The Danish Show Trial against Lars Hedegaard
Katrine Winkel Holm
On April 26 my colleague, the Danish author and historian Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Press Society and The International Free Press Society, will be back in court accused of “racism” for comments he made during a conversation on the Islamic treatment of women.
Without his permission the entire conversation was electronically disseminated, which provided his detractors with the opportunity to denounce him to the police.
The district prosecutor for Copenhagen and Bornholm jumped at the chance to get this prominent free speech advocate convicted of “racism” under Denmark’s infamous “hate speech” article 266b of the penal code but suffered defeat when the case came before the lower court at Frederiksberg in January this year. The judge did not believe that Hedegaard’s comments had been made with the intent of public dissemination, which is what the prosecutor must prove in order to secure a conviction under article 266b.
Unhappy with this setback, the state prosecutor appealed to the Eastern Superior Court in Copenhagen, where the retrial is scheduled to start at 1 pm on April 26 before a panel of three judges.
The trial is expected to last no more than two hours, which would appear to leave little time to deal with the subject matter – the Islamic view on women and the treatment they have suffered throughout the ages.
However, truth has no place in cases brought under article 266b. All that matters is whether Hedegaard’s observations – or the observations he is claimed to have made – have caused Muslims to feel hurt. Consequently, the defendant is not allowed to present evidence or call witnesses who might confirm his contention that the Islamic treatment of women is incompatible with the norms of a civilised society.
Lars Hedegaard’s case is just one in a long line of similar heresy trials that have been conducted throughout Europe for decades. Among the most notorious are the prosecutions of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria and Geert Wilders in Holland but there have been scores of similar cases that have received less public attention.
The reason for this judicial tsunami against outspoken Islam critics is not hard to find. It has become uncomfortably clear to ever-wider sections of the public that the official policies of free Muslim immigration, multiculturalism and cultural relativism have failed utterly. The European states are now faced with problems which their rulers have no idea how to solve. So instead of admitting that they have failed, they choose to silence those who point out that there are problems.
As Lars Hedegaard is prevented from talking about the real issue in court, he has used the time since his initial acquittal to write a book. Its title is Muhammad’s Girls: Violence, Murder and Rape in the House of Islam and it will be published the very day he is to appear in Superior Court.
Sappho has obtained permission from the publisher, The Free Speech Library, to translate and reprint Lars Hedegaard’s Foreword.
On January 24, 2011 I had the experience – for the first time in my life – of sitting in the dock of a Danish courtroom. The State Prosecutor for Copenhagen and Bornholm had resolved that I had violated Article 266b of the penal code by publicly threatening, ridiculing and denigrating a group of people.
And a very large group of people at that. Somewhere between 1.2 and 1.6 billion Muslims – or at least the male half of them – who the State Prosecutor thought had reason to feel so aggrieved that I ought to be punished for it.
Global harmony was under pressure so the prosecutor had told the press that he had taken great pains in preparing the case.
His thorough preparations resulted in an indictment where the following words – which he attributed to me – were highlighted as criminal:
“When a Muslim man rapes a woman, it is his right to do so. When Swedish girls are raped, mass rape etc., etc., there is nothing wrong with it viewed from an Islamic perspective that is their right. They rape their own children. You hear that time and again. Girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins or their father. Women have no value, they are not human beings. Their function is to be wombs – they bear the warrior’s offspring and create new warriors but apart from that ... well they may be used for sexual purposes but other than that they have no value.”
To which the State Prosecutor added: “and the like”.
As my attorney proved in court, these words were not mine but the State Prosecutor’s retelling of a much larger line of argument taken out of context.
On top of that the judge could find no evidence that my characterisation of the Islamic concept of women had been uttered with the intent of public dissemination – which is what Article 266b requires for something to be punishable. Consequently I was acquitted. At least initially as the prosecutor decided to appeal the verdict.
What remains it the prosecutor’s contention that all the words he had placed between his quotation marks were in fact denigrating and therefore punishable. So let us assume that I actually had spoken precisely as claimed by the prosecutor and done so publicly or had written it and disseminated it far and wide. Would I have been convicted? That is what many of those who have commented on the outcome of the trial believe, which is why they reject the contention that my acquittal may be seen as a victory for free speech.
For reasons I shall not dwell on in this context, I maintain that is was a victory, but I can well understand why others might view it differently.
I any event the case does pose a number of important questions: On what grounds does the State Prosecutor decide that somebody has a valid reason to feel hurt? Is it enough for somebody to call the police and claim to be offended on behalf of some group or other, whereupon the State Prosecutor presses charges? No, there are criteria, as the Director of Public Prosecutions, Joergen Steen Soerensen expressed in a letter from August 2010 to Sappho.dk’s Chief Editor, Katrine Winkel Holm:
“The core area of the provision [Article 266b] is statements to the effect that the group in question generally lacks value as human beings, liken them to animals in addition to gross and utterly non-factual [usaglige], generalised claims of serious criminality, negative personality traits and an immoral and offensive way of life.”
When one reads the Director of Public Prosecutions’ remark about “the group in question [that] generally lacks value as human beings”, it is easier to understand why he considers the words attributed to me in the indictment as offensive. He evidently believes that it is I who thinks that Islam’s “women have no value, they are not human beings” and that it is I who wants to deprive them of human value, place them on an equal footing with animals etc.
That would be a bold interpretation. I believe that women, as concerns rights, chances in life and claims to be respected, are or ought to be absolutely equal to men regardless of their religion or where in the world they were born.
So it is not my view on women that is reflected in the indictment but the view on women that I think can be derived from Islamic holy scripture, which has manifested itself throughout Islamic history and which is still being advocated by the most influential Islamic scholars.
It may also be that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the State Prosecutor for Copenhagen and Bornholm actually have understood that the indictment does not reflect my attitude towards Muslim women but Islam’s own. In that case, they must view this interpretation of Islam as “non-factual” and therefore criminal.
According to Nudansk Ordbog [Dictionary of Current Danish] “saglig” [factual] is something that is “primarily related to facts rather than feelings, intuition and personal judgement”. In that case it ought to be an easy task – but also absolutely necessary – for the prosecutor to disprove my interpretation of Islam’s canonical view on women. For the prosecutor to characterise my rendering as non-factual, he must be in possession of the right, factual and evidence-based interpretation.
As a responsible institution the public prosecutor therefore owes it to the citizens to explicate his state-authorised Islamic view on women and tell them what indisputable facts this state-guaranteed interpretation is based on. Otherwise the citizens run the risk of expressing themselves in a non-factual manner and be punished for it.
The first thing one must demand of a law is that it be clear so that everyone may understand what is permitted and what is forbidden. That much was stated in the preamble to the Law of Jutland from 1241. And now that the Director of Public Prosecutions has passed a law – albeit without the consent parliament – that non-factuality must be punished, it is incumbent on him to make this new law clear. In brief: He must unequivocally enlighten the citizens as to how one may talk about Islam.
This book is intended as a help to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Most of the points of view below are not mine but opinions quoted from others. I start with the prophet Muhammad, whose view on women can hardly have failed to influence the behaviour of some Muslims.
It is far from certain that the public prosecutor will consider Muhammad’s and his followers’ interpretation of orthodox Islam factual, and under the new juridical regime it may not even be legal. But I urge him to accept that I mean well. Below he will find a compilation of everything that he evidently thinks Islam in not about. On this basis it will be easier for him to point to all the textual evidence, all the historical occurrences and all the statements that demonstrate that Islam is the religion of peace, tolerance and sexual equality.