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Free Speech and Radical Islam
Wall Street Journal, United States Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fleming Rose
During WW II Pablo Picasso met a German officer. When the officer figured out whom he was talking to he said:"Oh, you are the one who created Guernica?" referring to the famous painting of the German bombing of a Basque town in 1937. Picasso replied, "No, it wasn't me, it was you." The Danish cartoon was a satirical comment on the fact that some Muslims are committing terrorist acts in the name of Islam and the prophet. In the past few days 17 Danish newspapers have published Mr. Westergaard's cartoon, which is as truthful as Picasso's painting, Flemming Rose in the Wall Street Journal

At a lunch last year celebrating his 25th anniversary with Jyllands-Posten, Kurt Westergaard told an anecdote. During World War II Pablo Picasso met a German officer in southern France, and they got into a conversation. When the German officer figured out whom he was talking to he said:

 

"Oh, you are the one who created Guernica?" referring to the famous painting of the German bombing of a Basque town by that name in 1937.

Picasso paused for a second, and replied, "No, it wasn't me, it was you."

 

For the past three months Mr. [Kurt] Westergaard and his wife have been on the run. Mr. Westergaard did the most famous of the 12 Muhammad cartoons published in Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 -- the one depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban. The cartoon was a satirical comment on the fact that some Muslims are committing terrorist acts in the name of Islam and the prophet. Tragically, Mr. Westergaard's fate has proven the point of his cartoon: In the early hours of Tuesday morning Danish police arrested three men who allegedly had been plotting to kill him.

 

In the past few days 17 Danish newspapers have published Mr. Westergaard's cartoon, which is as truthful as Picasso's painting

 

Unfortunately, misplaced sensitivity is being used by tyrants and fanatics to justify murder and silence criticism. ... Last year the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution against "defamation of religion," calling on governments around the world to clamp down on cartoonists, writers, journalists, artists and dissidents who dare to speak up.

 

In the West there is a lack of clarity on these issues. People suggest that Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasreen and Kurt Westergaard bear a certain amount of responsibility for their fate. They don't understand that by doing so they tacitly endorse attacks on dissenting voices in parts of the world where no one can protect them.

 

We need a global movement to fight blasphemy and other insult laws, and the European Union should lead the way by removing them. Europe should make it clear that democracies will protect their citizens if they say something that triggers threats and intimidation.

 

This an excerpt from an article in the Wall Street Journal, on 15 February 2008. Please read the original article here.

Author : Mr Rose, the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, is writing a book on the challenges to free speech.
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