Freedom of Speech Trumps Muslim Meeting

Denmark.dk (Official website of Denmark), Oct. 25

Eleven Muslim ambassadors in Denmark looking to meet with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to discuss what they call a ‘smear campaign’ in the media against Islam and Muslims have had their request denied.

The prime minister had otherwise been encouraged by the opposition to meet with the group as a way to increase understanding in an increasingly controversial public debate.

In recent weeks, both the minister of culture and a Copenhagen mayoral candidate have retracted statements they made about Muslims and Islamic culture.

Most recently, national daily Jyllands-Posten has invoked international ire by publishing twelve caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, some of which characterised him as a terrorist.

Pictorial depictions of Mohammed are frowned upon by Islam.

‘This is a matter of principle. I won’t meet with them because it is so crystal clear what principles Danish democracy is built upon that there is no reason to do so,’ said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen reiterated his message that individuals who felt offended by the tone of the public debate should bring their grievances to the courts.

‘As prime minister, I have no power whatsoever to limit the press—nor do I want such a power,’ he said. ‘It is a basic principle of our democracy that a prime minister cannot control the press.’

Rasmussen said that though he preferred a positive debate in the press, as long as people kept their comments with in the boundaries of the law, the motives behind the comments were not an issue.

‘Some people say that the press needs to be constructive, and sometimes I also think that’d be nice. But who’s to say what’s constructive? That’s an unfair demand to make. The press needs to becritical—I need to bear that as prime minister and religions must do so as well,’ he said.

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