Opinion: "Liberty of the Artist: From the Danish to the Dutch" by James McConalogue

July 10, 2006

Source: The Brussels Journal


On July 10, 2006 The Brussels Journal ran an opinion piece by James P. McConalogue, an editor living and working in Oxford. McConalogue writes, "In recent weeks, the London courts have tried protesters for their cause in the disruption and violence on the streets of London after the Danish cartoon controversy. Their charges are varied but have included the soliciting of murder of American and Danish nationals. With these trials underway, but with some hindsight on the events that followed the publication of the Prophet cartoons, it seems important to show that the message is still not getting through... Across Europe, there has often been a popular urge for governmental policy to play to religious belief and sensitivities and therein, tighten national security. In doing so, it withdraws some of our most basic personal freedoms, such as the freedom which allows the individual to express herself. In Denmark, as in the rest of Europe, the case should remain clear: it is essential to defend literary and artistic free expression as an inherent symptom of our basic liberal architecture which upholds such freedom... No significant or physical harm was posed by the film-director [Van Gogh], the potential for free and negative discussion was not removed and it did not challenge the diversity of groups – ‘it did not stop Muslims doing what they do.’ More importantly, it is not assumed by all people that ‘what Muslims do’ in the cultural sphere resembles anything like the picture van Gogh attempted to depict of Muslims in relation to women. His view was one among many. All the major legal obstacles that might prevent the freedom of expression are not only redundant pieces of legislation but also troubled laws in urgent need of abandonment. If the Europeans turn their backs on basic personal freedoms for the religious concerns of a few, then we have clearly gone several hundred years back in history."