Dr. King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ vs. Denmark’s thought crime prosecutions: a blueprint for victory over appeasement of Islamic extremism
by Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas
January 24, 2011
By: Voice of Canada
The prosecution by Denmark of Lars Hedegaard and Member of Parliament Jesper Langballe for the thought-crime of giving offence to Muslims irrespective of whether their statements are true or not true is a legal abomination that is both an affront and a threat to all freedom loving people in the world.
Such attacks on freedom of speech have no place in any democracy let alone one that faced the horrors of Nazi occupation a scant seventy years ago. For those whose parents immigrated to Canada after enduring those depraved times our hearts are breaking as we watch Denmark now freely provide the key prerequisite for totalitarian rule – the suppression of dissension and free exchange of ideas – in order to appease those whose ideology of hate, violence and domination is as horrifying as Hitler’s National Socialism.
What, then, is the solution to ending these unjust prosecutions and halting the seemingly inexorable slide by Denmark and other European nations into Islamofascist totalitarianism?
The atrocities of Islamic extremists and the so-called justifications they provide for them will lead people to their own conclusions about the influence of Islamic doctrine, therefore, the solution is not an endless, unfocused, unwinnable war – ideological or otherwise – with the billion-plus Muslims of the world, but rather a civil rights struggle against the Danish government modeled after Dr. Martin Luther King’s success in using ‘non-violent direct action’ to combat hate and legalized injustice in the United States.
Dr. King’s April 16, 1963 letter from the Birmingham jail in Alabama, written while he was under arrest for parading without a permit, is an uncompromising, yet well-reasoned manifesto for all who seek powerful tools to confront systemic injustice and oppression, the political cowardice that allows it to exist, and those with a vested interest in silencing the voices of change. 
In a prescient passage King puts the American civil rights movement into a European context that speaks directly to the issues at hand:
“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.”
Indeed, tactics used by American civil rights leaders included the use of both the courts and civil disobedience – the peaceful, carefully-considered breaking of unjust laws – as tools to change their nation. Dr. King explains the seeming inconsistency between the two:
“I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”
We say, let the world witness the shame of hundreds of Danish academics, journalists and politicians languishing in jail after refusing to be silenced by ‘blasphemy’ laws in their quest for justice on behalf of Muslims and non-Muslims; after refusing to plead guilty for exercising their right to free speech; after refusing to pay fines levied for breaking an unjust law.
Let the world witness Islamic thugs attacking peaceful Danish marchers with disgusting insults and, yes, perhaps even violence, while the victims of that hate – in the best tradition of U.S. civil rights workers who were captured in iconic, history-changing photos as they faced assaults, police dogs and water hoses – refuse to retaliate in kind.
Let the world witness Danes peacefully demonstrating on behalf of free speech and of them being arrested at peaceful sit-ins and protests outside the courts, police stations and offices of politicians.
But, how to respond to the argument that peaceful protest and civil disobedience will “provoke violence?” King’s purpose in writing his letter was to respond to well-meaning criticism that tensions raised by the use of peaceful marches and sit-ins during his campaign for civil rights could provoke even more violence from racists, and he provides the ultimate rebuttal to those who would rob us of our freedoms in order to appease violent extremists:
“In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.”
During the four-plus years of our work opposing ingrained state appeasement of violent aboriginal extremists in Canada we have become intimately familiar with the specious ‘provoking violence’ argument and other smear tactics used by the guilty parties and/or their appeasers, including accusations of being ‘outsiders,’ ‘interlopers,’ ‘racists,’ and of having committed the ultimate crime of having been born with ‘White Privilege’ due to the colour of our skin. These epithets are not unique to our struggle, they are used everywhere by enemies of free speech to try to discredit legitimate criticism of politically-correct extremists, to ‘contextualize’ (aka: legalize) their violence and, worst of all, to deny voices to their victims.
In sharing his magnificent vision of the great good that arises from the exposure of injustice and all the tension it creates King provides one of history’s most eloquent defences of free speech — for Hedegaard and Langballe’s right to speak out about the injustices they perceive to exist in Denmark:
“Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
Dangerously deluded are those Canadians who do happen to open one sleepy eye to Denmark’s suppression of free speech and appeasement of extremism, but then return smugly to their slumber naively believing their rights are immune from such abuses. Christie Blatchford’s shocking book Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, And How The Law Failed All of Us  proves this is not even remotely true.
In Caledonia the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — from the perspective of non-aboriginal victims and activists — has been little more than an un-enforceable, toothless tiger, openly and systemically ignored by police with tacit approval of both provincial and federal governments who are all too eager to appease violent aboriginal extremists at the expense of the innocent.
The only difference between Canada and Denmark is that what is practiced legally there is practiced illegally here.
We understand both what is at stake in Denmark, and our responsibility to speak out against the evils of suppressing open debate on a topic of national importance. We know, better than most, that the precedent of prosecuting people like Lars Hedegaard and Jesper Langballe for exercising their right to speak poses a grave danger to Canadians who are merely one pen stroke away from losing their own rights. As Dr. King said in response to critics that he was an ‘outsider’ with no right to involve himself with the affairs of Birmingham, “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We urge freedom loving Danes to act – and act now – to make their government more afraid of losing political power and legitimacy than of the threats from radical Islam. They must use every peaceful means necessary to embarrass their government and force it to restore and protect fundamental democratic values before it is too late – for them and for us.
Perhaps the best argument we can make for following in the footsteps of Dr. King’s use of ‘non-violent direct action’ is that his model offers an effective process of resistance that can be implemented now – before blood is running in the streets and some believe there is no other solution but armed resistance to tyranny.
The world can never eliminate extremism or the ideology that allows it to fester, but we can force our respective governments to use the law to protect our rights instead of appeasing those who would take them from us. History has proven that this is a winnable struggle, and Dr. King has provided the blueprint for victory.
Gary McHale is the founding Executive Director of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (www.CANACE.ca). Mark Vandermaas is founder of the Caledonia Victims Project (www.CaledoniaVictimsProject.ca). Their work in opposing aboriginal extremism and the racial policing practices used to appease it was featured in the 2010 book by Globe & Mail reporter Christie Blatchford, Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, And How The Law Failed All Of Us. 
1. Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,’ April 16, 1963, Stanford University, The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute
See also: VoiceofCanada feature: Lessons from Dr. King (key excerpts as applied in Caledonia/Canadian context)
2. Helpess, Christie Blatchford, 2010, ISBN 13: 9780385670395, Doubleday Canada,
See also: HelplessByBlatchford project: