Flemming Rose Defends Free Speech
by Ari Armstrong, December 7, 2006
On September 30, 2005, Flemming Rose, Cultural Editor for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, published twelve cartoons of or about Mohammed. On this December 4, he explained to an audience at the University of Colorado at Boulder his reasons for publishing the cartoons, how Islamists reacted, the state of immigration in Western Europe, and the importance of freedom of speech and religion in liberal democracies.
Rose's entire speech is available as an mp3 file.
Lin Zinser of Ideas Matter! helped bring Rose to Colorado. She noted that what he discusses is "an issue that is fundamental to our way of life." She promised the audience "the full context of the Danish cartoons." Rose "understood and took seriously his role as a journalist," Zinser said.
Jim Manley, head of The Boulder Objectivist Club, said in his introductory comments, "Mr. Rose has been called childish, irresponsible, a Zionist neocon. He's also been called a hero, for standing up for Western values like free speech in the face of violent intimidation. Tonight we have an opportunity to find out why he has been unwavering in his defense of free speech."
Rose said that the cartoons sparked "the most important debate about what is going on in Muslim society for several decades." Journalists at his paper debated whether to publish the cartoons, and what convinced them to do so was hearing several stories of self-censorship due to threats and intimidation.
"I do not think this is a battle between them and us," Rose said, but rather a battle of ideas between advocates of "liberal constitutions" and "those who want to impose Sharia law." Rose pointed out that many Muslims, too, have been silenced by intimidation. Since the cartoons, "more secular Muslims have spoken against radical Imams," Rose said.
Rose said that Western European nations need to stop thinking of citizenship in terms of family ties and start thinking about it in terms of defining values, specifically the values of liberal institutions (in the European or classical sense). At the same time that locals become more inviting, immigrants need to accept democratic values, including freedom of speech and religion and the equal treatment of women.
Earlier this year, I republished the cartoons and analyzed the issues surrounding their publication.