The Danish journalist who ignited violent Muslim protest when he published cartoons of Islamic prophet Mohammad over a decade ago, still ignites a crowd when he speaks.
The College Fix reports that free speech advocate Flemming Rose was at Franklin & Marshall College this month to talk about his new book, “Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech” and had to face down some angry students.
Rose was demonized by Muslims in 2005 when, as the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, he published cartoon depictions of Mohammad. That decision resulted in global riots by Muslims who took their anger onto the streets over what they considered Rose’s blasphemy for reproducing their prophet’s image.
Several dozen protesters appeared on cue when Rose arrived at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania college on March 2 to talk to students not only didn’t want to hear the lecture, they didn’t think Rose should speak at all.
The Judaic studies professor who invited Rose wrote about being harassed by students who said they were “feeling threatened and unsafe” by the visit and accused him of inviting a journalist who imparts “ever-increasing feelings of vulnerability, marginalization, and fear for our safety.”
Matthew Hoffman wrote a long letter of explanation to Franklin & Marshall’s newspaper, The College Reporter.
Rose told The College Fix that he faced a very angry crowd at his lecture.
“There was a loud protest outside the auditorium before my talk, around 30 people,” Rose recounted. “They held posters and one of them showed Kurt Westergaard’s cartoon of the prophet with a bomb in his turban on her smartphone, which to me seems a little bizarre. Why show the cartoon if you find it so offensive?”
Other signs demanded, “Do not use my prophet as a tool to gain fame,” and others told Rose to “check his privilege at the door.”
Rose described the question and answer session that followed the speech as “tense” but said the protesters did not get out of hand.
Even before Rose’s arrival, Hoffman was warned by faculty colleague that it was a “bad idea” to invite Rose to the college.
Hoffman was having none of that.
“I think many of the student protesters themselves would distinguish between his right to publish the cartoons and the moral wisdom of doing so,” Hoffman said. “My commitment to free speech is similar to Rose’s. I see a fundamental separation between words and deeds, though one can at times influence the other. As someone from the libertarian left, I believe fully in the universal right to free speech, free expression, and the free exchange of ideas.”