Denmark and Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed:
Freedom of speech or hate speech?
Mandana Zarrehparvar
Senior Advisor
Danish Institute for Human Rights
What is the story? A chronological overview (1)
• 30 September 2005: 12 cartoons of the Muslims prophet
published in Jyllands-Posten
• 12 October 2005: Letter from 11 ambassadors from Muslim
States to the Danish Prime Minister
• 25 October 2005: Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs call to the
Danish Prime Minister to distance its self from the cartoons
• December 2005: Delegation of Danish Muslims tour of the
Middle East
What is the story? A chronological overview (II)
• January & February 2006: Boycott of Danish products,
demonstrations in Muslim countries and attack on Danish
embassies and consuls.
• 16 March 2006: Pubic prosecutor denies to institute criminal
proceedings against Jyllands-Posten
• 17 March 2006: European Court of Justice receives three
• 18 March 2006: Report from UN Special rapporteur on
contemporary forms of racism
Why all the commotion? (I)
Domestic politics and situation:
Majority vis à vis minority issues
Pubic debate
Why all the commotion? (II)
International politics and situation:
• War on terrorism
• Clash of civilizations?
• Domestic politics
From a Human Rights Point of view
Freedom of speech?
Freedom of religion?
Freedom from racism and hate speech?
All of above?
None of above?
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 18:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought,
conscience and religion; this right includes
freedom to change his religion or belief, and
freedom, either alone or in community with
others and in public or private, to manifest his
religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship
and observance.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 19:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and
expression; this right includes freedom to hold
opinions without interference and to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas through
any media and regardless of frontiers.
CCPR Article19
• 1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without
• 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this
right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart
information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either
orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any
other media of his choice.
CCPR Article19
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of
this article carries with it special duties and
responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain
restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided
by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public
order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
CCPR Article 20
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious
hatred that constitutes incitement to
discrimination, hostility or violence shall be
prohibited by law.
ICERD Article 4
(a) Shall declare an offence punishable by law all
dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or
hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all
acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any
race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic
origin, and also the provision of any assistance to racist
activities, including the financing thereof;
What Next?
Some food for thought
• 20 Million Muslims reside within EU at the moment –
are they or are they not citizens? Formally?
• Are ethnic and religious minorities effectively protected
against hate speech and discrimination?
• Popular right wing parties are on a rise through
democratic process and are a weight on the
parliamentary scale – at the same time we are liquid
societies – how do we deal with the dilemma?