A spate of recent controversies has shined a spotlight on European efforts to strike a balance between protecting freedom of speech and preventing a revival of the ultranationalist extremism that triggered World War II. In each case — the Muslim riots over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the sentencing of Holocaust denier David Irving by an Austrian court and Jewish efforts in Germany to block an offensive Turkish film — valid arguments are being offered on all sides of the difficult debate.
But in one controversy, right and wrong couldn’t be more clear: In its latest, most offensive effort to deny the Holocaust, Iran has proposed sending a team of experts to Auschwitz to examine the most notorious Nazi death camp.
Officials in Poland, where the killing complex sits, deserve strong praise for quickly and strongly rejecting the idea.
Iran is essentially arguing that, because the religious sensibilities of Muslims were trampled on by the publication of cartoons, the appropriate response is to challenge in the most offensive way possible the torture and murder of 6 million Jews. The notion falls somewhere between depravity and idiocy. It is hard to tell if officials in Tehran are bent on fomenting international tensions or just ignorant enough to think that they would be allowed to march onto hallowed ground and poke through the bones of the Nazi’s victims.
With each reckless move and outrageous declaration, Iran and its confrontational president are making clear the need for a united international front — both in the fight to block Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and in the battle to rebut those who seek to mask Hitler’s crimes.