I took this picture at an event featuring Lars Vilks (the Swedish cartoonist who got into trouble with the Muslims for drawing a dog with Old Mo’s head). It was the first time I saw Lars Hedegaard.
That was a gloomy event – several of the Vilks’s appearances during his tour in Canada were cancelled (citing security concerns). JDL-Canada ensured the safety of the Toronto event, so it could proceed.
Lars Vilks maintained his sense of humour during his talk, explaining how he was beaten by Muslims, how they burned his sculptures and even set his house on fire.
The other Lars (a journalist and historian from the Danish Free Press Society) lacked that artistic cheerfulness. In a somber tone he explained that he had troubles with the Danish law over accusations of hate speech. Apparently, he criticized Islam and its treatment of women in a talk with a journalist who released the recording without his consent.
He was charged under Denmark’s Article 266(b), which has the same vague meaning as Canada’s Section 13 of the Human Rights Code, but unlike Canada, where the Human Rights Commissions grill you, in Denmark the courts deal with the accusation. The point is that to get a conviction, the prosecutor just needs to show that the statement has offended (or might have offended) somebody. It’s irrelevant if the statement is true or not.
After that gloomy evening, both Larses flew back to their countries – Lars Vilks hoping to convince Muslims to be more open-minded and Lars Hedegaard to face the Danish court.
A few months later we heard the great news that Hedegaard has been acquitted – true, on a technicality, because his remarks were verbal – but still that made us proud that the free speech prevailed. That feeling didn’t last – shortly after that the prosecutor appealed the verdict to a higher court and Lars was convicted. Then he appealed and the case went to the Supreme Court of Denmark, which is supposed to make its decision soon.
His whole ordeal shows how ridiculous the hate speech laws are. The Danish law was introduced long time ago to protect the Jews, but more groups and reasons for hate are being added to the point where it simply shuts down any criticism. And in this case, by banning criticism of Islam, the law paves the way for the advancement of one of the most militant religious ideologies in the world today. An ideology, which doesn’t hide its intentions to dominate the world. At the same, time not a single one of the Muslim fanatics, who abound in Denmark, has ever been charged with hate speech.
Whatever the outcome, the fact that in the 21st century a peaceful scholar is dragged through the mud for daring to criticize a violent ideology is a disgrace for Europe and its rulers.
Here is Lars Hedegaard’s statement:
Response to Charges of Hate Speech
by Lars Hedegaard
Honourable Supreme Court,
My attorney has presented juridical arguments to the effect that I must be acquitted and I shall refrain from elaborating.
However, allow me to express my quiet bafflement that somebody can claim that it has been my intention to accuse every last Muslim father in the world of abusing his children – particularly in light of the fact that I have carefully explained that it was never my intention to disseminate such an absurd contention.
For precisely that reason, I would have welcomed an opportunity to review the statements I now stand accused of having uttered before they were placed on the Internet. If the interviewer had fulfilled this basic journalistic obligation, I would have demanded that my remarks be corrected so as to reflect my true opinions and the prosecutor could have saved the trouble of dragging me through the courts.
I am even more baffled at one of the claims about my person that has been circulated in connection with this case, namely that I am a racist. I have never been, I am not now and I shall never be a racist. On the contrary, all my life I have opposed racist attitudes, by which I mean hatred towards and denigrating speech about people due their descent, skin colour or other so-called racial characteristics – in other words, antipathy against or ill treatment of people due to circumstances over which they have no control.
Islam is not a race and therefore criticism of Islam cannot be racism.
Islam, which lurks behind this entire case, has been described from a variety of viewpoints. Some say that it is a religion, others that is an all-encompassing ideology that contains a religion, still others emphasise its cultural norms, its culturally transmitted customs and practices. Some even maintain that Islam is so multifaceted that it is impossible to describe it.
But regardless of one’s approach, it must be clear that Islam is not a hereditary human attribute.
If our Western freedom means anything at all, we must insist that every grown-up person is responsible for his or her beliefs, opinions, culture, habits and actions.
We enjoy political freedom and we enjoy freedom of religion. This implies a largely unlimited right to disseminate one’s political persuasion and religious beliefs. That is as it should be. But the price we all have to pay for this freedom is that others have a right to criticise our politics, our religion and our culture.
Islamic spokesmen have the freedom to advocate their concept of society, which implies the introduction of a theocracy governed by god-given laws, i.e. sharia, the abolition of man-made laws and by implication freedom of expression and democracy. They are free to think that women are inferior to men as concerns their rights and their pursuit of happiness. They are even entitled to disseminate such opinions.
I cannot recall a single instance in this country where an Islamic spokesman has been prosecuted for saying that, of course, sharia will become the law of the land once the demographic and political realities make it possible. This despite the fact that we have several examples of, e.g., imams who have openly declared that the imposition of theocracy is a religious duty incumbent on all believers.
In return, these theocrats and sharia-advocates must accept the right of those who believe in democracy, free institutions and human equality to criticise Islam and to oppose its dissemination and the atavistic cultural norms practiced by some Muslims.
It is this right – I would even say duty – to describe, criticise and oppose a totalitarian ideology that I have tried to exercise to the best of my ability.
My speech and my writings have had no other purpose than to alert my fellow citizens to the danger inherent in the Islamic concept of the state and the law.
I have made no secret of the fact that I consider this fight for our liberties to be the most important political struggle of our time.
I would not be able to live with my guilty conscience if – out of fear of public condemnation and ridicule – I refrained from telling the truth as I see it.
And regardless of the outcome of this trial, I intend to continue my struggle for free speech and against totalitarian concepts of any stripe.