09:46 GMT01 December 2020
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    Lars Vilks: The Art of Drawing The Prophet and Surviving

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    Famous Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks went into hiding after a lonely gunman attacked a free speech debate at a cultural center in Copenhagen which was seen as an attempt on artist’s life. In a separate incident Copenhagen synagogue was stormed by a young Islamist inspired by the last month’s shooting spree in Paris.

    Dmirty Polikanov, Vice-President of the PIR-Center, an independent think-tank (studio guest), Henrik Lerke, News Anchor at the Danish TV (Copenhagen), Joaquin Flores, Director of the Сenter for Syncretic Studies (Belgrade).

    Andrew Korybko: What do the Copenhagen attacks, directly on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, say about Europe? Both attacks seem to come out of nowhere, but it seems like there is some larger problem in Europe that nobody wants to talk about.

    Dmirty Polikanov: Exactly! I think that Europe is approaching kind of a moment of truth in its development, because it is reaching a point of cultural divide. This is not a new problem. Europe was following this line of tolerance and trying to change the minds of people, which did not happen. Now, I think it is quite important for the EU and countries, which never thought of Islamic terrorism, to start thinking about it, and to start discussing this issue seriously to find the ways of coexistence with the Muslims who now make a significant share of the population.

    Andrew Korybko: How is the Danish society responding? What kind of conversations are going on right now in Denmark after this tragedy?

    Henrik Lerke: It is kind of a tragedy that people were more or less expecting to happen. Denmark has been threatened for quite a while, ever since the publishing of the Mohamed Cartoons. People, of course, were shocked by what happened, but I think people in Denmark have been expecting something like this to happen.

    Sergei Strokan: Jyllands-Posten is a pioneer of publishing cartoons. How this attack was seen in Jyllands-Posten?

    Henrik Lerke: Jyllands-Posten has been kind of withdrawing from the whole issue of cartoons. Even when everybody else was publishing the front page of Charlie Hebdo magazine after the attacks in Paris, Jyllands-Posten chose not to publish. The Danish people were criticizing them for that, but they said that – we just can’t live with this constant threat all the time and we have decided not to publish the cartoons. And yes, that is like backing off from the freedom of speech, but that is their choice.

    Sergei Strokan: What about the journalistic solidarity then?

    Henrik Lerke: There is journalistic solidarity and there has been a lot of criticism towards  Jyllands-Posten for sort of backing off  in this situation, but also there is a lot of understanding of why they have done this, because, as journalists, they have been working under the police’s protection for quite many years now and the life for them has been completely different. They are kind of tired of this whole situation. It is understandable, but it raised a lot of debate and discussion in Denmark about the freedom of speech.

    Andrew Korybko: It seems like in the wake of Charlie Hebdo and now Copenhagen some are almost certainly expecting to see some right-wing reprisals against the Muslim population. Do you think this is something the society should watch out for? Is it a real fear at this point?

    Henrik Lerke: I think you should always watch out for overreactions in the wake of tragic events and attacks like this. But so far, it seems like the Danish society has understood that this was the work of one lunatic, not like an organized group. And there has been a lot of reaching out towards the Muslim population in Denmark, saying that – we understand that this was not your work, this was the work of one crazy man and he’s been hurting your ethnic group and your faith as much, as anybody else’s.

    Andrew Korybko: Was this really a free speech in cartoons or, as some say, was Lars Vilks drawing hateful caricatures and expressing hate speech?

    Joaquin Flores: I think it is a really complex question, because it brings the question about which sorts of topics in a civil pluralistic society are tabooed and which ones are not. I think that what we can see increasingly is that a double standard is being applied, when for some groups of people it is completely forbidden to make these kinds of humorous references. They seem to be targeted repeatedly and at such a high temperature, that we must question some of the underlying motives.

    Andrew Korybko: Some are also saying that, maybe, this is the failure of multiculturalism and a failure to assimilate and integrate nonnative immigrants. What is your view on this?

    Joaquin Flores: You look at the total size of the population of the country where these recent attacks just happened, and we see that the population of Muslims is half a million, which is a very high percentage of the total population. Of course, when you have people who are very quickly brought into a society, within one generation, it can take a very long time to assimilate.

    Furthermore, in some communities you have community leaders who are actually urging people not to assimilate. And I think that historically, when you are talking about people migrating, whether as individuals or in large groups, the social contract is that people are supposed to take up the language, take up the customs. It is sort of recognition that they have left their own ways in their own country and they’ve adopted a new one.

    I think that a few years ago Angela Merkel also iterated the point that multiculturalism ahs failed. And I think that it is, maybe, time for there to be a conversation in Europe to look at this, without looking at things in terms of left and right and so on and so forth, but just an honest conversation about multiculturalism.

    Sergei Strokan: In broader terms, we think that this whole story revealed the problem of professionals. On the one hand, you have to stick to your professional ethics and to do whatever you are supposed to do. On the other hand, you can really see the danger to your life. What can be a solution in such a situation?

    Joaquin Flores: I wish I had the solutions. I think we can only predict that these types of things will keep happening, so long as the underlying tensions are not resolved. And I think it makes it very difficult to create a solution. The big forums – cultural, political, legal and so forth – that might help this kind of thing. And I think it also draws a larger question about what agendas might be involved, who benefits from them, to what extent these things are foreseen. And when we look at these types of incidents as being foreseeable, when we look at certain policies or the practices of certain intelligence agencies that have been tracking some of the suspects, why they were allowed to operate unhindered and carry out these attacks – those are the big question marks that I look at.

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    Tags:
    caricatures, terrorism threat, journalism, Muslims, migrants, Charlie Hebdo, Joaquin Flores, Henrik Lerke, Dmirty Polikanov
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