Freedom of speech is a critical human right. The right and freedom to express ones views is what creates a vibrant society. Societies that come to accept all and differ with none become stagnant; unable to remove the tumors of irrelevancy from their fabric. Critical differences, on the other hand, encourage people to question views that have come to be accepted as the absolute truth, leading to refinement of human thought and understanding. It is for this reason that those who understand these underlying principles of free speech must rise to defend it so that humanity at large, including those not in favour of it, can benefit from its consequences.
In general, no one is above criticism, including religious figures. Granting impunity to this class is simply out of the question. This, if allowed, would undoubtedly lead them to claim and project views, right or wrong, without the fear of being questioned. Unfortunately, this is already true for many a group of people. It is this class that, by default, claims to own the moral leadership. Moral leadership requires a character of exemplary qualities; qualities that lead other men to greater heights of morality, inculcating in them a sense of brotherhood and a yearning for the betterment of mankind and for its ultimate salvation in every sphere of life and, for those who believe, in the after life. Such position of importance cannot come without its share of responsibility. Those in this position would then, of necessity, have to undergo rigorous examination of character and their teachings must be passed through tests of relevance to the problems and times. Criticism thus serves the goal of separating the chaff from the grain.
However, the purpose of free speech should be the ultimate benefit of mankind not the mere satiation of individual thirst for criticism. It (the right to differ or criticize) emanates from the fact that it is nearly impossible for all men to come to a common understanding of any aspect of life either due to the lack of an objective framework of judgment or for reasons beyond logic. Therefore, those who take it upon themselves to offer critiques must understand that while they certainly have this right, others have an equal right to profess and practice the opinions under attack. The concept of free will is a human right that the atheist, agnostic and the theist alike acknowledge. Hence, the vilification of opinions beyond the purpose of proving their fallacy is a misuse of this right. Satire is, in general, an unacceptable form of criticism if it is directed at individuals instead of at their principles.
For some, free speech has come to be synonymous with mockery, ridicule and insult. It is unfortunate that those who consider themselves the messiahs of free speech should strike such incredibly illogical similitude. The former is a noble human endeavor to create and sustain an aura of reason while the latter is a sign of intellectual sickness. Insult is the tool of the intellectually weak who when unable to offer a logical front against the principles of their opponents stoop to such irrational methods. To equate free speech with insult is an insult to free speech.
Those who make such absurd claims must be brought to their senses with the tools that they claim to be masters of. They must be made to realize through peaceful means that with power comes responsibility, be it the power of the pen or the sword. Let the sensible make every effort employing the best forms of reasoning and rationale to help them see their error. Let not the wronged loose their temper while protesting the misuse of this freedom by these self-declared spokesmen of free speech. Let not the victims fall into the trap well laid out for them. It is their ill intended motive to foment hatred and sow the seeds of discord between people. These are not the messiahs of truth; they are the products of centuries of propaganda for whom it has become a habit and indeed a profession to raise their unreasonable but loud voices in the most insensitive of ways for the most crooked of motives. They wish to hurl abuses at anyone who does not toe their line, anyone who dares to hold onto a way unacceptable to them, anyone who is not willing to give up the ideals he holds sacred. Unfortunate it is, indeed, that they have come to be regarded as the guardians of free speech.
Unable to offer any rationale for their opposition they take this line of defense, defense through abusive offence. They are not interested in serious debate for they know that the ground beneath their feet is firm as quicksand. Their oriental forefathers, being more scholarly, tried to twist the truth by mixing fact with fiction but generally avoiding direct insult. They tried this for centuries but failed to shake the tree that they hoped to uproot. Now these illegitimate heirs of those failed giants wish to rekindle the sparks of hatred through their irrational and hollow insults. By the Will of God, they will not succeed.