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Memo to YouTube: Don’t censor death threats

Posted in Irshaddering Thoughts on Feb 18, 2008


Smile and say “death threat”: Sir David Frost with Irshad after their interview on Al-Jazeera International

Recently, Al-Jazeera International aired my interview with Sir David Frost. His questions focused on why I believe Islam can be reconciled with freedom of expression. Here’s the interview on YouTube.

It’s stirred quite a debate. Allyddawi writes, “i have more respect and compassion for a drug addict or a panhandler that i do for irshad trash manji. i hate her with a passion, especially since she came from my community and i now how retarded she is.”

By contrast, mzjef writes, “d message tht she brings to us mostly fellow muslims is to use our multi billion dollar gift frm God, which is our powerful brain to think b4 speak n act to others. shes trying to promote d spirit of Ijtihad… she never asks us to not praying, to b gay, to blow up ourselves in a mosque but wat she’s done so far 4 us r to stand up against injustice and fight for d rights of others.”

Debate is great. So why has another part of this debate - a death threat leveled against me early on - suddenly been removed from the responses section?

Two weeks ago, senadin wrote “Kill this whore now.” View the PDF of this comment by clicking here: a_j_comments1.pdf. Hint: It’s on the second page.

Now that comment is gone. Who’s censoring and why?

Is it YouTube editors who fear the implications of letting death threats remain posted? If so, I gladly give them permission to restore the threat and I waive any liability on their part for doing so.

After all, it’s important for people to see that in the name of protecting Islam’s pristine image, some Muslims paradoxically feel comfortable soliciting murder. That’s called a reality check.

Forgive my naïveté, but I thought the point of YouTube’s open community is to foster an authentic, unfiltered look at our world. Presumably, that’s why the editors didn’t touch comments like “May Allah suck my big fat dick.” (Uh, I’m guessing that God has better things to do.) And, on the other side, “May Allah curse her!” (Ironically, the latter comes from someone who identifies as habibti — Arabic for female sweetheart.)

It’s equally important to see that some Muslims condemn the threats, as does WarGuardian18 when s/he writes “How dare my brothers and sisters call for the death of anyone!… Shame on you!” Censors didn’t remove that comment, which only reminds us that a threat was, indeed, issued in the first place.

Leaving this response up is either very clever or very sloppy of the editors. Whatever the case, I’m glad it remains posted for all to view because it, too, is a reality check.

If we sanitize debate, we’ll never know what we’re up against in the struggle to reform the Muslim mind-set. That’s what I told a young Shia Muslim who once pleaded with me to delete a death threat issued by a fellow Shia. Her message to me: We’re not all like that and by posting the threat on your site, you’re making us look bad.

My message to her: Instead of pleading with me to erase facts on the ground, wouldn’t you serve Muslims more by using your voice to challenge my would-be assassin? Doesn’t reforming a criminal have more social value than denying that he or she exists?

To all readers: You can challenge death threats by signing this petition. In added defiance of violent Islamists, please be sure to identify your city along with your name.

Let us — Muslims and non-Muslims — assert the universal values of humanity and rationality. Let us do so with honesty.

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