This past Friday I received a plaintive appeal on behalf of my colleague, Danish journalist and historian Lars Hedegaard — President of the Danish Free Press Society and The International Free Press Society (IFPS). My response to the appeal is included at the end of this essay as a succinct guide to Islamically perplexed, high-profile U.S. conservative media elites who, until now, have entirely ignored the burgeoning crisis epitomized by Lars Hedegaard’s current plight. It is well past time for these self-anointed champions of free speech to weigh-in publicly and offer a robust defense of my colleague –and theirs.
Whom am I addressing in conservative media, specifically? All of the best-known and “highest-rated” (as they are constantly reminding us, at any rate) radio and television personalities: Mr. No Spin, what say you? Dittos to you, Rush. Don’t continue to be a mute mime clown on this matter, Glenn. You’re not ringing in support of freedom of speech, Sean, and I’ll indeed bite you if you don’t open your loud — but highly intelligent — mouth in support of Hedegaard, Mark.
As for the conservative or “center-right” print/online media icons — the editorial boards of the National Review, Weekly Standard, and Wall Street Journal — your continued silence is craven and hypocritical, not golden.
Here is the crux of Mr. Hedegaard’s case, and some background. As the IFPS appeal notes:
Those who have been following the Danish cartoon crisis and several subsequent attempts by radical Muslims to kill and bomb Danes and Danish institutions may be excused for believing that Denmark is in the forefront of the battle for free speech. And indeed it used to be that way. No longer. For the past year the Danish public prosecutor has been waging a lawfare offensive against outspoken critics of Islam and Muslim practices.
On December 3 following a Kafka-esque prosecution in Denmark, Member of Parliament (MP) Jesper Langballe was convicted and indeed confessed to the “crime” of so-called “hate speech” — or as the judge in the lower court of Randers characterized it, “racial discrimination” — for having called attention to honor killings in Muslim families.
Lars Hedegaard’s prosecution is next. He is slated to stand trial in the lower court of Frederiksberg on January 24, 2011. Mr. Hedegaard’s apparent “crime” was to draw attention to the extensive (and disproportionate) number of family rapes in areas dominated by Muslim culture. As the IFPS appeal further notes:
This well-documented fact has brought him an indictment under the Danish penal code’s “racism” clause: Article 266b. Both MP Langballe and Lars Hedegaard have long ago emphasized that they did not intend to accuse all Muslims or even the majority of Muslims of such crimes. This has made no impression on the public prosecutor.
In late September 2010 Lars Hedegaard recalled that at the inaugural assembly of the Danish Free Press Society (the mother organization of the IFPS) in March 2005 he observed:
Present attempts to crush freedom of expression come from several actors: national governments, supranational organizations such as the EU and the UN, and, not least, Islam. And not only from so-called “Islamists” or “terrorists” or “Islamic radicals.” They are inherent in the very core of Mohammedan ideology.
Hedegaard’s September 2010 statement continued, laying out the IFPS’s — and his own — Weltanschauung, and real world activities, for which he is now, incredibly, being prosecuted:
That has been our position all along. We have made no bones about the fact that we consider Islam — as it is presently being preached by all influential clerics and ideologues — a deadly threat to all our freedoms among which are freedom of expression. For this consistent stance we have been vilified and called every name in the book, but we will not budge.
I’m aware that some of my friends think that Islam can be reformed, domesticated, and civilized. I welcome that day, but must relate to the fact that it hasn’t happened yet — though Muslims have had 1,400 years to complete the project.
So the International Free Press Society has decided to live in the real world. And the real world demands robust defense of free speech, repeal of all blasphemy and hate-speech laws, and unwavering support of everyone who is being bullied and threatened by adherents of the caliphate. All this we have done to the best of our ability and with a fair degree of success. Whenever the likes of Geert Wilders, Kurt Westergaard, Robert Redeker, Gregorius Nekschot and so many others have come under threat, we have been the first to give them a platform and stand by them through thick and thin.
Just a few days ago, the Free Press Society received a mail from Gregorius Nekschot thanking us for the fact that after many years of harassment, the Dutch prosecutor has dropped the criminal charges against him for drawing offensive pictures. Nekschot is in no doubt that the solidarity shown by the IFPS has been instrumental in securing this happy outcome.
The January 7 IFPS statement concluded with this clarion warning, and appeal, which all U.S. media conservative elites should heed. Simply put, unabashedly supporting Lars Hedegaard is required to defend our most fundamental Western freedom — freedom of speech:
We fear that the public prosecutor intends to stifle open debate on Islam and Muslim culture. And we fear that he is doing so with the tacit approval of the governing parties, which first signaled their intention to remove the racism clause from the penal code but have recently recanted.
If the authorities succeed in silencing such critics as Jesper Langballe and Lars Hedegaard, who will dare speak out?
We must put a stop to these attempts to undermine free speech if we wish to preserve Denmark as a free country. And where Denmark — that former beacon of free speech — goes, the rest of the West may follow.
What follows is my own response to the IFPS appeal on behalf of Lars Hedegaard—a potential guide for Islamically perplexed U.S. conservative media elites:
The prosecution of Lars Hedegaard is a doubly obscene violation of the very foundations of Western freedom and the rule of law. By apparent illegal design, it a priori deliberately ignores the factual content of Mr. Hedegaard’s presentation — critical to his defense –while championing, exclusively, mendacious, bowdlerized portrayals of living Islamic doctrines — rooted in the Sharia, or Islamic “law” — and their historical consequences, past as prologue to the present.
Denying Mr. Hedegaard’s fundamental Western right to a full rational, evidence-based self-defense — including a critical examination of Islam — is nothing less than a complete capitulation to Islamic blasphemy law. The independent existence of objective universal truths is not acknowledged by normative Islamic doctrine. Thus, antithetical to Western conceptions, Islamic religio-political doctrine does not recognize individual liberties, even as an abstraction.
Is this now Denmark’s “standard” as well?
Notwithstanding Denmark’s denial of Mr. Hedegaard’s right to a fair defense, a collective wealth of unambiguous evidence — readily available — reveals the breathtaking shallowness and intellectual dishonesty of this prosecution: objective, erudite analyses of the Sharia by leading Western scholars of Islam; the acknowledgment of Sharia’s global “resurgence,” even by postmodern, “anti-colonial” (i.e., against Western colonialism, not Islamic jihad colonialism!) academic apologists for Islam, combined with an abundance of recent polling data from Muslim nations, and Muslim immigrant communities in the West confirming the ongoing, widespread adherence to the Sharia’s tenets; the plaintive warnings and admonitions of contemporary Muslim intellectuals — freethinkers and believers alike — about the incompatibility of Sharia with modern, Western-derived conceptions of universal human rights; and the overt promulgation of traditional, Sharia-based Muslim legal systems as an integrated whole (i.e., extending well beyond mere “family law aspects” of the Sharia), by authoritative, mainstream international, European, and North American Islamic religio-political organizations.
Finally, has Denmark voluntarily abandoned modern human rights ideals — a unique product of centuries of the West’s agonizing, self-critical struggles — and retrogressed to the era of Beaumarchais’ Marriage of Figaro, written at the close of the 18th century? The text included this freedom of speech monologue in Act V, Scene 3:
I cobble together a verse comedy about the customs of the harem, assuming that, as a Spanish writer, I can say what I like about Mohammed without drawing hostile fire. Next thing, some envoy from God knows where turns up and complains that in my play I have offended the Ottoman empire, Persia, a large slice of the Indian peninsula, the whole of Egypt, and the kingdoms of Barca [Ethiopia], Tripoli, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. And so my play sinks without trace, all to placate a bunch of Muslim princes, not one of whom, as far as I know, can read but who beat the living daylights out of us and say we are “Christian dogs.” Since they can’t stop a man thinking, they take it out on his hide instead.