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Melanie Phillips On The Enemies Of Free Speech In Denmark
A chilling development in Denmark illustrates just how ‘hate speech’ laws, which were introduced by deluded western liberals, are being used to stifle and criminalise the expression of legitimate opinion and essential debate -- the prerequisite of a liberal society. Lars Hedegaard is president of Denmark’s International Free Press Society, which is devoted to fighting to preserve freedom of expression -- particularly against the threat from radical Islam to shut it down on the spurious grounds of ‘Islamophobia’. The inevitable has now happened: as Nathaniel Sugarman writes at The Legal Project, Hedegaard finds himself facing prosecution for ‘racism’ over remarks he has made about Islam.
The basis for Hedegaard's prosecution was an interview from December 2009 in which he made controversial statements about Islam. These assertions included critiques of what Hedegaard saw as Islam's permissiveness regarding child abuse and bearing false witness, as well as Islam's general intolerance concerning apostacism and critical speech. Snaphanen, a Danish blog, published the original interview, and Hedegaard has since clarified some of his remarks.
Hedegaard's statements earned him a hate speech charge under Danish law. While Denmark's constitution ostensibly protects freedom of expression and forbids censorship (see Section 77), the Criminal code provides that "expressing and spreading racial hatred" is a criminal offense punishable with up to two years imprisonment. (Article 266b).
It seems this is not the first such prosecution in Denmark:
On June 16, 2010, the Danish parliament voted to strip a lawmaker of immunity so that he could face charges over anti-Muslim comments. The politician, Jesper Langballe, is a veteran member of the Danish People's Party (PPD) and a crucial ally of the center-right government. In January 2010, he penned a newspaper column discussing the status of women in Islam and the "Islamisation of Europe." Included was the statement that "Muslims kill their daughters over crimes of honour and turn a blind eye while they are raped by their uncles." He is currently awaiting trial for violating Article 266b—the same hate speech statute that will likely be applied to Hedegaard.
There is however a ray of light for Denmark: it seems that the Justice Minister is now considering amending the hate speech laws on the grounds that they could be misused to restrict free speech. If so, this would underscore Denmark's general reputation for robustness in defence of its core civilisational values. It's a reputation which has nevertheless taken a knock from its adoption of these illiberal hate crime laws in the first place -- but remember the heroic Jyllands-Posten, whose staff found themselves under a death sentence for publishing the Mohammed cartoons.
However, the possible amendment of Denmark's hate laws is scant consolation for other western countries, with the UN having decided to criminalise all criticism of sharia law, as reported here. Until and unless western liberals finally understand that radical Islamists are not a minority whose human rights need to be defended but are instead a mortal threat to human rights which must be defeated -- and crucially, that the UN is the vehicle of Islamist oppression and must in turn be fought by all who care about human rights -- the light of freedom will continue to be extinguished in the west.