The Man Behind the Most Infamous Cartoon of All Time

Flemming Rose has been called a Nazi, a Muslim-hater, and a Danish Satan. He has been simultaneously targeted with death threats and blamed for the deaths of 200 or more innocent people around the world. Since September 2005, when he commissioned now-infamous cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed for the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, Rose has been a focal point for the tension between respect for cultural diversity and the protection of democratic freedoms.

51Scvpib0iL._AA160_This image of Rose as provocateur extraordinaire is difficult to reconcile with the man himself: Soft-spoken and reflective, he gives the impression of being still a little surprised to have caused such a stir. “I am not by nature a provocative person,” he explained to me when I met with him in Washington, D.C.

“I do not seek conflict for its own sake, and it gives me no pleasure when people take offense at things I have said or done.” It’s baffling to him that Westerners couldn’t see his decision to publish the cartoons as an act in defense of the values on which liberal democracies were founded…

Rose has spent the years since then speaking at universities and discussion panels, defending his decision, and looking inward. “I found I needed to reflect on my own history and background,” he said. “Why was this debate so important to me?” Rose’s new book, The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech, is part of his “personal quest” to make sense of the madness that has engulfed the last decade of his life…

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