Forum: Religious harmony and multiculturalism are just as important as freedom of expression

I thank the ambassadors of France, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands, who are good friends, for their response to my op-ed (Freedom of speech: An appeal to Europe, Nov 28).

First, the ambassadors said it is a misrepresentation to say that their countries have insulted Islam or its Prophet. I think most people, including former United States president Barack Obama, would regard the cartoons satirising the Prophet of Islam as an insult to Islam.

Second, I share the ambassadors' commitment to the freedom of religion and belief and the freedom of expression. However, I believe that multiculturalism and religious harmony are just as important as freedom of expression. I therefore believe that my right to the freedom of expression does not extend to my right to insult the religious faiths of others.

Third, Europe does not exist in isolation. If Europe wants to live at peace and in harmony with the rest of the world, it should take into account the feelings of the rest of the world.

Tommy Koh


Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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