The area where freedoms are tested is when a free press comes face to face with cultural sensitivities and subjects that may offend someone, he indicated. He currently is the cultural editor of the Jyllands-Posten.
In the following months, protests erupted around the world as Danish embassies were attacked in Syria, Lebanon and Iran. More than 100 people died. Death threats were made against Rose and some of the cartoonists featured in the article.
But Rose got a mixed reception when he spoke to about 100 Stanford students Wednesday night in a high-security presentation.
To some Stanford students, the Danish cartoons do not represent free speech.
"Hate speech is not free speech," a sign brandished by a protestor outside the meeting read.
According to Jennifer Chernick, president of Students for an Open Society, the discussion was not open to the public without advanced clearance because Stanford administrators had security concerns.
Rose was introduced by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Joel Brinkley, and then spoke at length before answering questions about the controversial publication.
The cartoons, one of which depicts the prophet with a bomb in his turban, were commissioned after a series of events in Denmark and Europe that Rose considered to be disturbing examples of self-censorship.
Rose cited a case where a Danish comedian said in a September 2005 interview with the Jyllands-Posten that he didn't worry about making fun of the Bible but that he wouldn't dare make fun of the Koran.
A Danish children's author was unable to find an artist to illustrate a book about the life of the prophet, and museums in Sweden and the United Kingdom removed art pieces that contained Islamic imagery, Rose noted.
For Rose, who studied Russian language at the University of Copenhagen, these events were reminiscent of the self-censorship he had witnessed as a foreign correspondent to the former Soviet Union.
"I felt offended or provoked by the fact that people were submitting themselves to self-censorship when dealing with Islam," Rose said. "I found that quite disturbing."
The cartoonists were asked to "draw the prophet as they saw him." Not all the cartoonists focused on Muhammad, however. One drawing makes fun of the editorial staff of the Jyllands-Posten, while another shows a Danish anti-immigration politician in a line-up of criminals.
The Jyllands-Posten did not publish the cartoons immediately. Instead, Rose wanted to ensure that the story had journalistic merit.
"I was not so much concerned with possible reactions," Rose said. "I was concerned with: 'Do we have a story or not?'"
Ultimately, the Jyllands-Posten decided to publish the story.
"You could see that there was a broader trend, and that's why we decided to go ahead," Rose said. "The point was to see if there was self-censorship on the part of the cartoonists. We asked them not only to talk the talk, but walk the walk."
Rose repeatedly reemphasized his commitment to free speech throughout the evening, a commitment he said should extend to even the smallest communities.
"To me, this has become very clear: in an increasingly globalized world, it's hard to separate the local from the international," he said. "I think it's an unfortunate feature of our time that you can intimidate free speech by saying that you are offended."
But for some students, that was not a good reason to print offensive imagery. One student asked how Rose would feel if someone publicly insulted his father. Another student left immediately after asking a question, without waiting for a response. Laughter broke out around the room as Rose remarked, "Quite a discussion we're having."
For the most part the debate was serious and personal. Rose defended his decision to publish the cartoons throughout the public discussion, but afterwards quietly told a Muslim student that he was sorry he had been offended.
But at the end of the evening, people with different perspectives seemed to agree that the dialogue itself was most important.
"It's very important to debate people with whom you disagree," Rose said. "The way you can really move things is by engaging in debates. When you sit face to face with people, you start to see them as human beings."
This story contains 770 words.
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