The Near-Martyrdom of Lars Hedegaard
This was a busy week for Boston's rabbis. Since it was almost Passover, there were the same-sex and outreach seders to arrange, as well as the blast e-mails damning guns and blessing Obama's trip to Israel.
However, in a suburb of Boston there is one rabbi, Jonathan Hausman, known to his groupies as "the warrior-rabbi," who this week did something different: He opened his synagogue, Ahavath Torah, to a large crowd, for a rare opportunity to meet and listen to Danish free-speech activist Lars Hedegaard. Hedegaard, as you probably know, is the latest in a line of prominent people targeted for death. Their crime? "Islamophobia."
If you don't know the details of the attempt on Hedegaard's life, here is how he tells it. It was morning in Copenhagen:
when the door-phone buzzed. The phone doesn't work properly--I can hear that I have visitors but not communicate with them. Nor can I buzz them in.
I opened a window in my apartment to see who was down below at the front door. A man dressed in a red jacket with the logo of the Danish postal service was waiting at the door. He said he had a package for me. I answered that I couldn't buzz open the door and would instead come downstairs to get the package.
I went down and opened the front door. The man repeated that he had a package, which he handed to me. As I held the package (which the police later determined was empty) he immediately pulled out a gun and fired at my head....The distance between us must have been less than a yard. Nevertheless, he missed. He then proceeded to fumble with the gun in order to cock it for a second shot. I swung my right fist at his head, and my action confused him sufficiently for him to drop the gun. After a scuffle, he recovered the gun but couldn't make it fire. He then fled. (WSJ, Feb. 20)
Now Hedegaard is 70, his would-be assailant in his twenties, which will tell you something about the gutsiness of this gentle man, as well as the lousy aim of his attacker. Thus far, the wannabe killer has not been found.
And how was his near-murder reported? In this country, scarcely at all, though the New York Times did weigh in, predictably calling Hedegaard's opinions "a stew of anti-Muslim bile and conspiracy-laden forecasts of a coming civil war." (At the synagogue event, too, as far as could be ascertained, except for the moderator, columnist Michael Graham, nobody from the local press showed up.) In Sweden's national news agency, TT, it was reported thus:
Lars Hedegaard, once convicted for racism, has been subject to an assassination attempt. An unknown man reportedly shot at Hedegaard outside his Copenhagen home.
The author Hedegaard is one of the few Danes who is a certified racist, as he some years ago was fined by a High Court for having stated in a blog interview that Muslim fathers rape their children. He was later acquitted by the supreme court.
As Mark Steyn (himself a survivor of a "hate crime" trial) writes, "That last sentence negates the ones above. There is no conviction for 'racism': Both it and the fine were quashed, reversed, overturned, kicked into the garbage can by the supreme court. The prosecution was outrageous, and some sense of what Denmark's most eminent jurists made of it can be deduced from their decision to revoke his conviction 7-0."
No one seems to know what a "certified racist" is, but perhaps we'll know when Sweden starts handing out certificates of racism.
In Denmark, Hedegaard reports, "The reaction to the failed murder has mainly been one of horror. Nearly all leading politicians and media have condemned it. To be sure, some newspapers have availed themselves of this opportunity to emphasize what a despicable racist I am, but at least they express their satisfaction that I'm not dead."
What exactly was Hedegaard's crime?
For years I have been a campaigner for free speech--since 2004 as president of Denmark's Free Press Society. I have been an outspoken critic of Islamic supremacism and of attempts to impose Islamic Shariah law in Denmark and the West. Together with my Swedish colleague Ingrid Carlqvest, I have recently launched a Swedish-language weekly newspaper called Dispatch International--to the great dissatisfaction of the Swedish mainstream media, which are probably the most politically correct in the Western world....
Dispatch International is critical of mass immigration to Sweden and Denmark from third-world countries and takes a dim view of Islam. As a consequence, we have been reviled as "racist." We are not. We simply insist on our right to defend freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and individual and sexual equality. We also insist on our right to criticize religious fanatics of every stripe who try to impose theocratic laws and customs on free societies.
At the event at the synagogue, Hedegaard was accompanied by three important American free-speech activists and experts in Islam: Andrew Bostom, Robert Spencer, and Tiffany Gabbay, each of whom had vitally important things to say. But when it was Hedegaard's turn to talk, the audience stood up in homage.
He lived up to his reputation as the most charming of men, nattily dressed and disarming of speech, his perfect English nasalized with a hint of Scandinavian dill. He apologized, " I needed a haircut before I left Denmark, but unfortunately I cannot walk the streets of Copenhagen." (N.B. His white hair and beard were professorially perfect.) He also mentioned that were it not for his lawyer, the best in Denmark, who offered his servics pro bono, he would have been standing there without any clothes or teeth, maybe with just a tie. Then he paused, and mused, "I had about three points to talk to you about, but I've forgotten most of them."
With the audience completely in his pocket, he began:
I wanted to say how precious free speech is. Have you thought of that ever? If you have not free speech, you are in chains, you and your kids. You cannot even identify the problem, much less discuss the problem. Society will come to a standstill. My friends here understand about Islam. It stops everything. It freezes things over unto eternity. But every single thought in human history that has brought us forward has been deemed blasphemous.
He mentioned Galileo, of course, and others who struggled for the right to proclaim the truth, and he mentioned the laws that forbade the freedom to speak one's mind:
Laws themselves aren't worth anything unless people are willing to stand up and defend their rights. In Denmark, we have two articles in our penal codes. Number 140 is against blasphemy. A ridiculous concept, as if God needs men's support to sustain his power.
Then we have 66B, introduced in 1971, under which I was indicted for hate speech and racism. By the way, this law was introduced under the influence of the Soviet Union.
About Islam itself, the members of the panel all had significant things to say--about the erosion of the First Amendment in this country, about the paradoxical alliance between the radical Left and Islam and the reasons for this odd coupling, about quoting from the Koran being as punishable as misquoting it, or even reporting it. Hedegaard may have had the last word:
The truth is that in all likelihood, Muhammad never existed. This cannot be debated. Eminent scholars at the University of Copenhagen claim that King David never existed. But we've found archeological evidence that he did indeed exist. But within Islam, you are not allowed to say Muhammad never existed, and so it must be in the press and the university. This, my friends, is the total demolition of scholarship.
But, he concluded, "I can only urge you to stand by this brave rabbi, and carry on the flame."
One hopes he isn't referring to an auto-da-fe, but it does look like an uphill battle. After all, it was Hedegaard himself who wrote:
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.