Interpreting Freedom of Speech

After incident after incident involving ISIS and terrorist, especially the one at Garland, TX, what should be our limits on free speech?

(American Freedom Defense Initiative)

The recent ‘Muhammad Cartoon Contest’ held in Texas has been stirring controversy over our freedom of speech. This contest has been under heavy criticism and frankly referred to as “anti-Islam” by some. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) which rails at the ‘Islamification’ of America has been behind this contest, which awards $10,000 for the best cartoon depiction of Muhammad. Recently, two armed gunmen were shot outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, where the contest was held. This act of violence was seen as retaliation for insulting Islam and Muslims.  

Pamela Geller (NPR)

“This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters? Two men with rifles and backpacks attacked police outside our event. A cop was shot; his injuries are not life-threatening, thank God. Please keep him in your prayers.”

– Pamela Geller, co-founder and blogger for the AFDI posted on her blog.  


It is true that Geller mentioned in other sources that the people of America are victims of supremacism and jihad. But despite the fact that Geller appears to be an anti-Islam extremist, he makes a valid point by stating that America’s freedom of speech is under attack. Free speech does not exist as an attack on any religion or race – should there even be a limit to free speech. Indeed, there are those who decide to take the major loopholes in the First Amendment and use it to moralize hateful actions towards certain individuals and groups. However, if there are no set laws, how else are we to interpret freedom of speech the ‘right’ way?

Crime scene at Garland (Fox News)


Whether or not to set limitations on freedom of speech is a commonly discussed political issue pertaining our world today, and the incident at Garland, Texas has merely shined a light on an issue that is threatening to get out of hand. The federal government should be taking immediate action by putting down their foot on the issue once and for all to prevent further clashes.  


On the contrary to what the AFDI proclaims themselves to be, the AFDI is listed under another name “Stop Islamization of America” as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. If this is a hate group that decided to hold a contest on who depict the most insulting and profane caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, it would without doubt enrage the Muslims. And as people of America, they also have every right to retaliate and express themselves. The significance is that they simply decided to resort to the criminal, illegal act of murder – a deed which is clearly stated as illegal by law. But was it wrong for the AFDI to hold the contest to begin with? Both sides here have taken the loopholes of free speech a step too far.  


At the end of the day, the question lies between whether we should be set limitations of freedom of speech or if we should continue to live with violent retaliations that put free speech under attack. However, keep in mind that it is an everyday occurrence such incidents like this happens. What do you think? Is freedom of speech under attack, and are there any solutions for this dilemma? Should freedom of speech be limited? And, more importantly, how should we rightfully interpret the nebulosity of our freedom of speech?  


– Hyun Jung Choi (‘16)

Header: WQAD

ISIS Destroys Priceless Ancient Artifacts

ISIS continues to destroy precious ancient artifacts at an Assyrian archeological site, as well as the centuries history and culture that they embodied.

An Assyrian relief at Nimrud, Iraq from 725 BC (The Guardian; c. Steven Vidler/Eurasia Press/Corbis)

History is what pushes us forward and changes our actions. History is what allows our future actions to be more satisfactory to us than those we experienced in the past. By utilizing and memorizing our past, we can learn many things and jump closer to reaching that previously unattainable goal. But there are people out there who do not understand the importance of history and how it affects our everyday lives. There are people out there who destroy our history and furthermore prevent anyone from learning anything about the past, thus stunting our advancements. One group in particular, a terrorist group named ISIS, has been destroying ancient artifacts that we have been so caring of.

Footage of militants destroying the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. (Associated Press)

On March 6th, ISIS caused irreparable destruction to the archeological site at the ancient city of Nimrud in Iraq.  On March 7th, 2015, ISIS obliterated the fortress in Hatra, which had stood for over 2,000 years. On March 8th, 2015, ISIS raided the city of Khorsabad, a city that had over a 2,800 year history. They destroyed priceless artifacts, and old, cultural structures.

But that’s not all. ISIS has been destroying all the history that we have been so cautious with. The history that we wished to preserve for future generations. But now, this history has disappeared. All the work and effort went into creating the structures and preserving it had gone to waste. We are losing our grasp on our history. And to forget one’s history, is to forget one’s identity.

Potential archeological sites at risk.

People all around the world, regardless of occupation, cry out in horror as they see this destruction. ISIS on the other hand say it’s for religious purposes, but does that really make sense? To destroy the history of humankind just because it interferes with their religion? Does the existence of some mere statues bother ISIS that much?


The answer is no. ISIS has only one intent. Their sole goal is to increase their numbers. But to do so, they need the resources first. They will most likely sell these items on the black marke, and continually destroy and steal artifacts for their own benefit. But we must stop them before it’s too late; before we forget who we are.


– Andy Yang (’16)

Header: Associated Press

Why Join ISIS?

It’s one of the biggest global threats on all fronts — but why?

It comes as no shock to us to read headlines about girls, as young as 15, crossing borders alone to join the extremist Islamist rebel group. Let’s also not forget that ISIS easily recruits and trains all kinds of men and women in their respective Islamic states to be a part of them. ISIS is brainwashing kids, teenagers, women and men of all races for recruitment and support.The question is why these people are choosing the direct path to self-destruction and terrorism. What will people gain from being a follower? From being a murderer? From being a human trafficker?

The issue is identity crisis that causes this waiver in people’s minds. Where would one have power and the ability to influence and be a part of this world other than ISIS? They see it as a golden opportunity to let themselves be seen and have some kind of impact in this world: to be noticed and to be a part of something important, either good or bad. ISIS propaganda videos makes radicalization and recruitment easier by telling its viewers that they are needed and wanted. Poulin, a Canadian who joined the fight for ISIS in Syria, mentioned in one of the videos, “We need the engineers, we need doctors, we need professionals. Every person can contribute something to the Islamic State.” It gives meaning to a person’s life to be needed and to be important – a truly sneaky, yet brilliant, psychological tactic.

“There is a role for everybody.” – Abu Muslim on ISIS recruitment.

These six enticing words lure the victims into their trap.

Power and recognition are what these people thirst for. Why? They don’t get enough of it where they are right now. Therefore, these propagandas easily target the unemployed, women, and innocent, young minds. Not to mention that social media plays a huge role in spreading awareness to join ISIS. ISIS videos make it seem like what they do on the field resembles video games like Black Ops – a teenager’s video game dream world come to life.

Straight Out Of A Dream: Although most people view ISIS as a threat and a danger to even consider joining, many teenagers think that joining ISIS means reliving their dreams of popular video games and movies. (Daily Mail)

Women who chose this path tweet on social media to encourage others to follow in their footsteps. These women who are called ‘jihadi brides’ join ISIS to reconcile with their lovers who are fighting for this creation of a pure islamic state, to have children, and to support and fight for ISIS for the same reasons men do.

Why would anyone support ISIS and follow in their footsteps?

United: ISIS members line up in uniform rows and columns as they pose for this photos — and we see people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. (ITN)

Extensive research proves that current conditions in Iraq and Syria with their education systems, lack of economic growth and opportunity, and bad governance pretty much dug its own grave.

The failed education systems in ISIS infested countries by emphasizing rote, devalued learning and accepting authority more than skills and values taught in other education systems. Without the proper education, the children in these countries grow up without knowing what to think for themselves or how to analyze the choices they make and the rules they follow. Due to this reason, the spread of militant ideologies and indoctrinations of the younger generations becomes inevitable.

(AP, Guardian)

The lack of economic growth has increased as Arab states have economically liberalized. These states did not take in consideration the existing welfare systems which led to the removal of guaranteers of public employment. This led to unemployment at an all time high. Twenty-nine percent of the Arab youth, and even those with higher education, are currently unemployed too. This combination of weakened welfare and economic opportunity cause the people to turn to others instead; creating the perfect opportunity for foreigners to join in to support them.

Up to this day, Arab governments (not all) treat their citizens as threats to national security, taking brutal precautionary measures to keep their people under the government’s control. This not only drives its people to feel distrust and detached towards their governments, but also to believe in the worst. More than 91% of Arab citizens believe that corruption is not a question in their government, and believe that the law does not treat the citizens equally. By joining hands with ISIS, it’s an opportunity to overthrow this system and rebel for the respect and power they believe they need to gain– and now, the world. This is quite a radical reason because ultimately, ISIS can convince the people that doing what ISIS does it the right thing and is justified for the brutality the people endured under the bad governing.

Altogether, social media, lack of proper education systems, failing economy and bad governance have created this toxic drug that lures people into ISIS. The easiest ways to end recruitment would be to give everyone some sort of magical wakeup call that murder and terrorism are never justified, and violence will only lead to more violence. However, that could never really happen neither could shutting down all forms of social media and taking down every single propaganda ISIS have set out already. Or for these governments to somehow take care of the crisis. None of these simple solutions are realistic, leaving this crisis yet to be resolved.

– Hyun Jung Choi ‘16

Header: CNS

Captions: Faith Choi (’16)

A Brief Overview of the Terrors of ISIS (as of February 26, 2015)

A quick summary of the major events caused by and related to ISIS during the past few contentious months.

ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is now a huge militant group, too extreme even for the Al Qaeda. Throughout June and July in 2014, ISIS has seized control of Syria and Iraq. What is it that ISIS wants? According to Journalist Tognotti from Bustle news, “ISIS has voiced publicly in June, that their stated mission is to establish a new Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East.”

The controversiality of ISIS stems not only from their efforts to overthrow the Muslim governments, but also their acts of mass violence against civilians of Shiia religion.

According to the United Nations,

“…over 24,000 Iraqi civilians have been injured or killed by ISIS in the first eight months of 2014, now over 1.8 million have been displaced from their home.” Justifying their crimes through the Islamist ideology, they have massacred religious minorities including Christians. Young boys are captured as child soldiers; women and girls are forced into sex slavery.”

Although the majority of ISIS’s actions have been relevant to the Middle Eastern area, ISIS is now meddling in the larger scope of the world, including the vast expanses of social media.

Here is a concise overview, in chronological order, of some of the major events caused by ISIS in the past few months, since August 2014 to February 26 with the recent identification of Jihadi John.


Beheading of the West

James Foley

In August 19, 2014, a Youtube video of the beheading of an American journalist James Foley went viral. The masked man then threatened to behead another hostage, Steven Sotloff, if Obama did not cease fire.

David Haines

After a month, in September 13, ISIS beheaded a British aid worker, David Haines. Another British worker Alan Hennings was then killed in November. In the videos, ISIS condemned the United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron over his policy of arming Kurdish forces to combat ISIS.

Yet, many terrorism specialists have indicated that ISIS has no intent to attack the West, nor do they have the ability to do so. Ironically though, ISIS has already attracted more than five hundred British volunteers, and a hundred Americans (The New Yorker).


ISIS in Japan

Early in 2015, Japan become a victim of the relentless killings of ISIS. In January 2015, a video was released online of journalist, Kenji Goto, holding a photo of the decapitated body of Haruna Yukawa. The audio message in the video by Jihadi John, the executioner, demanded the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman facing death penalty due to her crime of triple bombing hotels in Jordan.

Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa (Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press)

And without any warning, on February 1st, 2015, the beheading of Kenji Goto was displayed to the world.  “People in Japan are now calling Kenji Goto’s murder their 9/11,” according to The New Yorker. The ISIS negotiations to bring back Sajida al-Rishawi had failed. There were talks about trade involving Kenji Goto or the Jordanian Air Force pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, in return for Sajida al-Rishawi.

Since then, there were many headlines implying the controversy of remilitarization of Japan, such as “Japanese government exploits hostage crisis to push remilitarization” from the Worlds Socialist Web. The punishment for Japan’s past world war crimes were implemented by the Allied powers, such as Article 9 of Japan’s constitution to prevent remilitarization. But now Abe speaks, “Japan’s security environment has changed, and we must fortify our national security.”

Moreover, according to the New Yorker, the political scientist from University of Tokyo has said, “The cruelty of the Islamic State has made Japan see a harsh new reality. … We now realize we face the same dangers as other countries do.”


The Killing of Jordanian Pilot

ISIS burns pilot alive, Jordan responds with terrorist executions
Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh (NY Post)

On February 5, 2015, the ISIS video revealed a horrific video of the execution of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh. Right before his death, Al-Kasabeh spoke of the latest attack mission where his jet crashed near Raquaa. He was then burned alive inside a cage.

“This cowardly terror by a criminal group that has no relation to Islam … it’s the duty of all citizens to stand together.”

– King Abdullah of Jordan, in response to the pilot’s death

In return, Jordon executed two prisoners Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad Karbouli. Meanwhile, the pilot’s family is insisting for more revenge. Jordon is planning on more anti-ISIS air strikes, and hundreds of Jordanian demonstrators have protested out in the streets.


Jihadi John Identified

Last week, February 26, the Islamist militant, “Jihadi John” has finally been identified. He is Mohammed Emwazi, a 26-year-old British computer programming graduate from London.

According to BBC News, Asim Qureshi, a human rights advocate, revealed that Emwazi was recruited by MI5, unknown to his family, to Syria. With the title “Jihadi John,” Emwazi has appeared in numerous ISIS beheading videos of Western hostages; his victims including the U.S journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff; British aid workers David Haines, Alan Henning; and the Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.


– Sammie Kim (’18)

Header: AFP/Getty Images

Death of Kenji Goto

On January 31, 2015, ISIS has reportedly beheaded yet another Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto.

“Please understand his kindness and courage.”


On January 31, 2015, ISIS has reportedly beheaded yet another Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto. Kenji Goto, a freelance video journalist who traveled to conflict zones, was held hostage in Syria by the Islamic State militants (ISIS or ISIL) since October 2014, when he had attempted to rescue another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa. A few weeks prior to this killing, the Islamic State militants had given Japan an opportunity to save the life of its Japanese hostages. The extremist group set a deadline by which a $200 million ransom was to be sent to them. The ransom was equal in value to the amount of aid Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe had promised to provide to the countries fighting against the Islamic State. However, prime minister Abe ultimately did not give in to terrorism, leaving Goto and other Japanese hostages with no way out.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after a press conference with Palestine’s president Mahmud Abbas | c. Getty Images

Consequently, with the offer rejected and the deadline passed, the execution of Goto was carried on by the ISIS militant who has come to be known as Jihadi John. While proceeding with the slaughter, Jihadi John threatened that due to prime minister Abe’s dissension, the ”knife will not only slaughter Kenji” but “carry on and cause carnage wherever [the Japanese] are found.” Illustrating their firmness, the Islamic State then showed video clips of the warning, the beginnings of the gruesome knife violence, and afterwards, an image of Goto’s decapitated body and severed head.


Called by the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as “a terrorist act of extreme brutality”, the killing had resounding effects all over the world. Sympathetic and incensed reactions were global, and United States President Barack Obama lauded the valor of Goto while severely condemning the incident as a “heinous murder.” Now titled the 9/11 of the Japanese, this unfortunate happening has proven, as a political scientist of the University of Tokyo said, that “we now realize we face the same dangers as other countries do.”

– Emily Kim (’16)

Header: SCMP