by Soeren Kern:
“I live in a government safe house. I wear a bulletproof jacket. I have not walked the streets … in more than seven years. [I am] imprisoned in my own country for the mere fact that I have spoken out against the enemies of the West.” — Geert Wilders, MP, Netherlands
Lars Hedegaard, a well-known seventy-year-old free speech activist and critic of Islam, narrowly escaped a murder attempt on February 5 outside his home in Copenhagen, Denmark.
An unidentified assailant wielding a handgun fired a shot at Hedegaard, but fled on foot after the bullet missed its intended victim and the gun subsequently jammed.
According to Danish media, the gunman, in a postal service uniform, rang the doorbell of Hedegaard’s apartment building on the pretext of delivering a package. When Hedegaard opened the front door, the man pulled out a gun and fired a shot, narrowly missing Hedegaard’s head.
Danish police say they are searching for the suspect, whom they describe as “a man of a different ethnic background than Danish.” He is believed to be in his 20s and has a “Middle Eastern appearance.” Speculation is that the assailant is a Muslim because of critical statements that Hedegaard has made regarding Islam.
Hedegaard is the president of the Danish Free Press Society, a watchdog group that often warns that free speech is under threat from radical Islam. Hedegaard also co-edits a weekly online newspaper called Dispatch International, which covers stories in Danish, English and Swedish about a variety of topics, including content that is critical of radical Islam.
Hedegaard’s partner, Swedish journalist Ingrid Carlqvist, says the attack was a brazen attempt to silence a courageous free-speech warrior, one who has not been afraid to challenge official myths about the impact of multiculturalism and Muslim mass immigration on European society.
As if to prove Carlqvist’s point, Danish officialdom has uniformly linked the attack on Hedegaard with the exercise of free speech in the country.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a Social Democrat, said: “An attack on Lars Hedegaard is a heinous act which I condemn in the strongest terms. It is even worse if the attack is rooted in an attempt to prevent Lars Hedegaard to use his freedom of expression.”
Former Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who leads the center-right Liberal Party, said the attack was a “cowardly and cruel act.” He added: “If this action is rooted in preventing Lars Hedegaard from using his freedom of speech, we are witnessing an attack on all Danes.”
The former leader of the conservative Danish People’s Party, Pia Kjærsgaard, who has long warned about the negative effects of multiculturalism and runaway immigration, said it is “un-Danish” if people cannot give their opinions without risking their lives. She added: “It is incomprehensible and shocking if the motive is political. If this is the case, it shows that it is dangerous to make use of our constitutional freedom of expression.
The leader of the left wing Socialist People’s Party, Annette Vilhelmsen, called the incident “totally unacceptable.” She said: “I probably do not agree with Lars Hedegaard on very much. But in Denmark we have freedom of speech. Political assassinations affect not just real people, they hit our democracy and our freedom of thinking.”
Hedegaard has been at the vanguard of a decade-long effort to fight back against restrictions to free speech in Europe, especially speech that is critical of Islam.
In April 2012, Hedegaard was acquitted by the Danish Supreme Court on charges of “hate speech” for comments he made about Islam.
Read more at Gatestone Institute
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.