'No insult whatsoever justifies violence'

Reuters / Yves Herman
While the American Freedom of Defense Initiative is a hate group, no speech or drawings of the Prophet Mohammed, no insult whatsoever justifies violence, Corey Saylor, from the Council of American Islamic Relations, told RT.

RT:The organizers of the controversial event, some people are labeling them hate preachers. They are even barred from entering the UK. Do you think in any way the organizers are to blame for what happened?

Corey Saylor: No, the organizers are not. The American Freedom Defense Initiative is definitely a hate group.However, we have to be very, very clear that no speech, no drawings of the Prophet Mohammed, no insult what-so-ever justifies violence.

RT:How big is the issue of islamophobia in the US, do you think?

CS: It goes in cycles and we’re in the middle of an unfortunately bad cycle that started when ISIS murdered two Americans followed by the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Muslim groups have been very clear in condemning all of those and as we condemned the attacks in Garland. However, unfortunately what we find is people in the general public decide to blame all of Islam for the actions of a deranged few and as a result more innocent people may be victimized by these attacks in Garland.

READ MORE: 2 gunmen killed outside Mohammed ‘art event’ in Texas

RT:The US has been heavily involved in the Middle East. There’s been talk of blow back from that involvement. Do you think that America’s foreign policies are actually affecting the situation at home?

CS: I think it’s very clear that there needs to be a discussion about how our foreign policy affects domestic politics. Malala Yousafzai when she met with President Obama pointed out to him that American drone strikes in Pakistan were creating more extremists, so we needed to reconsider that. So it’s a conversation that has to happen. Unfortunately, to the topic of free speech, what I find is that many people who want to engage in substantive conversations about American foreign policy are shouted down and accused of being treasonists or un-American or disloyal, when we really need to have these conversations take place in an open and frank manner, so that as a society we can determine the right way forward given our foreign policy interests and also most importantly our ideals.

RT:Do you think that’s part of the problem, you’re talking about free speech, that actually few people can clearly define what your are entitled to say as part of free speech. Do we need clearer legislation to define what people can and can’t say?

CS: The free speech standard in the United States is very high and I strongly support that. I believe the government shouldn’t be involved in determining what’s acceptable and what’s not. There’s clearly a few restrictions, what are known as fighting words, or incitement to violence would be something where you point and say we need to go down to this person’s house and burn it down. But beyond that things are protected. I like it that way, but Garland institution, while they scream free speech, what they do is they look to stick their fingers in people’s eyes again and again. And the end result, particularly in New York where recently the rules about advertising were changed, so that now, no political speech is allowed on subway trains in New York, so a vast number of people have been silenced because Pamella Geller wants to be able to stand up on a soap box and scream insulting things.

RT:Let’s move on to the dark side of Islam so to speak, Islamic State, there’s been a spike in the number of people in the US and Europe who have been joining IS, what do you think draws people to Islamist groups?

CS: I think you’d have to ask them. I find it very disturbing that members of our community would find any interest in a vile group like ISIS. I think the most important thing to remember here, though is that ISIS kills more Muslims than they do of people of any other background. The Jordanian pilot that they horribly burnt was a Muslim. So what has to be in people’s heads is that we are all allies against this barbaric ideology that is espoused by ISIS. What they want is us all to turn on each other. And that same message us turning on each other is what’s promoted by Pamella Geller. She’s looking to say that Muslim’s have no role in the United States and should be cut out. That message doesn’t justify violence I want to be doubly clear on that but that message also has the same effect as the messaging that ISIS tries to push out, which is they want Muslims and the West to turn on each other. I would argue otherwise, it’s time for Muslims’ and the West to clearly ally against the barbaric groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.