Over at Agora; The Danish Prime Minister was interviewed Sunday about the recent events:
Excerpts: "People die during violent demonstrations in Pakistan, and places rarely heard of. And with typical self-centered narcissicism, in Denmark it is interpreted as a matter of Danish immigration policy and Danish integration policy. Noone even knows about these things in the streets of Pakistan - to be frank, I think this kind of criticism is beyond the pale," [...]
But that’s not how your statements has been interpreted. They’ve been interpreted as you distancing yourself from the cartoons.
"That’s right, but what I said was only that I wouldn’t draw those cartoons, and for that I have various personal reasons. But it is very important here to underline precisely what that statement covers, because some have apparently interpreted it as me saying that I would forbid others to do so. And that is precisely not what I meant, and that distinction is very, very important. Everybody in the debate says with great gravity that we must guard Freedom of Speech and that everybody has the right to print whatever they like. "But…" they then say - and that means that they don’t really mean that. That is where they lose their grip, in my opinion." [...]
How is that attained?
"Well, that can only be attained by accepting that Freedom of Speech means that everything can be scrutinised and is up for debate. I will, to take an example, never accept that Sharia can’t be examined critically. It mustn’t be so that just because someone says it’s sacred, it’s not to be the object of discussion. There’s been a lot of talk about people being offended, but you’ve got to ask yourself what is most offending - a few cartoons or two boys that have been hung in Iran or women that are stoned to death or have their hands chopped off. It’s important to keep the right perspective."
What would you say?
"I know what my personal preference is. I get most offended by seeing two teenagers hanging from the gallows in Iran, and I want the freedom to say that," says the Prime Minister. "By any means available, we must ensure that no man is persecuted or discriminated against solely because of his religion. That means that we must reject anti-semitism, islamophobia, anti-christianity and ensure that all men have protection for their right to believe whatever they want. That is an essential part of the answer. And that, I think, can be done in good manners, to say that we must be allowed be allowed to question everything and be critical, while protecting all people of all faiths against discrimination and persecution. I would even say that if that was something that could be agreed on universally, it would be a beautiful thing. That would also mean that Christians were guaranteed equal opportunities in Moslem countries."
Also see an old interview with Rasmussen done before this crisis blew up in his face, which is available here
Your fellow Liberal Uffe Ellemann Jensen has criticised that the paper published the cartoons, saying their only purpose was to provoke - he called it a juvenile demonstration of free speech. Agree or disagree?
"To me the motive of Jyllands-Posten is irrelevant in this debate because the press has the freedom to publish whatever it likes. I won’t take a position on what their motive was, because then I would be derailing the debate by accepting the premise that freedom of speech has limits. No matter the motive, Jyllands-Posten has started an essential debate about freedom of speech by publishing these cartoons."
To Anders Fogh Rasmussen there is a linear connection in the debate about freedom of speech - from Danish public schools to international politics - from promoting understanding of what it means to live in a democracy to furthering democratic reforms in the Middle East.
"It starts with the elementary schools but it is a global task we have at hand."
For the latest global developments on the loony toon jihad;
Malaysia suspends another daily for Prophet cartoons
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has suspended the operations of another Chinese-language newspaper for publishing one of the controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that have sparked global protest
Thousands Protest Drawings in Karachi
Pakistan Police Detain Dozens in Bid to Prevent Rally in Lahore Against Prophet Cartoons
Arabs, Muslim body urge restraint in cartoon row
DOHA: The United Nations, Arab states and the world's largest Islamic body have called for restraint and dialogue to ease tensions over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
meet EU leaders on March 6
ISLAMABAD eb. 26 A parliamentary delegation will take up the issue of the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with European leaders on March 6-7.
Pakistani Islamic leaders detained to foil cartoon
Islamic Republic News Agency Pakistan - Cartoon protest Police and paramilitary force are on high alert in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore to frustrate attempt by opposition groups to hold a rally against the publication of blasphemous cartoons, depicting Prophet Muhammad, officials and witnesses said.