A Muslim asks that Denmark reprieve herself from being cast in the verdict of history as an “executioner” of free speech – by Salim Mansur, PhD
I am writing this letter in support of Mr. Lars Hedegaard, the President of the Danish Free Press Society and the International Free Press Society, and to add my voice to the many who stand together with him in defending free speech.
We are appalled that the Danish public prosecutor is proceeding with the indictment of Mr. Lars Hedegaard for “hate speech” against Muslims in Denmark. I am a Muslim, a citizen of and a resident in Canada. But as a concerned Muslim I am more deeply troubled by the Danish public prosecutor out to undermine the principle of free speech, and weaken liberal democracy as a result, than anything Mr. Lars Hedegaard has said in public or published about Islam and Muslims.
We are witnessing in Europe the downward slide of a great civilization ─ the cradle of liberalism and modern democracy, and the birthplace of the modern scientific method that initiated the scientific revolution and enlightenment in setting Europeans ahead of all other people and cultures ─ once again under systematic assault by a totalitarian enemy of freedom and democracy as Europe was subjected to in the last century. This new totalitarian enemy (Islamist) wears the garment of religion (Islam) and has, consequently, confounded the Danes, as it has Europeans in general.
The Danish culture and politics shaped by Enlightenment values of respect for individual freedom and free speech and, given the nature of its open society, respect for people of other cultures brought them to generously accept new immigrants arriving in Denmark. What Danes did not bargain for is the extent to which their hospitality would come to be abused by Muslims pushed by those among them whose not so hidden agenda is the advancement of Islamism, a political ideology committed to enactment of the Shariah ─ (Islam’s legal code put together a millennium ago and representing a value system completely antithetical to the values of the modern world of individual freedom, gender equality, democracy, secularism, science, modern philosophy and jurisprudence) ─ wherever Muslims make their home.
Islamism has brought about the wreckage of the Arab-Muslim world in recent decades. A civil war is raging across the lands of Islam between a besieged population that wants to embrace the modern world of freedom and democracy and Islamists supported by regimes in power, as those in Saudi Arabia and Iran, or those threatened by Islamists, as in Egypt and Pakistan.
I witnessed this war at first hand. I survived the brutalities of Islamists and found refuge in Canada. I know from experience the cruel nature of those who promote Islamism. Across the Arab-Muslim world people are choking to death figuratively and literally for lack of freedom, and because free speech is non-existent. Just a few days ago we witnessed the gang-style murder of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab and Pakistan’s most populous province, for opposing the blasphemy law that is a tool of persecution by Islamists wielded against anyone who they deem as apostates or protective of apostates.
The list of Muslim men and women dead, held in prisons across the Arab-Muslim world, and forced into exile from their native lands, is long. What they sought is the ability to speak their mind, to be human and free. As Elias Canetti, the Bulgarian-born winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981, wrote, “The origin of freedom lies in breathing.” In denying Muslims their freedom Islamists have denied them the space and safety to breathe. The result is the slow death of an Islamic civilization that once a long time ago did inspire Muslims and others to make their world an admirable and beautiful place in art and music, in poetry and philosophy.
Those responsible for the ruin of the Arab-Muslim world have set their eyes on Europe and North America. Their totalitarian dislike for freedom and democracy is universal, not limited to their own cultural realm. Any diminution of freedom, any restraint placed on free speech, any accommodation of Shariah made by liberal democracy is a win for Islamists legitimizing their efforts in imposing Shariah-rule in Muslim countries and pushing for the same in the West.
I am appalled that the Danish public prosecutor, and by inference the Danish government and state, is aiding and abetting the Islamist agenda by prosecuting Mr. Lars Hedegaard, as it was done with the Danish MP Jesper Langballe in indicting and convicting him of “hate speech.” This abject grovelling before the proponents of Islamism, appeasing them by wrecking the principle of free speech that is at the heart of Europe’s enlightened history once besieged and for which Europe paid a very dear price, will be the cause of great injury and much woe for Danes and Denmark.
All of us who are watching the travesty of subjecting Mr. Lars Hedegaard and others of similar persuasion elsewhere in Europe to witch hunts and trials for “hate speech” know full well that once the government machinery gets rolling it is futile to expect it can be halted and reversed. Yet this is our prayer that good sense and a moral awakening turn the machinery of the Dutch public prosecutor around, the case against Mr. Lars Hedegaard is withdrawn unconditionally, and Denmark reprieve herself from being cast in the verdict of history as an “executioner” of free speech. Danes do not deserve their pride and reputation be soiled through appeasing Islamists.
Salim Mansur, PhD