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A Modest Proposal in Defense of Free Speech

Author: Jagdish N. Bhagwati
March 25, 2011
The New Republic


On December 12, 2010, a suicide bombing was committed in central Stockholm by an Islamic terrorist who denounced the Swedish government for its "foolish support for the pig Vilks." Vilks was the conceptual artist who had, in 2007, depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a "roundabout dog," familiar to tourists as a street display in Sweden. This had led to an outcry by outraged mobs in Islamic countries and occasional death threats by zealous Muslims (most definitely not to be confused with vast numbers of moderate Muslims).

The terrorist found it intolerable that Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt would not intervene to deny Vilks the right to draw and to publish his cartoon. Mr. Reinfeldt had in fact been preceded in this principled stance by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Denmark, when mocking cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad were published in Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. He too had refused to yield to demands from the Muslim streets and from non-secular Islamic governments such as Pakistan and Iran—accompanied by threats of economic retribution against Danish companies and incendiary mayhem against Danish citizens and embassies—for censure and censorship of his country's newspapers. And now we have a foiled plot by Islamic terrorists, residing in Denmark and Sweden, who aimed to bomb the Jyllands-Posten building and its occupants in a Mumbai-style attack. This plot was also inspired by anger against the refusal of these Scandinavian governments to censor their media and cartoonists.

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