In the modern world, it is easy to be vocal about different perspectives or to question any political/social/religious standards that been sustainable for centuries. Best examples of these “trends” are hyping marginal/oppressed group movements and challenging/humiliating religion. Any kind of public act of bullying or questioning minorities’ thoughts and missions are completely banned on the platform that promotes “freedom of speech”. It is a great coincidence that the flagship of freedom of speech is now actually also promoting freedom of act, diverging from freedom of speech, which is completely different from JUST expressing one’s thoughts.
Acts are documented, recorded and are to stay in History, while speech will fade away much easier. Suddenly the way we see and witness events around us cannot be commented with speech, as it is labeled as “hate speech”. While there is no label for the act of humiliating the belief system of 25% of the world population, there are protection mechanisms that massively support and promote the “right to speech” for less than 0.1 % of the world population.
Witnessing all of above is not only interesting but it also raises multiple questions, so would be great to hear the opinion of someone who lives in the society of filtered “free speech and act”.
Gunnar Havsteen-Mikkelsen who has background in social sciences, politics and has visited multiple cultures answers a few questions on the subject.
GHM: This is a huge debate here. In principle, you should be able to say whatever you want according to our legislation, but the moral sentiment in the population has changed for some subjects. For example, defending genocides, terrorists, and so on is not very well received. But it is still possible to express these opinions.
How is it that certain acts of humiliation such as the burning of the Holy Quran supported? And what is the governing ideology behind supporting some acts but not the others? What is the Swedish government’s reasoning for forbidding any protests against the LGBT flag or the Torah?
GHM: Religious criticism is important for historic reasons, but I believe most of the parliament is angered by this man’s way of expressing his criticism. They do not support it, but his right to do so. You might question the value of these expressions and a lot of people do this as well.
LGBT flags can be burned as well, but the moral sentiment against it is so strong, it might anger MPs even more. I am not saying this is the way it should be. But unfortunately, harsh religious criticism has been normalized.
So, we should call it freedom of act instead of freedom of speech. A few weeks ago, the Swedish government banned a protest against the Torah.
GHM: I don’t know about this. But it might be because Jews still are seen as necessary to protect as opposed to all others. I understand if you think this is double standards.
This is double standards. Neither I nor anyone else could think or say otherwise. Let me express myself in a very European way. Two plus two equals four. Isn’t it? While you can easily burn the Holy Quran with the support of Swedish police why can’t you do the same act with the LGBT flag? What makes it so special for the Scandinavian society? Did your governments perhaps gain national independence under the LGBT flag and we don’t know about it? Did they? What makes this flag so special? You can burn the Danish flag but not the LGBT flag.
GHM: I think I have mentioned this before. In short, I don’t support this, and I find it very hypocritical.
Do you think there is any correlation between this act of hate and Sweden’s NATO-related politics? Or could this be a strategy to diminish Türkiye’s influence in the global arena? Or even to place another obstacle to stop a power like Türkiye from being admitted to the EU?
GHM: Yes. The man who performed the act of burning the Quran is a very well-known politician from Denmark actually (his name is Rasmus Paludan). Here is a bit of background information about him, maybe you will find it useful. He was unable to get into the parliament, because he did not get enough support. He has been criticized in Denmark for his speeches in public. In my neighborhood the police had to protect him from angry citizens of many different ethnicities. In fact, I believe he is mentally ill.
In truth I think he harms the values of free speech, he exposes the dangers of saying whatever you want. I am quite certain he chose Sweden because they are under enormous pressure from Türkiye. I don’t think he harms Türkiye in this case. He only gives them good reasons to not let Sweden into NATO. And he gives the Turkish negotiators something to point their fingers at in Sweden. The Turkish negotiators can now claim that Sweden cannot control its population and force it to either limit the freedom of speech or expel Kurds so they can be prosecuted in Türkiye.
I believe this Rasmus Paludan is one rotten apple.
We should make one thing clear, to be a bit more precise. The Turkish government has nothing against Kurds. Kurds are actually one of the most respectable ethnicities in the Republic of Türkiye. Sweden hosts terrorists and the Turkish government wants specifically them to hand them over to Turkish justice. This is absolute legitimate. Back to our topic, how is the Book of Islam, which supports real freedom of speech, democracy and sustainable society, suddenly humiliated by fanatic minorities using the government as a shield?
GHM: I don’t believe there is a conflict between the book of Islam and freedom of speech necessarily. There are a few individuals who cannot handle the responsibility that is having freedom of speech. But it is not the government’s job to deal with such individuals. In autocracies such opinions can be suppressed in public spaces, but I believe reasoning and good arguments are the best ways of dealing with sociopathic acts such as burning the Quran. Hopefully people will then understand that he does not represent any public opinion.
Thank you for your opinion, Gunnar. You are the one of the most open-minded and brave Scandinavians I have ever met in my short life. Good luck.
Interview by Orkhan Ata