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Why There Was No Cartoon Controversy in the United States


Robert A. Kahn


University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

2007

U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-28

Abstract:     
The publication of cartoons insulting the prophet Mohammed created a far greater controversy in Europe than it did in the United States. In the paper, I attempt to trace this difference to broader differences in the way Americans and Europeans think about offensive speech. While Americans have developed a language of "libertarian regret," which allows them to criticize speech that they nevertheless concede the legal system must protect, Europeans are much more concerned about the threat posed by acts of intolerance. As a result, Europeans tended to view Muslim protests against the cartoons as a potential harbinger of totalitarianism. By contrast, most American commentators - while defending the right of the Danish paper to run the cartoons - were more likely to trace the Muslim opposition to the cartoons to religious sensitivities. In a concluding section of the paper, I link this to the European fears that Muslims will undermine secular norms.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 29

Keywords: Comparative law, offensive speech, freedom of speech, law and religion

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Date posted: August 23, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Kahn, Robert A., Why There Was No Cartoon Controversy in the United States (2007). U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-28. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1008997 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1008997

Contact Information

Robert A. Kahn (Contact Author)
University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )
MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
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