For his principled defense of freedom of speech, Flemming Rose has been awarded the 2016 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Mr. Rose is perhaps best known as the journalist at Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, who commissioned and published twelve cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The aim was to assess the climate of self-censorship in Europe. What followed were protests, boycotts, deadly riots, and attacks on Danish embassies.
In his superb book, The Tyranny of Silence, Mr. Rose recounts the backstory and global fallout of the “cartoons crisis.” Despite widespread criticism, intimidation, and death threats — he has been featured on an Al Qaeda hit list — Mr. Rose refused to apologize for the decision to publish the cartoons. And he continues to be outspoken about the vital importance of freedom of speech — a principle that I and my colleagues at the Ayn Rand Institute regard as essential to a free society.
The Milton Friedman Award is presented by the Cato Institute, and kudos the members of the committee for their selection. I hope the prize brings greater attention to Flemming Rose’s work and particularly his book. He’s one of my intellectual heroes, and I was delighted by the news of this award.
In December 2014, around the time of his book’s publication, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Rose. During our wide-ranging conversation, we touched on what incidents prompted the commissioning of the cartoons, how self-censorship operated under the Soviet regime and the parallels to today, and why the invalid term “Islamophobia” is so destructive. You can listen the podcast here.
That podcast went online just a couple of weeks before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo (a publication that had reprinted some of the Danish cartoons). Soon after that Charlie Hebdo attack, Mr. Rose took part in two ARI panel discussions in Boston on the threats to freedom of speech. Another of the panelists was my colleague Dr. Onkar Ghate, a philosopher, who rejects the notion of “Islamophobia” and has argued compellingly for the need to ridicule religion.