Jonathan Turley points to an interesting case. The New York Times ran an ad from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that called upon liberal Catholics to leave their church, but refused to run another ad that made the same appeal to Muslims, apparently because “The fallout from running this ad now could put U.S. troops and/or civilians in the [Afghan] region in danger.”
I agree with Turley (who has not yet seen the anti-Islam ad) when he says:
I am not sure that we should start to restrict speech on the basis of content in fear of a response of extremists in other countries. That would appear to reward the violence and anti-speech conduct of such extremists. It is precisely what occurred after 2005 when a Danish newspaper published cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. The result were worldwide protests in which Muslims reportedly killed more than 100 people — a curious way to demonstrate religious tolerance. However, while newspapers swore allegiance to free press values, there was an obvious level of self-censorship to avoid pictures and cartoons of Muhammad and Islam in general. Even academic institutions like Yale University Press exhibited the same response.
The editors in this case promised that they would consider publishing the ad in a few months because “we publish this type of advertising, even those we disagree with, because we believe in the First Amendment.” However, that does not explain why they will yield to extremists in the interim.
For too long, some Muslims have been allowed to use the threat of violence to impose censorship on others. This has to end and major media institutions should be taking the lead on this and not leaving it to small and vulnerable media institutions.