In an effort to clarify America’s free-speech policy regarding the Islamic religion, the Obama Administration held a multi-nation, closed-door meeting to discuss religious speech.
The conference attendees hope to appease Muslim nations by asking Americans to tone down their anti-Islamic religion rhetoric which the Administration claims may be the cause of unrest in the Middle East.
"We know that some people distort various religious doctrines to justify intolerance, foment violence or create strife that serves their narrow political purposes," said Suzan Johnson Cook, U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Johnson explained that offensive (religious) dialogue should be denounced, while "religion must never be used as an excuse to stifle freedom of expression."
The Islamic countries that attended the closed-to-media conference cite recent cartoons that mocked the prophet Muhammad and Florida preacher Terry Jones, who publically burns the Koran, as offensive and a reason for Americans to restrain their free speech rights’.
The Obama Administration hopes to broker a “middle ground” on this issue and invited nine European, nine Muslim as well as a few Latin American countries to participate in the three-day conference.
However, critics say the Administration is only pandering to the Middle East and point out that America already has a Constitution in place that sets clear free-speech parameters.
"Why is it that the U.S. Constitution must come second when representatives from Islamic counties such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan demand we must curb our religious liberties and free speech?" Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition asked. "Why is our government bending to Taliban values here on the home front?"
Officials contend the closed-door conference is an opportunity to resolve issues that are sensitive to Islamic nations.
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