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Danish papers stir up trouble

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February 17, 2008

RE "DANISH newspapers reprint contentious Mohammed cartoon" (Page A17, Feb. 14): The Copenhagen-based paper Berlingske Tidende defends its reprinting of Kurt Westergaard's drawing of "Islam's prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse" by saying, "We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case." What is at stake, according to the paper, is "the freedom of speech that we, as a newspaper, will always defend." To me this sounds disingenuous.

Freedom of speech is certainly a great value that must be defended. But does this include the freedom to stir up fear by publishing a drawing that has already proved incendiary?

The archbishop of Canterbury has raised the possibility of integrating aspects of Islamic law into the British system in order to make Muslims feel more at home in Britain. Should we not learn from the archbishop, who is trying to foster a great value, namely, that of treating one's neighbor as one would like to be treated oneself?

Inciting hatred against Muslims plays into the hand of radicals on both sides, and it embarrasses the moderates. We don't need any more of this, especially not in the guise of supporting free speech.

MICHAEL ZANK
Associate professor of religion
Boston University

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