“We do free speech here”

COPENHAGEN – When Flemming Rose, the cultural editor at Denmark’s leading newspaper, published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad late last September, he got an angry telephone call from a local Muslim news vendor who said he had removed the paper from his shelves in protest.
The complaint didn’t cause much alarm. “We get calls every day from people complaining about something,” recalls Mr. Rose. Anger over the cartoons, he figured, would flare out in “two or three days.”
Today, the 47-year-old editor has a security-service escort when he appears in public. He has received death threats and gets insulted by strangers on the street. His newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, evacuated its offices twice last week after anonymous bomb threats.
Across the Muslim world, Denmark, a nation of just 5.4 million, has been hit by a tsunami of rage. Protesters rally daily from Iraq to Indonesia. Mobs over the weekend stormed its diplomatic missions in Syria and Lebanon. Demonstrators yesterday attacked its embassy in Iran, and security forces in Afghanistan opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least four. A boycott of Danish products has hammered some of Denmark’s biggest companies.

For the full story, see:
ANDREW HIGGINS. “How Muslim Clerics Stirred Arab World Against Denmark; Newspaper Cartoons Unite Religious, Secular Forces; Dossier Fans the Flames.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Tues., February 7, 2006): A1 & A25.
And now for something completely different:

Listen, I watched the funeral of Coretta Scott King for six hours Tuesday, from the pre-service commentary to the very last speech, and it was wonderful — spirited and moving, rousing and respectful, pugnacious and loving. The old lions of the great American civil rights movement of the 20th century were there, and standing tall. The old lionesses, too. There was preaching and speechifying and at the end I thought: This is how democracy ought to be, ought to look every day — full of the joy of argument, and marked by the moral certainty that here you can say what you think.
There was nothing prissy, nothing sissy about it. A former president, a softly gray-haired and chronically dyspeptic gentleman who seems to have judged the world to be just barely deserving of his presence, pointedly insulted a sitting president who was, in fact, sitting right behind him. The Clintons unveiled their 2008 campaign. A rhyming preacher, one of the old lions, a man of warmth and stature, freely used the occasion to verbally bop the sitting president on the head.
So what? This was the authentic sound of a vibrant democracy doing its thing. It was the exact opposite of the frightened and prissy attitude that if you draw a picture I don’t like, I’ll have to kill you.
It was: We do free speech here.

For the full commentary, see:
PEGGY NOONAN. “Four Presidents and a Funeral.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., February 10, 2006): A18.

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