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Statement of the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Janez Drnovšek at the Press Conference

Ljubljana, 02/09/2006  |  press release, statement

In recent days we have been witnessing severe tensions in the Muslim world, one could even say in Western civilization. The publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish and later also in a Norwegian newspaper has, as you know, triggered a powerful reaction in the Muslim world and I am afraid there is to see no end to it.

The fire might continue to spread and new, even more severe, tensions might arise. This is very bad and we must do our utmost to stop such a development of events and to bring an end to the violence accompanying the demonstrations. I think the time has come when we in the West, in our case predominantly in the European Union, will have to give this situation serious thought. Of course some self-criticism is badly needed, there is a lot of superficiality in relation towards the Third World and in this very case also towards the Muslim religion and its congregation. In my opinion this cannot be covered by the freedom of speech, by the freedom of the press making it possible to say whatever about whoever and to ridicule things that are sacred and strongly believed in. Furthermore, doing this in a way not taking into consideration the consequences, without thinking about the goals we wanted to achieve with such freedoms, what is their true goal is or are they merely an end in themselves. If it is an end in itself then it is very questionable in terms of that being a value. It seems to me that more should be done than what the European politicians have done so far: merely regretting the publication of such caricatures.

The Muslim world expects an apology as the issue is much wider, carrying along a symbolic meaning of relations between two worlds. In my opinion such an apology should be viewed from an angle different to just saying the caricatures were drawn by a cartoonist in a daily and that there is no need for politicians to apologize, it suffices that they regret the event. I think that an apology would not be superfluous and that the Western civilization should take into consideration its general attitude towards others, in this case the Muslim world, since they look upon that world in a somewhat underestimating manner. They underestimate their values, their way of life and also their religion. They do not understand the fact that religion means a lot more to the Muslims than it does to them. All these facts as well as political motions and policies will have to be reflected upon. What sense is there in talking about freedom as the sacrosanct value of the West if we at the same time ascertain that western governments are limiting freedom and increasingly reducing the previously attained freedoms and rights in the name of security and because of the threat of terrorism. In the name of all that was caused by the lack of understanding of other civilizations and by numerous false moves in the past.

The West is thus entering a paradox: on the one hand pledging allegiance to freedom as a fundamental value and on the other hand limiting the freedom of its own citizens and even more so of those from the third world who are entering or wish to enter the Western world. I believe that more will need to be done than is currently done or expressed by western politicians and the European Union. If we want to find solutions to the roots of these tensions, we simply have to try harder. Otherwise the fire will spread and even if it abates momentarily it might very soon burst out again with an even greater force. May this suffice by way of an introduction. I am now ready to answer your questions. Of course, you may also ask questions not related to this matter.