Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hero of Denmark

This man has courage. He was willing to exercise his freedom of speech, even if it would offend millions and make him the target of assassination. He offended millions of Presbyterians Muslims when he put published those dreaded cartoons of blasphemy, that actually depicted Mohammed, would ya believe it ?!

Reason Magazine
has a fascinating interview with Flemming Rose.

reason: Did your time in Russia and as Berlingske Tidende correspondent in the Soviet Union inform your ideas of free speech and political freedom?

Flemming Rose:
Yes. I am going to write a book about the cartoon crisis and I am going to compare the experience of the dissidents in the Soviet Union to what has happened to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Salman Rushdie and Irshad Manji... I am very much informed by my contact with [Soviet dissidents] and I'm close to the Sakharov camp—people like Natan Sharansky and Sergei Kovalev... The dissidents were split between what I would I would call the nationalist camp and the human rights movement. And I would say that I identified more with the human rights movement, although I am a big admirer of Solzhenitsyn, of course, because of what he accomplished. But today he is, in fact, supporting Putin and he believes that he's conducting a very wise foreign policy program. I don't think Sakharov would have subscribed to this view.

Were you surprised by the reaction of those who argued not for unfettered free speech, but "responsible speech?"

Well, no. I think many people betrayed their own ideals. The history of the left, for instance, is a history of confronting authority—be it religious or political authority—and always challenging religious symbols and figures. In this case, they failed miserably. I think the left is in a deep crisis in Europe because of their lack of willingness to confront the racist ideology of Islamism. They somehow view the Koran as a new version of Das Kapital and are willing to ignore everything else, as long of they continue to see the Muslims of Europe as a new proletariat.

Like during the Cold War, there is a willingness to establish a false equivalence between democracy and oppression—between a totalitarian ideology and a liberal ideology. When I look back at my own behavior during the "cartoon crisis," it was very much informed by my experience with Soviet Union because I saw the same kind of behavior both inside the Soviet Union and those dealing with the Soviet Union in the West.

At the height of the "cartoon crisis," were you surprised to turn the television on to images of people in Lahore burning Danish flags, mobs attacking Scandinavian embassies? Did anyone at the paper anticipate such a response?

Not at all. No one expected this kind of reaction. Last year, I visited Bernard Lewis at Princeton and he told me: "Your case in unique in a historical sense. Never before in modern times, on such a scale, have Muslims insisted upon applying Islamic law to what non-Muslims are doing in non-Muslim country. It has never happened before. And you can't really compare the Rushdie affair, because he was perceived to be an apostate." And as he told me, there is a long tradition of offending the Prophet in history. In the St. Petronio church in Bologna there is, on the ceiling, a painting of Mohammad in hell, based Dürer's paintings of Dante's Divine Comedy.