Monday, October 31, 2005

Danish PM put up as model for his defense of freedom of speech

From Jyllandsposten:

Death-threatened politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali hails PM's refusal to discuss Danish press coverage of Islam

European leaders should step forward and support Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's refusal to meet with eleven Muslim ambassadors to discuss press coverage of Islam, Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali said on Sunday.

Somalian-born Hirsi Ali, who is considered one of northern Europe's staunchest Islam opponents, has lived under police protection for a year, ever since Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered for his critical film on women in Islam, which Hirsi Ali penned.

Daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported that the 36-year-old politician and debater supported whole-heartedly the paper's decision to call for and print cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed last month, an action considered blasphemous by devout Muslims and an unneeded provocation by many Danish politicians and journalists.

The ambassadors of eleven Muslim countries have deplored the newspaper's decision and asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is also the minister of press issues.

Rasmussen, however, declined to meet the ambassadors, saying that if they had the slightest understanding of the workings of Danish society, they would know that he had no desire or powers to change the newspaper's editorial policies.

'The Danish prime minister's reply to the ambassadors should be an example for every European leader,' Hirsi Ali told Jyllands-Posten's reporter. 'The prime minister steps forward to tell Muslims loud and clear that the freedom of expression is a deciding factor for a free society, and that a prime minister in a free society neither can nor wishes to regulate what newspapers do or do not do. The fact that he makes a special point of explaining this to the ambassador from Turkey - which is seeking entrance to the EU - is an expression of true statesmanship.' ..

She said Jyllands-Posten had made the right decision to print the caricatures of Mohammed, and urged media in other countries to do the same.

'It's necessary to taunt Muslims on their relationship with Mohammed, because otherwise we will never have the dialogue we need to establish with Muslims on the most central question: Do you really feel that the prophet Mohammed is completely infallible, and that every Muslim in Europe in 2005 should follow the way of life the prophet had 1400 years ago, as the Koran dictates? The provocation is necessary to spark the debate,' Hirsi Ali said.

Olli Rehn, the EUs Commisioner for Enlargement (with amongst others moslem Turkey), agrees somewhat. At least he has to so as to not destroy his goal, to get Turkey into the EU (from Berlingske Tidende 28. October, though the article didnt make it online. My translation)

The official Turkish protests to the Danish government over the Daily Jyllands-Postens depictions of the profet Mohammed shouldnt have any influence on the EUs negotiations for the admission of Turkey, EU enlargement commisioner Olli Rehn thinks. Even if he hints at, that the Turkish government has acted boorishly in the case.

The Finnish EU commisioner at the same time beklager Jyllands-Postens actions in the case, since the pictures can create provocations and add to "an atmosphere hostile against foreigners".

In a statement on the behalf of the entire commision, Olli Rehn says, that "freedom of speech is a fundamental value for the European community and Europe", and that judging in disputes over freedom of speech is the exclusive domain of the independent courts - not the governments. "If you have a complaint over the use of freedom of speech, you should go to the courts, and then its up to the courts to settle the case". ..

On a personal level, Olli Rehn strongly deplores, that the drawings of the profet Muhammed in Jyllands-Posten may have contributed to fertilizing the soil for anti-foreigner sentiment and conflicts between religions and cultures. "When you show pictures showing Muhammed with a bomb in his turban, you should expect, that it will act provocatively and create conflicts", says the EUs commisioner for enlargement.

Finland earlier this year saw something Mr. Rehn would probably have approved of: "accidental" censorship of a book by Ms. Hirsi Ali, the dissident quoted at the beginning of this piece (from Helsingin Sanomat):

The Finnish translation of a controversial book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born a Somali-born member of the Dutch Parliament, has a passage missing, in which the writer sharply criticises the founder of Islam - the Prophet Mohammed. ..

Hirsi Ali said that the Finnish publisher of the book, Otava Publishers, had asked for permission to omit the passage, because it might be found to be offensive by Muslims.

However, she did not give permission for any such omission.

At Otava, Tero Norkola, head of publishing at the company’s non-fiction department, was unaware of the missing passage when Helsingin Sanomat contacted him. He said that he is certain that Otava did not deliberately order the cut.

Norkola was asked why he thought that the missing passage happened to be the one that has raised so much international controversy.

"It is interesting. Mysterious", he admits. However, he insists that no decision was made to cut the passage, and that its omission must have been a "technical error". ..

For safety reasons Otava omitted the name of the Finnish translator from the book. Translators’ names have been left out of other versions as well. ..

Hirsi Ali’s Paris-based agent did not know that the Finnish version did not contain the book’s most widely-quoted passage, in which she said that by Western standards, Mohammed was a "pervert and a tyrant" who opposed freedom of speech. She also says that Mohammed is the model for all Muslim men to follow, and suggests that this may be the reason why many Muslim men are violent.

"Accidental" censorship?? Sure it was....



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