Danish writer Lars Hedegaard is pictured in this 2009 file photograph, made available on February 5, 2013. Hedegaard, a critic of Islam, was attacked outside his house in the Pelargonievej neighbourhood, near Copenhagen, by a man disguised as a postman who missed a shot to the head and fled the scene.
Credits: REUTERS/Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix
Earlier this week my friend Lars Hedegaard was almost killed. Almost murdered, to be more precise. Nearly assassinated by an Islamist, to be specific.
Lars, you see, is a prominent opponent of Islamic extremism and intolerance, he edits a newspaper exposing Muslim political crimes and has campaigned for free speech and pluralism for many years now.
He’s a gentle, considerate man and very proud of his native Denmark’s devotion to tolerance and diversity. As such, the 70-year-old assumed that when someone came to his Copenhagen door and said he had a delivery, he was telling the truth.
It was then the young man of Arab appearance shot at Lars. He missed.
“When he tried to fire again, the pistol clicked and the assailant ran away,” police commissioner Lars-Christian Borg explained.
After a scuffle and more attempts to shoot, the attacker fled, and Lars was left profoundly shaken but not physically hurt. He will now, of course, have to pay careful attention to his movements, install security systems, alert the police at various times, and change his lifestyle so as to merely stay alive.
So to that degree the attack was a success and frankly it is unlikely to be the last attempt.
It’s pretty much par for the course now, with critics of Islamism throughout Europe and North America threatened with death and attacked. There are fewer in the Islamic world itself, because there the brave souls who have dared to speak out have already been dealt with.
In Hedegaard’s Denmark, the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard — whose picture of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban led to international riots and deadly violence — lives with constant police protection. In Sweden, the artist and writer Lars Vilks is under threat for his comments about Islam. In Holland, the filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered on the street. In Britain and France, there are no-go parts of Islamic areas for non-Muslims, even if they’ve never expressed a word about Mohammed or Allah.
The names of the threatened, silenced and slaughtered ring like bells of liberty and integrity. Salman Rushdie, Tarek Fatah, Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and so on.
Many of them are hardly known to us: Those who translated Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, who worked for Danish charities in the Middle East, who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
All of this bog of despair and darkness is bad enough in itself, but just as sickening is the reaction of the deniers and the cowards.
“All religious extremism is bad.”
Yes, but no Quaker, Buddhist or Catholic is threatening to kill me.
“What about abortion doctors who are killed?”
Hardly any actually, and these acts are condemned by 99% of Christians, as opposed to the myriad Muslims who say so little when the likes of Lars Hedegaard are almost killed.
“These people don’t understand Islam.”
Golly, so many Muslims who just don’t get their religion!
It’s a cloak of relativism, padded with ignorance, belted with fear, terror and a refusal to embrace reality.
But the winters are getting colder and before long even the most naive will need to wrap in something warmer. Just ask my friend Lars.