[Video] Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons

danish cartoonA panel discussion by Dr. Yaron Brook, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute and Dr. Daniel Pipes, Director of Middle East Forum, on free speech from 2006, about a year after cartoons critical of Islam were published in Denmark and riots protesting them broke out across the Muslim world.

Dr. Pipes makes the point that this was not really about the cartoons, but the more fundamental question of whether the West will accept some form or aspect of Sharia law. The cartoons were just the excuse given this time, but it could have been any other issue such as the treatment of women. It is up to us, according to Dr. Pipes, to decide whether we will stand up for Western ideas such as individual rights and freedom of speech or if we will accept a fundamentally different ideology where such rights are unknown.

Dr. Brook points out the danger in our response to such actions pose a danger far beyond the issue of militant, consistent, Islam. If we allow violence to change our behaviors, which is the whole purpose of the violence, other groups such as environmentalists or fundamental Christians will learn that all they need to do in order to cause governments and people to change their behavior is to blow up a few buildings or threaten to kill people and we will concede our freedoms and act in ways these groups approve of.

Very lively Q&A session following the set portion of the discussion. What sort of surprised me about the questions asked was that many people appeared to miss the main point, which Yaron emphasized over and over. This point is that there is a difference between speech and violence and that advocating violence is itself violence. It is this willingness to commit violent acts that needs to be fought against, not any specific religion or other ideology.

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