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Danish journalist interviewed by Czech weekly about "the freedom to disseminate hatred"

7.9.2015 16:25
Flemming Rose (PHOTO:  YouTube)
Flemming Rose (PHOTO: YouTube)

The Czech weekly RESPEKT (issue 37/2015) has published an intervew with Danish journalist Flemming Rose, who advocated in 2005 for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish weekly Jyllands-Posten. He has lived under constant police protection ever since.

Rose continues to defend freedom of speech and published a book summarizing his opinions last year called Tyranny of Silence. Lucie Kavanová asked him the following questions, among others, in the interview:

Q:  What about the intentional dissemination of lies, for example, in the Czech Republic the favorite untruth about Romani people is that all they do is abuse welfare, mug white citizens with impunity and steal. How can the members of a minority who can be identified at first glance whenever they're out on the street defend themselves against this absolutely nonviolent, purely verbal dissemination of hatred? What should they do?

A:  I don't know the specific situation in the Czech Republic, but generally - on their own those people can't do much, which is why it is necessary for members of the majority society and their elites to publicly condemn such hatred. It should be debated and society should engage itself with the arguments and ideas behind these views. This is becoming ever more important the more diverse European society is. If you take Western Europe today and the percentage of people who deny the Holocaust, for example, that is a much more frequent phenomenon among Muslims than it is among majority societies. In a multicultural society, the norms of what is and isn't correct to say differ significantly from group to group, but it's not really possible to protect only the rights of one group - such as, for example, those who oppose Holocaust deniers. We have immigrants from other parts of the world where other norms apply and they will feel excluded by this. I consider it very unfortunate for us, if we want to integrate Muslims, to permit the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on the one hand, to permit the ridiculing of that figure, but on the other hand to ban the dissemination of certain opinions, even hateful ones, about the Holocaust and Jews.      

Q:  In other words, you're calling for more freedom to disseminate hatred?

A:  By banning speech, a society finds itself as close as it possibly can come to controlling the thoughts of its members. That's why I think it is necessary to differentiate deeds from words. We are responsible for our own interpretations of what others say, and only we ourselves translate our reactions into action. Between what we say and what we do, the thinking individual has the capacity to assess what is correct and what is not. Words in and of themselves never, never produce a reaction, as if someone pushed a button. Words have consequences only when we decide they should have them. There is no ban on believing that blacks are inferior, that non-Muslims are inferior to Muslims or that women, for example, are less intelligent than men. However, when, on the basis of such opinions, someone decides to actually discriminate against blacks, non-Muslims or women, not to acknowledge that they have equal rights like anyone else, then all those who advocate for liberal democracy, me included, will stand together in the view that basic democratic principles have been violated. 

mik, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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