The words of Öz | Freedom of speech or the right to insult?

On an otherwise normal February day, an unknown male tried to shoot the founder of this country’s free press society, Trykkerifrihedsselskabet. The man missed, dropped his gun, picked it up and ran away. No-one has been caught for the act, no-one knows who did it or why he did it. Yet, Lars Hedegaard has been glorified by the national media as a man willing to die for the freedom of speech.

The media and politicians have decided that this unknown attacker, who nobody has identified, let alone determined his motives, attacked the Danish right to free speech. It’s the same old song all over again. We’ve been here before with Jylllands-Posten and the cartoons.

First and foremost, so that no-one will misinterpret my point of view, no-one – I repeat, no-one – deserves to be a victim of any kind of violence. I don’t care if you say Islam is the same as the Nazi ideology, or that you intentionally insult a minority, you do not deserve to be targeted with violence. I do not agree with anything Hedegaard has ever said, but I feel sympathy for him as a victim of an attempted murder. But with that being said, let me return to the purpose of this column.

The mass media in Denmark call Hedegaard a critic of Islam. And according to its narrative, he was attacked because of his opinions on Islam and Muslims. This kind of rhetoric is at the root of the misinformation surrounding the attempt on his life.

Hedegaard in 2009 claimed that Muslims “rape their own children. You hear it all the time. Girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins, or their fathers.”

What kind of opinion is that? How would it sound if I wrote a column about how Jews or Hindus rape their own children?

It would, of course, make me look ignorant and stupid, and I would be spreading a disgusting lie to the public. That is exactly what Hedegaard has been doing. He has been misusing his freedom of speech to insult a minority and to spread lies and hate against Muslims.

Another quote by Hedegaard confirms my claim, when he said that “when we lie, we know that we have done something wrong. It is simply not the case in Islam.” In other words, he is actually trying to tell the public that it is the norm for Muslims to lie, and that lying is a part of the religion of Islam. Hedegaard argued that Islam allows Muslims to lie about their faith to non-Muslims, but there is actually a verse in the Koran (40:28) that says the opposite: “The one that hides his faith is not a believer.” This means that lying conflicts with Islam, just as it does with Christianity and Judaism.

Based on these quotes from Hedegaard, I do not believe that he can be called an Islam critic. He does not criticise the religion of Islam, he spreads lies and encourages hate against it. I believe a description more like ‘Islam-hostile’ fits this man’s mindset. And in this, I am backed up by the largest Swedish news agency, TT, and the foreign correspondent of Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Pia Skagermark, who agree that ‘Islam-hostile’ is the most accurate term.

But in the Danish mass media, he is a debater with Islam-critical opinions.

Fortunately, not everyone is convinced. Professor Erik A Nielsen from the University of Copenhagen shared his thoughts on Hedegaard in a recent issue of Berlingske. “Lars Hedegaard, Kurt Westergaard and Jyllands-Posten are not able to distinguish between freedom of speech and the right to insult and to speak blasphemously about Muslims,” he wrote.

I could not agree more. Every time I say that the freedom of speech is not the same as the freedom to insult, I am dismissed as a Muslim who has yet to understand the rights  and freedoms of a democracy. But actually, the situation is exactly the opposite.

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