The Danish Cartoons, Offensive Expression, and Democratic Legitimacy

Ian Cram

in Extreme Speech and Democracy

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199548781
Published online May 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720673 | DOI:
 The Danish Cartoons, Offensive Expression, and Democratic Legitimacy

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This chapter presents a legal and constitutional examination of the legitimacy of ‘offence’ as a ground for limiting expression by the coercive force of law. It sets out to tackle a number of questions. First, it discusses the likely outcome of a challenge before the European Court of Human Rights to national authorities' restrictions on expressive activities, where those restrictions rest on the claim that the expression in question does or is likely to cause offence to genuinely held religious beliefs. It discusses some reasons in favour of tolerating offensive expression, including what for many is the least deserving form of offensive expression, namely, ‘gratuitously offensive’ speech. Finally, some issues around the outer limits of offensive expression are explored.

Keywords: Denmark; Islam; political speech; freedom of speech; offensive speech

Chapter.  10338 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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