“The West is Choked by Fear”
For Fritz Kuhn, the then-parliamentary floor leader for the Green Party, it was a déjà vu experience: “They (the caricatures), remind me of the anti-Jewish drawings from the Hitler era before 1939.” With his statement, Kuhn, who was born in 1955, demonstrated that either he had a sensational pre-natal memory or that he had never seen a single anti-Semitic caricature in the Nazi’s Der Stürmer propaganda newspaper.
Very few people showed a willingness to break ranks. Among them was comedian Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”), who in the context of a debate over British proposed incitement of religious hatred legislation, declared that “right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended.” And Somalia-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a secular Muslim woman then living in the Netherlands, responded with a manifesto that began with the words: “I am here to defend the right to offend.”
But she was one of the few exceptions. Even the then-French president, Jacques Chirac, temporarily forgot that he represented the country of Sartre, Voltaire and Victor Hugo, and decreed that “anything that could offend the faith of others, especially religious beliefs, must be avoided.”