern was the campaign, in September of this year (during the sacred month of Ramadan), to distribute 28 million copies of the Obsession DVD as a free insert into 70 newspapers in a number of key battle-ground states.
There is a fine line between the healthy use of freedom of speech, and employing such "freedom" to advance bigotry and Islamophobia. The Media has become an effective tool for prolonging the psychological terrorization of the American people. American citizens must be vigilant in not allowing hate mongering interest groups, such as the producers of this DVD, to subvert such values as liberty, peace, and justice for all.
I am strongly opposed to newspaper editors, like Mr. Sheller, allowing themselves to be used to advance the agenda of hate mongering Islamophobes. As a mother who must carefully shelter her child from dangers lurking in the dark, I also feel the need to protect our cherished Constitutional principles, and the hard earned image of the better of the "two Americas."
I fully understand the pain and anxiety caused by these hate mongering, Islamophobic groups who try to cloak their agendas under the umbrella of "freedom of speech". They are far more detrimental to the health and welfare of America than meets the eye.
The promulgation of hatred and bigotry does not lead to positive public discourse. A case in point is the statement that I received from an American (Caucasian) woman who shared Mr. Sheller’s interpretation of "freedom of speech." She said to me, "With that scarf on your head, you are a disgrace to every American women." Surprised and saddened, I responded, "This is ironic, because I am a proud American woman and I am far from being disgraced."
In such an atmosphere that fosters so much pain and fear, a more healthy journalism –” one that is balanced and fair – must be exerted. I support freedom of speech, but not at the expense of truth and justice! I realize that to achieve such a task takes dedication, perseverance and true integrity. May Mr. Sheller, and others who share his views in defense of the "Obsession" DVD, learn this lesson before it’s too late.