Freedom of speech also applies to "poisonous messages", Rotterdam mayor says

Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb (Picture: Twitter/@_sjgbb)Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb (Picture: Twitter/@_sjgbb)

Freedom of speech means that everyone must be able to express their opinion, whatever it may be, Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said at a neighborhood Iftar on Sunday. "No matter how poisonous the message may be, it must be able to be expressed", he said in reaction to him allowing a Pegida pork roasting demonstration at the Laleli mosque in Rotterdam-Zuid last week, ANP reports.

Anti-Islam group Pegida announced that they would barbecue pork at mosques in five municipalities during Ramadan evening prayers. Aboutaleb was the only mayor to allow this demonstration. The mayors of Utrecht, The Hague, Arnhem and Gouda stopped the barbecues, though gave Pegida permission to protest elsewhere. The Rotterdam demonstration was eventually called off by Pegida itself. 

According to Aboutaleb, he was morally and religiously pressured to ban the Pegida demonstration. "It went so far that the Turkish minister of European affairs gave me a lesson about my Islamic identity. It goes very far, very far indeed, that a state gives the mayor of Rotterdam a lesson about how Dutch law is put together and how I should apply it", he said at the Iftar, the after-sunset meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan, on De Middenweg. 

The mayor said he regrets that Pegida could ultimately not express their message, because how horrible a message may be, freedom of speech is a good and important thing. "That the message was not expressed is rather a sign of intolerance than a sign of victory", Aboutaleb said. "Prosperity for our city and for democracy is that also poisonous messages should be spread in the eyes of some."