Flemming Rose has been called a Nazi, a Muslim-hater, and a Danish Satan. He has been simultaneously targeted with death threats and blamed for the deaths of 200 or more innocent people around the world. Since September 2005, when he commissioned now-infamous cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed for the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, Rose has been a focal point for the tension between respect for cultural diversity and the protection of democratic freedoms.
This image of Rose as provocateur extraordinaire is difficult to reconcile with the man himself: Soft-spoken and reflective, he gives the impression of being still a little surprised to have caused such a stir. “I am not by nature a provocative person,” he explained to me when I met with him in Washington, D.C. “I do not seek conflict for its own sake, and it gives me no pleasure when people take offense at things I have said or done.” It’s baffling to him that Westerners couldn’t see his decision to publish the cartoons as an act in defense of the values on which liberal democracies were founded.