Few sparks in Pechtold-Abu Jahjah debate

5th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

5 May 2006, AMSTERDAM — There were few sparks as Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold debated the merits of "freedom versus freedom" with Dyab Abu Jahjah, founder of the Arab European League (AEL) on Friday.

5 May 2006

AMSTERDAM — There were few sparks as Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold debated the merits of "freedom versus freedom" with Dyab Abu Jahjah, founder of the Arab European League (AEL) on Friday.

The debate was organised by MTV project Coolpolitics as part of the Liberation Day festivities in the Dutch town of Wageningen where the Germans surrendered in 1945. Pechtold is a former mayor of the town.

Dutch-Israeli group CIDI criticised Pechtold for agreeing to appear with Abu Jahjah who opposes the existence of Israel.

Pechtold has made a name for himself, and annoyed his fellow ministers, due to his frank appraisals of the political culture in the Netherlands. But there were no major clashes with Abu Jahjah as they discussed a range of issues, including freedom of expression and the ID law (identificatieplicht).

About 1,000 people watched the debate that also featured television celebrity Patty Brard and filmmaker Eddy Terstall.

Pechtold did press Abu Jahjah on the AEL's responsibility in relation to freedom of expression. He said freedom of expression entailed you could say anything, without inciting hatred or discrimination.

"As an activist it is exactly my responsibility to say everything I believe," Abu Jahjah replied.

The Minister showed himself to be a critical supporter of the law introduced in January 2005 that requires everyone, aged 14 and over, to carry valid identification in the Netherlands. Describing it as a good device to increase the feeling of safety, Pechtold said "The Hague must not think security is 'makable' by means of a duty".

Turning to the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, Abu Jahjah said he felt insulted by the caricatures of the Prophet. But he drew applause when he said such cartoons fall under the freedom of expression.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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