This is why the Danes fight …
What is democracy without freedom of speech?
This is why the Danes fight …
What is democracy without freedom of speech?
The essence of democracy is that it is legal as well as possible to bring forward all facts and opinions as part of the political decision-making process. It also means that any member of a democratic society has the right to participate in this process, to speak up in public and to publish his or hers opinions and whatever s/he believes to be important information.
This process is vital to the spiritual as well as technical development of a society. It is in fact the very basis of progress within Western societies since the European Renaissance
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Freedom of speech does not only come to life through words. Also other means to present information or to speak out one’s opinion and ideas can be used. An opinion or a fact can be expressed and communicated in a variety of manners; through irony as well as argumentative conclusions and through words as well as images.
Thus, freedom of speech is also the right to argue with humor and irony and to condense an idea, an assessment or a fact into a cartoon or an image. Cartoons might in one short glimpse pinpoint something which it would take thousands of words to explain, and cartoons are often much easier to understand.
All Danish institutions and public persons are subjected to cartoons from time to time – individuals as well as the Church, political parties etc. Even the Queen has had her caricature drawn. If abuse of power, wooden-headedness of political and religions leaders and sources of disorder and stupidity could not be pinpointed, criticized and cartooned, we would still live in a Middle-Age society.
If criticism is defined as disrespect and offence and consequently forbidden, the clock is reversed and we will become a Middle-Age society once again.
As a participant in a democratic society, the Danish newspaper JyllandsPosten had a right to cartoon the prophet Mohammed. In fact, the very reason to do this was to see whether it is really true that cartoonists dare not draw cartoons about Islam.
The reactions and events following this have proved the importance of this test.
It is up to the individual whether he chooses to feel offended or not. If he feels offended, he has his free right to ague why his criticizers are wrong and deceitful and even through the legal system prosecute his offender. If an obvious offence exceeds the borderline of truth, a lawsuit for slander may be initiated. If an offence directed at a religion has no other obvious reason than to offend, it will be penalized as blasphemy.
If freedom of speech is limited by the sole reason that somebody is offended, there would in fact not be any freedom of speech at all:
Surely, the sovereign kings of previous times felt offended when they were met with claims for democracy.
Hitler felt offended when Charlie Chaplin made a caricature of him in the movie "The Dictator".
And the Pope felt highly offended when Northern Europe refused him, cartooned him and had its Reformation. He felt even more offended when scientists claimed that it was not the sun which circled around our globe but the other way around. He even managed to burn some scientists on the bonfire for that reason.
But how would our countries have looked today if nobody had dared to stand up and put the Pope under this offence?
Of course many Muslims feel offended when they see their prophet associated with bomb-making in a cartoon. But is the proper response then to launch aggressive actions against Danish society as a whole and even to threaten it with bomb attacks?
It is therefore a surprise to us to hear US and British governments condemn the "offences" of the Danish newspaper JyllandsPosten. Do these governments actually understand what democracy implies? - Or are they themselves subjected to the same self censorship which prevents cartoonists from doing their job?
It is also offensive for us to see mobs of the Middle Eastern Countries burn our flag. The flag has a cultural meaning to Danish people similar to the religious meaning of the prophet Muhammad. But we can live with that, because we see it as their right to express their opinion about the situation.
WHAT IS A SOCIETY WITHOUT FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Our democratic model is in strong contrast to the totalitarian concept of how a society should work.
Totalitarian concepts have the shape of political ideologies or religions which leave no room for the individual to have an opinion different from the official opinion or the truth handed over from an authority or and authoritative figure. A totalitarian society is governed not by the citizens but by an elite which has monopolized the right to have an opinion and claims to represent the only truth. The only legal opinion in such countries is one and for all formulated by the ideology or religion. There is no tolerance to differing opinions, and information that does not fit into the over- all concept is suppressed.
Totalitarian societies will always face severe problems in the course of time because sooner or later reality and theory will not fit together in an ever-changing world. Moreover, totalitarian societies will never be able to reach the level of a free society. Instead they will suffer from abuse by the privileged classes, mutual mistrust among citizens, lack of goods and – eventually - widespread destruction.
Nazi Germany was based on a totalitarian concept and so was Soviet Russia and Mao’s China during the Cultural Revolution. Today there are actually similar conditions in many Middle Eastern countries.
THE PRESENT SITUATION
It is therefore pathetic to us to see mobs in Middle Eastern countries, which are unable to create decent living conditions for their own citizens, burn our flag and threaten to kill innocent people because a free and independent newspaper wanted to test whether cartoonists feel threatened not to draw cartoons on Islam. It is even more pathetic since we know that such behavior has been generated intentionally on the basis of black propaganda which leaves no room for the Middle East public to know what in fact was in these cartoons and what was the reason to publish them.
It is sad to hear or overhear the demand from Islamic institutions and people that our Prime Minister should condemn or apologize for the actions of an independent and free newspaper. He has no influence whatsoever on what is printed in our newspapers, and his office would not last another day if he tried to. The Danish people would see to this immediately. The press should be free to publish whatever it finds suitable. This is the very core of our democracy. And only the maximum freedom of the press will ensure that the average citizen is always provided with a variety of information that will enable him to make relevant decisions on political matters.
WE WILL NOT SURRENDER
We don’t interfere in other people’s right to have a differing opinion. We have never interfered in the Muslims’ right to worship their religion.
In certain Muslim countries, Christians are not only cartooned but violently mocked, prosecuted and ill-treated and Christianity as such is banned. Jews are threatened even worse, harassed and suppressed – and cartooned in a way which has no precedent in modern times but in Nazi Germany. In spite of this, we have tried to help when help was needed. We sent help to Muslim Indonesia after the flood of 2004. We sent help to Pakistan after the big earth quake in 2005. We have supported the Palestinians with millions of dollars every year in order to enable them to build their own society. When Kuwait was overrun by Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabia feared to be next in line, we responded to their call for help against the aggressor. When Muslim Albanians were massacred in Kosovo we also sent troops to their aid.
In return we demand respect for our right to run the political system we find best in our own country.
If a Muslim here feels offended by the way this system works, he is free to go. If he – as some Muslim leaders who have enjoyed our hospitality have actually done - goes to the Middle East and launches lies on what does actually take place here and claims that Danes threaten Muslims, we even find he should not return but rather settle in the part of the world where habits fit him better. Why do these incendiaries who respect nothing and build nothing but hatred, misery and deserts out of fertile soil insist on staying with us?
The Danes met with open-minded curiosity immigrants which came to Denmark from Muslim countries. We gave these immigrants homes and money and all the opportunities they lacked where they came from. Many contribute and take part in the Danish society in a fruitful manner. But many also reward the hospitality with everlasting complaints and with stubborn adherence to habits which are in open contradiction to the ideas upon which our society is built.
The result of this has been a growing mistrust among Danes towards not only such persons but also against Islam as such. Within wide circles of Danish society the last events have transformed this mistrust into open disgust and in some cases even hatred.
Why did these people come here - and why do they stay, if they will not respect the order of the house?
Our house order includes democracy and freedom of speech – and under no circumstances will we abandon this freedom.
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