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Flemming Rose, the Danish Cartoon Controversy, and the New European Freedom of Speech

42 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2009  

Robert A. Kahn

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

Date Written: October 2009

Abstract

Flemming Rose’s decision to run twelve cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed triggered an international controversy. In defending his decision, Rose relies on two arguments: (1) the cartoons were a necessary response to a growing atmosphere of self-censorship imposed by a totalitarian radical Islam and (2) the cartoons - far from being insulting - were actually a way to include Danish Muslims into a national “tradition of satire.” On examination both arguments are problematic. The fear of totalitarian censorship - if even it applies to Muslims - fits poorly with an American free speech discourse that counsels patience, not action in the face of totalitarian threats. Rose’s reference to a “tradition of satire” is rooted in the Danish practices of social informality (hygge) and teasing, But this argument is undercut by Rose’s own anti-immigrant rhetoric as well as the larger anti-immigrant mood in Denmark and Europe.

Keywords: offensive speech, law and religion, comparative law, freedom of the press, freedom of speech

Suggested Citation

Kahn, Robert A., Flemming Rose, the Danish Cartoon Controversy, and the New European Freedom of Speech (October 2009). U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1499947 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1499947

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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