Freedom of expression should never be up for discussion – but government funding should.
A burnt Koran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. BBC News is showing the extreme right politician Rasmus Paludan on my screen. He couldn’t have timed his happening better. We have seen the play before, now follows an international crisis. The Turkish president Erdogan has already announced that he will be voting no to granting Sweden a NATO membership.
“Finally, we are even, Ritt!” was the title of a bar happening on the extreme left. Recently deceased Ritt Bjerregaard was Mayor of Copenhagen when the police cleared young squatters from a house because the municipality sold the property. The bar event prompted a storm of protests. The Youth Center where the bar event took place receives 2 million Danish Croner in public subsidy each year and some voices want that funding stopped.
“If you take away the financial support for political parties, you risk an American-like system. Trust me, you don´t want the political arena in Denmark to become like the USA, where politics is permeated by economic interests.
Distasteful and reprehensible – is a label fitting for both Rasmus Paludan’s and The Youth Center´s happenings. But they are both legal. And they both receive state funded support.
You can have more than one thought in your head at the same time in this debate. The subsidizes come from the same place, regardless of whether it is a budget in Copenhagen or state-funded support for political parties, associations, organizations, and religious movements.
We must never erode the rights we enjoy in a free democracy where we have freedom of speech. Period. However, this does not mean that we should aid movements whose aim it is to destroy the fantastic democracy Denmark is.
It makes no sense to support religious communities, organizations, and associations that has as a core value to overthrow democracy. To name a few, extreme right- and left-wing groups that work towards a revolution and want to take the fight to the streets, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not believe in democracy, but theocracy which also seem to be the attitude towards democracy some Muslim circles. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately.
So, what about the political parties who do not believe that democracy is the right form of government, parties running for parliament? Do we want to keep aiding them with subsidizes? Both the extreme left and right have groups fighting for a system that is not a democracy. If these political parties are eligible to run, they have met the democratic rules enabling them to work within the framework we have set for the democratic process. These parties should be supported financially, as is the case in today’s Denmark – because the foundation for society is based on the individual citizen’s experience of participating actively as part of our democracy.
If you take away the financial support for political parties, you risk an American-like system. Trust me, you don´t want the political arena in Denmark to become like the USA, where politics is permeated by economic interests. The question then is whether changes should be made to the requirements for running as a party. The more diverse the population in Denmark becomes, the greater the risk of seeing parties running, that do not want to continue the welfare and democratic model, generations before us have built is This topic is a discussion for another day.
We must be vigilant about the values and rights we pride ourselves on, especially when they are tested. We can do this by letting people enjoy basic rights to believe, speak, and think freely – but we do not have to make it easier for them to spew their venom by financially aiding them to practice their anti-democratic views.
Hypocrisy is never pretty. Apparently the hurt is greater when a newly deceased well-known Social Democrat is under fire than when a relatively new religion is mocked. However, one of the things that makes a democracy differ from totalitarian regimes is accepting positions that are not represented by the incumbents and to know that people with far-out opinions have the right to and can express their point of view.
The discussion is not about freedom of speech. In Denmark, and other democratic countries, citizens have the right to oppose political and religious ideas. You can demonstrate, you can be provocative, you can burn the Koran, you can draw Jesus Christ with an enormous erect penis, and you can mock a recently deceased politician, like Ritt Bjerregaard.
How about instead of financially supporting forces that aim to overthrow democracy, we redirect the support to groups and initiatives that work to support democratic values?