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Kohlmann: Geller’s Actions Like Lighting Fire and Complaining You Got Burned

NBC Terrorism Analyst Evan Kohlmann compared the Mohammed Art Exhibit and Contest and Pamela Geller’s actions to hate crimes, “lighting the Reichstag on fire and then complaining that your fingers got singed,” and accused her of infringing on other people’s free speech rights on Wednesday’s “Hardball.”

Kohlmann said, “she has the right to this, but let me be clear…I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that there are homegrown extremists here in the United States that are looking at this stuff, and it’s radicalizing them. It’s — that along with Al Qaeda propaganda. Because if you look — Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the most prominent American recruiters for Al Qaeda, his message to American Muslims is that America is at war with Islam. America will never accept Islam. Obviously, that’s not correct, but that’s exactly the message that Pamela Geller is putting out. And every time she gets on TV with that message, every time someone defends her, even defends her from a principled standpoint, they give life to that idea. They make that idea seem real. And that’s exactly what we see. And this is not the first time that someone, a homegrown extremist, has looked to target someone like Geller for exactly this reason.”

He continued, “I would say to Geller, ‘look, you have the right to do this, but you also have a responsibility.’ Freedom of speech is a very serious right and it comes with a responsibility. You have a responsibility to act in a way that is restrained, according to fact. And simply yelling at someone and saying terribly nasty things at someone, look, and then to complain about the fact that someone reacts violently to that, to me, that’s like lighting the Reichstag on fire and then complaining that your fingers got singed. You cannot infringe upon someone else’s freedom of expression, you cannot infringe upon someone else’s freedom of speech, and then claim it is you who is the victim. It does not work that way. No one has the right to commit acts of violence in the name of faith. No one has the right to commit acts of violence because someone says something offensive, but people that exercise the freedom of speech also have a responsibility to understand that words have meaning. And that they can cause harm. And that’s why we have libel laws, that’s why we have defamation laws, and that’s why we have hate crime laws. and I would suggest that what Pamela Geller is doing comes, in some cases, quite close to what is normally defined as a hate crime.”

Jackson Lee added, “obviously, the hate speech that came out of Garland, Texas, is almost like crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. And — however, it is protected by the First Amendment.”

Later, Kohlmann declared, “what about the August 2012 shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin? Six people were murdered by a white supremacist who killed these people, because they were exercising their freedom of religion. In January of 2011, white supremacists tried setting off a bomb, targeting a Martin Luther King rally in Spokane, that could have easily been the next Boston Marathon bombing. The people who carried those out were white men, were white supremacists, and there is no excuse for…lumping all these people together and saying it’s an Islamic problem. It’s a problem of political violence. These people are innocent. It does not matter whether the perpetrator is brown or whether the victim is brown. Either way, it’s unacceptable.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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