Member of the Storting Erlend Wiborg (Frp) believes that the Minister of Culture should speak or condole after the deaths of artist Kurt Westergaard and artist Lars Vilks.
The Progress Party has recently sent a written question to Abid Raja, asking about the reason why a condolence or a statement has not been made.
– Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a democracy and some of the foremost defenders of the right to express themselves have recently passed away. Kurt Westergaard and Lars Vilks sacrificed an enormous amount for the right of all of us to be able to express ourselves freely, Wiborg says to Nettavisen.
On Sunday, the Swedish artist Vilks died in a traffic accident, with two police officers, mens the Danish cartoonist Westerberg passed away in July this summer, as an 86-year-old, after a long illness.
What they both have in common is that they have drawn caricatures of the Prophets Muhammad.
– The government is silent
Among other things, this led to an outbreak full cheers in some comment fields around the world when Vilks died.
Wiborg says it can entail significant personal costs when you stand up and defend freedom of expression, something Vilks and Westergaard experienced due to the drawings.
– They had to live the rest of their lives with massive police protection, death threats and terrorist attempts. Also in Norway, we have people who have had their lives turned upside down in their defense of freedom of expression, he continues and exemplifies editor Vebjørn Selbekk, who he believes was betrayed by the then red-green government and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
As is well known, Selbekk was the editor-in-chief of the Norwegian Christian-conservative newspaper Magazinet and in 2006 printed Westergaard’s twelve cartoons from Jyllands-Posten in Denmark.
Now Wiborg believes that it is extra important that leading politicians are crystal clear in their defense of a pressured freedom of expression.
– I register that the current government is largely silent when Westergaard and Vilks recently passed away. The country’s Minister of Culture has himself been open about the fact that he was opposed to freedom of expression 20 years ago, but that he is now a defender of freedom of expression, he says.
Had to close the comment field
Raja has stated that he as a conservative Muslim during his studies had been critical of the previous Freedom of Expression Commission, according to Aftenposten. But since then, he has been convinced that freedom of speech is the very pillar of a well-functioning society.
– It is then strange that the Minister of Culture does not take the time to condole or honor two of the greatest defenders of freedom of expression, Kurt Westergaard and Lars Vilks, Wiberg believes.
Not only was Vilk’s death celebrated in various comment fields, but there has also been a lot of hatred towards the Swedish artist, writes Expressen.
Sweden’s largest Arab news website, Alkompis, has not even managed to remove all inappropriate comments yet.
– We deleted almost a thousand comments before we had to shut down, says Mahmoud Agha, editor-in-chief and responsible publisher.
He says that he thinks it is very unfortunate with such reactions, and that they do not accept offensive comments.
Even internationally, Vilk’s death has been described as symbolic and divine.
– The extent of them is frightening. And they are also expressed by people who do not seem to be fanatics, who at least moderately practice their faith, but now use harsh Islamist rhetoric wrapped in hatred and anger, writes Expressen’s Sofie Löwenmark in a column.
The online newspaper has spoken with the communication unit in the Ministry of Culture, which reminds that it is a common precedent to answer the Storting before answering the press to such questions as Wiborg has asked. This normally takes a couple of weeks.