Lars Hedegaard is a Danish journalist and historian who is well-known to regular readers of this blog. He went on trial yesterday in Denmark for his “racist” statements about the high incidence of family rape among Muslims in Denmark. The Danish law under which he was charged makes it clear that the truth is no defense, just as was the case for Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria.
We are now in the depths of the Winter of Hate-Speech Trials in Europe.
Below is Lars Hedegaard’s own translation of the statement he gave yesterday to the court in Frederiksberg.
Awaiting the verdict
Lars Hedegaard’s final words in the Court of Frederiksberg, January 24, 2011
My counsel has instructed me that in cases brought under Article 266b, the only thing that determines whether one is convicted or not is a matter of the perceived insult whereas one is barred from proving the truth of the statement.
The article deals with public statements whereby a group of people are “threatened, insulted or degraded”. But as my lawyer has already noted, I have made no public statement.
When it comes to Article 266b, there is no equality before the law. I am daily insulted and degraded by something I read or hear and I am sure that most people have the same experience.
For example, I am not only insulted and degraded and threatened, but shaken to the core of my being when I hear a well known Danish imam state that, of course, sharia law — Muslim law — will be instituted as Denmark’s official legal regime when there are a sufficient number of Muslims. I strongly urge our country’s jurists to get acquainted with the implications of the sharia, not only for Muslims but equally for non-Muslims, who — if they are lucky — will be reduced to a life as subhuman outlaws. And if one cannot be bothered with tedious dissertations, one may take a look at the legal order pertaining in areas where the sharia holds sway either de jure or de facto. One will then encounter a legal order the like of which we have not known since the passing of the Law of Jutland in 1241 and probably not before.
But the imam wants this disorder introduced in the country where I was born. And I must admit that I am troubled. I am also troubled when said imam defends the killing of Muslims who have left Islam and when he confirms that women and men guilty of fornication must be pelt with stones until they are dead. He thinks that is God’s commandment, which he cannot ignore.
Should I go to the police and tell them how threatened, insulted and degraded I feel? I wouldn’t dream of it for I support free speech. And if free speech has any real meaning, it must also — and in particular — protect statements people do not want to hear. Regardless of how revolting such statements may be.
Besides it would be futile to report the imam and those similarly disposed to the police for the public prosecutor would never indict them. Otherwise it would have happened long ago.
As jurisprudence shows, not only in Denmark but in all European countries with similar insult articles in their penal code, these insult articles open the gates to inequality before the law. There are insulted who enjoy the tender graces of the public prosecutor, and there are the less favoured who must endure insults directed at them.
But perhaps this is to do with the notion that one must not insult minorities whereas minorities are free to insult majorities? If that is the explanation of why I am in court today, it is a peculiar one. In 2002, the imam I have already mentioned explained to his flock that all Muslims in the world — 1.6 billion or whatever the number is — constitute one people, one umma. The same thing is emphasised by the Islamic Conference Organisation, OIC, encompassing 57 member countries. In other words, the five million non-Muslim Danes are a microscopic minority but nevertheless a minority whose members stand to be punished if they make statements on cultural norms in the umma.
What does the public prosecutor hope to accomplish by my conviction? He may drag me in front of a court. He may portray me as a racist, a right-wing extremist and a non-human. He may do the same to hundreds and thousands of others who insist on their right of free speech to describe Islam and Muslim culture just like we would deal with any other phenomenon in a free society.
But what will he have gained? Does the public prosecutor believe that people will start talking about Islam and Muslim culture with greater respect and reverence? Perhaps in public because people fear fines and jail. But what will people say to each other when they think that the thought police are not listening?
And what does the public prosecutor imagine people will think of a religion, a political ideology and a culture that need the protection of legislators, police, the public prosecutor and the courts because they cannot defend themselves in a free and open debate?
In 1644, when the English parliament considered the institution of religious censorship, that Christian defender of free speech John Milton wrote: “There is yet behind of what I purpos’d to lay open, the incredible losse, and detriment that this plot of licencing puts us to, more then if som enemy at sea should stop up all our hav’ns and ports, and creeks, it hinders and retards the importation of our richest Marchandize, Truth.”
“There be who perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity that any man dissents from their maxims. ‘Tis their own pride and ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will hear with meeknes, nor can convince, yet all must be suppresst which is not found in their Syntagma.”
Milton concluded with this exhortation:
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
In conclusion permit me to mention the true victims in this case. The public prosecutor has not considered the 20,000 women in the Muslim world who every year fall victim to so-called honour killings, or the 50,000 Muslim girls in Germany who the federal police consider threatened with genital mutilation, nor the hundreds of thousands of little girls in Muslim majority societies who have been sold into marriage with much older men and who must therefore live a life of constant rape, while Islamic scholars preach that this is in complete accordance with religious orthodoxy.
I hope that the judge as opposed to the public prosecutor will consider the fate of these unfortunate human beings. Likewise I hope that the judge will realise the absurdity of prosecuting me for statements made within the confines of my own four walls. For ten months the prosecutor has been aware of the conditions under which I spoke. That has not affected him in the slightest. I hope it will affect the judge.