The world was in mourning once again as Islamic jihadist-terrorists attacked a French satirical newspaper. Freedom of speech is one of the basic, foundational values of a democratic society. Tragic as the recent shootings were in Paris-and here I extend my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed by the terrorists-the event gives all of us cause to ponder a difficult, yet necessary question: Are there limits to free speech? If there are, then what are they?
Here I believe that both Judaism and Christianity are very helpful. Both faith traditions give plenty of room for freedom of speech, doubt, scepticism, questioning, etc. However, this freedom does not allow for character assassination. In both faith traditions, the commandments "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" and "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour" are upheld. In both traditions, it is advised that if one disagrees or is in conflict with, or offended by someone else, it is better to go privately to the offender than to humiliate or insult them in public.
For example, if everyone in the world followed Jesus' advice regarding peaceful conflict resolution as it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter eighteen, then there would be a lot less terrorism and violence.
As for the ongoing radicalization of Muslims, I believe there is a huge responsibility right now for the imams, the spiritual leaders of Islam to counteract terrorism and violence as well as to condemn it, and do everything possible to prevent it.
Here I think Muslims and non-Muslims would benefit from reading the following article over at First Things, which is very helpful: