Flemming Rose

Role box
- Culture editor of the Danish Newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands Posten since 2004.
- Responsible for the publishing of 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, 2005.
Education, Career and Personal Background
Flemming Rose was born in Denmark in 1958.
At University he specialized in Russian language and literature at the University of Copenhagen. During his studies he spent 10 months in the Soviet Union 1980-81.

This specialization led him on to a professional career as a journalist and correspondent for Danish Newspapers. From 1990-1996 he was a Moscow correspondent for the liberal/conservative newspaper Berlingske Tidende. Later on he became the Washington correspondent for the same newspaper from 1996-1999. In 1999-2004 he was back as correspondent in Moscow but this time for the liberal newspaper Jyllands Posten (JP). In 2004 he was engaged as culture editor of JP. At the time of writing Rose still holds this position.

Professional vision
When Rose entered the job as culture editor he wanted to make drastic changes in the way of covering the cultural field. As it appears in an article in Journalisten, the Danish journalist trade journal,2 this apparently created some internal quarrels among JP journalists. Most of them agreed that Rose's vision for the journalistic approach was more right-wing and ideological than beforehand. Rose wanted culture to be perceived as more than art and aesthetics and therefore broaden the field of culture to include values, outlooks on life, convictions and culturally based habits. As part of these editorial changes, Rose made Islam a high priority topic to be dealt with in this field.

The larger context to Rose's ambition was the ongoing value debate on the Danish political scene contingent upon the policies of immigration and the issue of integration and/or assimilation of Muslims into a secular society.

Political/Religious Involvement
Involvement in Arab-West/Intercultural/Interfaith Relations
The Danish cartoon crisis
What Rose is really known for inside as well as outside Denmark is the publishing in Jyllands Posten, September 30, 2005 of 12 caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, all of which he was principally responsible for as editor.

In the months following the publishing, these cartoons became known to the whole world and generated great furore in many parts of the Muslim world, as the cartoons were regarded offensive to Muslims and Islam. This reaction was partly due to the iconoclasm of Islamic orthodox theology [the prohibition to depict the face of the prophet], but primarily to the character of two of these cartoons. Satirizing over the often claimed relationship between Islam and terrorism they depicted Muhammed as a stereotyped violent terrorist-like Muslim.3 One depicted Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, another depicted him with a sword in his hand with two full covered women in black standing behind him.

The cartoons became a big political issue and an extensive political crisis for Denmark. Furthermore, many principal discussions on the freedom of expression took off from this in Western and Arab media. After the cartoon crisis and several personal death threats against Rose, his name has been deleted from all public registers and his adress and other personal information is kept secret.4

Rose's motives
In the article that accompagnied the drawings in JP, Rose explained his reasons for publishing them. He argued that there had been an increasing fear among writers, drawers and artists in Europe to touch the issue of Islam in critical ways, because of threats and actual incidents of violence by extremist Muslims directed towards critical voices. Rose deemed the consequential self-censureship an even greater threat to the secular democratic society than violence and wanted to challenge this by asking 25 professional newspaper cartoonists to depict Muhammed as they saw him. 12 responded positively. Others did not dare to participate.5

In an article for the Washington Post, 2006, Rose also claims that his idea was to give the moderate Muslims in Denmark a chance to speak out and take a stance against extremism, thus showing that what divides citizens in Europe is not religion, but the attitude towards democracy. In Rose's opinion there were positive and pivotal effects of the cartoon incident among Muslims in Denmark. He emphasizes that new moderate Muslim voices took part in the public debate as never before, thus giving the public a more nuanced picture of Muslims than they got from those spokesmen Rose called the Danish "radical imāms," who were often quoted in the media.6

Rose regards his personal and professional experiences in former Soviet Union crucial to his uncompromising concern for democracy and his political shaping. Thus he states: "Politically, I came of age in the Soviet Union. I returned there in 1990 to spend 11 years as a foreign correspondent. Through close contact with courageous dissidents who were willing to suffer and go to prison for their belief in the ideals of Western democracy, I was cured of my wooly dreams of idealistic collectivism."7

Another quote supplements this: "As a former correspondent in the Soviet Union, I am sensitive about calls for censorship on the grounds of insult. This is a popular trick of totalitarian movements: Label any critique or call for debate as an insult and punish the offenders."8

Additional arguments behind the cartoon publishing were given by Rose to the press. Whenever asked, he remains steadfast to his principles of secularism and freedom of speech. In a Newsweek International interview he said:

"I think it's problematic if any religion-it doesn't matter if it's Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, any religion-tries to impose its own taboos on the public domain."

And further: "These cartoons do not treat Muslims in any other way than we treat other citizens in this country. By treating them as equals, we are saying, 'you are equal.'"9

Having a rather explicit political agenda in his statements, Rose often targeted the idea of multiculturalism, which he sees as a product of left-winged political correctness. He believes that the outcome of the drawings had some revealing effects regarding this. In an article titled "Europe's Politics of Victimology" 2006, he said: […]"the unbalanced reactions to the not-so-provocative caricatures - loud denunciations and even death threats toward us, but very little outrage toward the people who attacked two Danish Embassies - unmasked unpleasant realities about Europe's failed experiment with multiculturalism." He concluded further: "Europe's moment of truth is here."10

Rose does not agree that any conflict can be solved by dialogue. In some situations one must hold on to ones own principles and fight for them, he believes. This was what he did in the crisis following the cartoons.11

In coherence with this position, he gave this unveiled characteristic of the core of the conflict:

"This is a clash of cultures and, in its essence, a debate about how much the receiving society should be willing to compromise its own standards in order to integrate foreigners. On the other hand, how much does the immigrant have to give up in order to be integrated?"12

A Neo-Conservative agenda?
Some critics of Rose claim that he acted more or less on behalf of Neo-Conservatives in the United States. They point to the contact there has been between Rose and famous Neo-Conservative Daniel Pipes as an argument.

Thus, Richard Bollyn stated in an article for American Free Press that Rose had a hidden agenda behind his claim/defense for free speech. The true aim was to offend Muslims by printing what Bollyn saw as anti-Islamic cartoons. Bollyn additionally states that this was done to promote a deliberate "Clash of Civilizations", and thus confirming the polarizing theory that both Rose and Pipes believe in.12

The same arguments can be found in a Danish communist newspaper on the internet.13

In 2004 Rose did meet Daniel Pipes for an interview for JP, which is published in English on Pipes' website.14 Many of Pipes' views expressed in this article on the threat of Islamism and the political thinking in the West are similar to the views Rose expressed in the quoted articles above.

Additional Information on Other Issues
Marie Lunddahl, February 2007
1. Most of Rose's personal data is taken from Wikipedia.
2. http://www.journalisten.dk/sw7999.asp (Article in Danish)
3. AWR 2005, 42, art.24:
4. http://ekstrabladet.dk/112/article265063.ece (Danish newspaper interview with Rose)
5. http://www.jp.dk/kultur/artikel:aid=3293102/ (Article in Danish)
6. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2006/02/17/AR2006021702499.html
7. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/05/europes_politics_of_victimolog.html
8. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/17/AR2006021702499.html
9. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11179140/site/newsweek/
10. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/05/europes_politics_of_victimolog.html
11. http://www.kommunikationsforum.dk/default.asp?articleid=12415 (Danish interview)
12. http://www.mathaba.net/0_index.shtml?x=508448
13. http://www.apk2000.dk/netavisen/artikler/synspunkt/06/0208_neocon_jp_provokation.htm (article in Danish)
14. http://www.danielpipes.org/article/3362
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2006/02/17/AR2006021702499.html
Contact information
Position towards dialogue
Open but restricted to dialogue on secular terms
Hidden files
Marie Lunddahl, February 2007