Danish Opponent of Islam Is Attacked, and Muslims Defend His Right to Speak

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February 27, 2013

[h=1]Danish Opponent of Islam Is Attacked, and Muslims Defend His Right to Speak[/h] [h=6]New York Times By ANDREW HIGGINS EXCERPT:[/h]COPENHAGEN When a would-be assassin disguised as a postman shot at and just missed the head of Lars Hedegaard, an anti-Islam polemicist and former newspaper editor, this month, a cloud of suspicion immediately fell on Denmarks Muslim minority.
Politicians and pundits united in condemning what they saw as an attempt to stifle free speech in a country that, in 2006, faced violent rage across the Muslim world over a newspapers cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Since then, the newspaper that first printed the images, Jyllands-Posten, has been the target of several terrorist plots.
However, as Mr. Hedegaards own opinions, a stew of anti-Muslim bile and conspiracy-laden forecasts of a coming civil war, came into focus, Denmarks unity in the face of violence began to dissolve into familiar squabbles over immigration, hate speech and the causes of extremism.
But then something unusual happened. Muslim groups in the country, which were often criticized during the cartoon furor for not speaking out against violence and even deliberately fanning the flames, raised their voices to condemn the attack on Mr. Hedegaard and support his right to express his views, no matter how odious.
The writer, who for several years edited a mainstream Danish daily, Information, is a major figure in what a study last year by a British group, Hope Not Hate, identified as a global movement of Islamophobic writers, bloggers and activists whose anti-Muslim rhetoric poisons the political discourse, sometimes with deadly effect.

That Danish Muslims would rally to defend Mr. Hedegaard, a man they detest, suggests a significant shift in attitudes, or at least in strategies, by a people at the center of a European debate over whether immigrants from mostly poor Muslim lands can adjust to the values of their new and, thanks to a long economic crisis, increasingly wary and often inhospitable homes.
They have changed their approach, said Karen Haekkerup, Denmarks minister of social affairs and integration. It is a good sign that the Muslim community is now active in the debate.
When the news broke on Feb. 5 that Mr. Hedegaard had narrowly escaped an attack on his life, recalled Imran Shah of Copenhagens Islamic Society, we knew that this was something people would try to blame on us. We knew we had to be in the forefront and make clear that political and religious violence is totally unacceptable.
The Islamic Society, which runs Denmarks biggest mosque and played an important role in stirring up passions against the cartoons of Muhammad, swiftly condemned the attack on Mr. Hedegaard. It also said it regretted its own role during the uproar over the cartoon, when it sent a delegation to Egypt and Lebanon to sound the alarm over Danish blasphemy, a move that helped turn what had been a little-noticed domestic affair into a bloody international crisis.
END EXCERPT
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