Lars Hedegaard Speaks to the Danish Free Press Society

Lars Hedegaard, a portrait of courage, tenacity, and wit, under even the most trying circumstances, delivered a remarkable address to the Danish Free Press Society on Thursday 2/21/13, just over two-weeks after surviving an assassination attempt. The video with English subtitles is embedded below, and a transcript provided thanks to Gates of Vienna.

Here are two extracts which capture Hedegaard’s sense of humor, and truth-telling, both unvanquished:

So I was both pleased and proud to hear that one police officer said that the assassination attempt could possibly be motivated by jealousy. One could perhaps imagine that the approximately 25-year-old gunman’s wife or one of his wives has a soft spot for me, which then prompted the desperate husband to shoot his rival…

In this country one is able to without the slightest risk stand up and pronounce that of course Sharia will be introduced with everything that it implies in terms of barbaric punishment and repression. One can also, without anyone touching a single hair on one’s head, state that immoral women must have stones thrown at their heads until they die, and that Muslims who turn their back on Islam of course must be killed. But if you say or write that this is what Islam is all about then you are guaranteed to be accused of racism, risk criminal prosecution, and — as we have just witnessed — attempted murder.

Watch, and/or read it all.

Thank you. I have written down my speech and it will be published at Trykkefrihedsselskabet [Danish Free Press Society ] website, sappho.dk.

I’ve done this because there are journalists present here today. and they don’t always fully understand what I’m saying.

I would also like to add that I have listened with great interest to those politicians and opinion-makers who are here today and I thank you sincerely for supporting freedom of expression. Your efforts help to keep the lights shining in a dark time. Having said that, I would like to point out that if you have read what I‘ve written — I have written several books and many articles — then you will see that I have never expressed hatred towards any specific ethnic groups.

I do not hate Muslims, I differentiate between Muslims and the ideology of Islam. I will not go into further detail, but this can be verified by buying my books, or alternatively borrowing them from the library, and by reading my articles.

When I was informed that Trykkefrihedsselskabet had decided to organize this event, there were a few from that organization who advised me to show my softer side and exhibit more human emotions, which they apparently believe that I possess. Please don’t be as hard as you usually are, they said. And I’ll be the first to admit that in the past three weeks I have experienced the entire spectrum of emotions.

First, of course, the shock of discovering that the man I thought was a postman turned out to be an armed man who wanted to put bullet in my head. Then the joy of learning that so many political leaders unequivocally condemned the assassination. And that so many newspapers did the same. The day after the assassination attempt, I was visibly touched when I read the editorials in Politiken and Ekstra Bladet — at least the first few paragraphs where emotional words described the inalienable right to freedom of expression and how wrong it was to try and kill me.

But I did not need very many Kleenexes to wipe my eyes. It turned out that the newspaper editors used the assassination attempt to reiterate to their readers what a miserable and racist creep I am. And when I was done reading about my case, I almost came to the conclusion that it would probably have been for the best of the country and for the future of humanity if the gunman had had better aim.

So I was both pleased and proud to hear that one police officer said that the assassination attempt could possibly be motivated by jealousy. One could perhaps imagine that the approximately 25-year-old gunman’s wife or one of his wives has a soft spot for me, which then prompted the desperate husband to shoot his rival.

Almost everyone — friends and enemies alike — however, believe that the attack was a result of something I’ve said or written, and thus an attempt to silence me. It is also a theory that I’m inclined to support.

Since the inception of Trykkefrihedsselskabet in late 2004, we have year in and year out been accused of being xenophobic, racist, right-wing extremist and certainly not interested in preserving freedom of expression. The funny thing is that if one looks at the many guests that we have invited to Copenhagen over the years at least half of them have what we usually refer to as ‘different ethnic backgrounds’. Individuals from Arab countries, Pakistan, India, China Russia, etc. — we’ve even also invited Swedes… But the media have with very few exceptions not been particularly interested in what has been said and discussed at these meetings, which anyone can attend and where anyone can speak. No one from Denmark Radio or the fine newspapers have bothered to come and report on what our many interesting guests have had to say. If someone from TFS on the other hand utters just a single thoughtless remark then they descend upon us like hawks. Can’t you see what monsters we are and that our true intention is to establish a fascist tyranny with lynching and gas chambers and whatever else comes with it.

In the newspaper Politiken, I have been referred to as a habitual offender, and the newspaper’s current cultural editor demanded a couple of years ago on Dutch television that erroneous opinions, i.e. opinions that are not shared by Politiken – should be banned and that she would like to see me prosecuted, something which the Danish state prosecutors have attempted with great zeal.

In this country one is able to without the slightest risk stand up and pronounce that of course Sharia will be introduced with everything that it implies in terms of barbaric punishment and repression. One can also, without anyone touching a single hair on one’s head, state that immoral women must have stones thrown at their heads until they die, and that Muslims who turn their back on Islam of course must be killed. But if you say or write that this is what Islam is all about then you are guaranteed to be accused of racism, risk criminal prosecution, and — as we have just witnessed — attempted murder.

Those who hurl racism accusations against other people and demands that they must be deprived of their freedom of expression and have their opinions banned must surely feel very safe and secure. They simply cannot imagine that one day it may be their opinions that are banned, that they are the ones who will be hauled to the court — and God forbid that they are the ones who will one day open the door to a postman who turns out to be a murderer. They have nothing to fear from Trykkefrihedsselskabet, because we will at all times defend our opponents’ right to freedom of expression.

But when we are already faced with a scenario where murder and death threats have become part of the political struggle — as is the case with Pia Kjærsgaard, Naser Khader, Kurt Westergaard and now me — how can one then be so sure that the violence will always go in one particular direction? How can we tell for sure that the bells, which today are tolling for the wicked, won’t one day toll for those who perceive themselves as the good ones?

That’s why I’m saying: is it not better to start listening to what people are actually trying to say, rather than stigmatizing them as outlaws who can be treated accordingly? Could it not be the case that those who in recent years have warned against the mass immigration of people who cannot and will not integrate into our society actually are deeply concerned about what is going to happen to Denmark and to our children? Could it not be the case that those who warn against the threat of Islamization are actually afraid of Islamization because they have seen what has happened in places wherever Islam has become prominent? That they are afraid of losing our most precious freedom, namely the freedom of expression? If it is lost, it will probably never be regained.

So therefore I ask questions, and I will continue to ask questions. And so therefore I speak, and I will continue to speak. Thank you.


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