The publication of cartoons insulting the prophet Mohammed created afar greater controversy in Europe than it did in the United States. In this article, I attempt to trace this difference to broader differences in the way Americans and Europeans think about offensive speech. While Americans have developed a language of "libertarian regret, " which allows them to criticize speech that they nevertheless concede the legal system must protect, Europeans are much more concerned about the threat posed by acts of intolerance. As a result, Europeans tended to view Muslim protests against the cartoons as a potential harbinger of totalitarianism. By contrast, most American commentators-while defending the right of the Danish paper to run the cartoons were more likely to trace the Muslim opposition to the cartoons to religious sensitivities. In a concluding section of the article, I link this to the European fears that Muslims will undermine secular norms.
Robert A. Khan,
The Danish Cartoon Controversy And The Rhetoric Of Libertarian Regret,
16 U. Miami Int’l & Comp. L. Rev.
Available at: http://repository.law.miami.edu/umiclr/vol16/iss2/2