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June 19, 2006

Flemming Rose at Oxford

Filed under: Ytringsfrihed — limewoody @ 12:17 pm

The Danish newspaper editor who caused outrage among some Muslims by printing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad has addressed the Oxford Union. A small protest was held outside as Flemming Rose took part in a debate on free speech on Thursday night.

Security was the tightest it had been in six years and police were present, a union spokeswoman said.

She added it was Mr Rose's first public appearance since the cartoon row broke out sparking worldwide protests.

Demonstrations continued when the cartoons were republished in several European newspapers.

Mr Rose, culture editor of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, was speaking in opposition to the motion: "This house believes free speech should be moderated by respect for religion", which was defeated by 129 votes to 59.

The union spokeswoman said that during the debate Mr Rose defended his decision to publish the cartoons, saying they in "no way demonised or stereotyped" the Muslim community.

'Must be moderation'

Other speakers included the Labour MPs Nick Palmer and Jamie Reid, the Director General of the Islamic Foundation Dr Manazir Ahsan, Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, the activist Barbara Smoker and Conservative MP Edward Leigh.

The union spokeswoman said Zulfi Bukhari, of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, spoke in favour of the motion and said "if free speech results in the demonisation of a community there must be moderation".

She added that Mr Bukhari was supported, among others, by Mr Palmer who said "people are in favour of free speech as long as they're comfortable with what's said".

President of the Oxford Union, David Powell, said: "It is entirely consistent with the union's founding principle of free speech to hold this debate and provide a forum for Flemming Rose to justify his actions and views."

A Thames Valley police spokeswoman said officers had been monitoring the situation but there were "no problems at all".

High security for Union free speech



Before the event, Flemming Rose said:

I do not regret the publication of the cartoons. Much of the violence and intimidation that has occurred since has put the problems they raised right into focus. People now have more reason to speak out against this kind of extremism. I did not anticipate the kind of response the pictures got at first, but the things we have seen opened our eyes.

After the debate, Barbara Smoker wrote:

It is obviously impossible to genuinely respect an ideology that our reason rejects as superstition – let alone dangerous superstition; so what the precept to respect religion actually means is that we should pretend to respect it, for the sake of political correctness. At the very least, then, as I pointed out in the debate, the motion called for hypocrisy.

But hypocrisy is not the worst of it. When the ideologies that we pretend to respect indoctrinate children, some of whom may even grow up to be suicide bombers because of it, hypocrisy becomes complicity in the mental abuse of children, in the oppression of women, and even in incitement to terrorism.

So, for the sake of Liberty as well as truth, we must resist the indefensible furtherance of hypocritical respect. Far from free speech being moderated by respect for religion, respect for religion should be moderated in favour of free speech. The majority vote was therefore for honesty, not hypocrisy.

And from the other side, here is Nick Palmer:

People are in favour of free speech as long as they're comfortable with what's said.

It's no surprise that the free speech supporters won.



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