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On Friday, April 13, 2012, President of the Danish Free Press Society Lars Hedegaard had his day in the Danish Supreme Court — to which he has appealed his previous conviction for so-called “hate speech.” Below is an English translation of his final words to the Court:
Honourable Supreme Court,
My attorney has presented juridical arguments to the effect that I must be acquitted and I shall refrain from elaborating.
However, allow me to express my quiet bafflement that somebody can claim that it has been my intention to accuse every last Muslim father in the world of abusing his children – particularly in light of the fact that I have carefully explained that it was never my intention to disseminate such an absurd contention.
For precisely that reason, I would have welcomed an opportunity to review the statements I now stand accused of having uttered before they were placed on the Internet. If the interviewer had fulfilled this basic journalistic obligation, I would have demanded that my remarks be corrected so as to reflect my true opinions and the prosecutor could have saved the trouble of dragging me through the courts.
I am even more baffled at one of the claims about my person that has been circulated in connection with this case, namely that I am a racist. I have never been, I am not now and I shall never be a racist. On the contrary, all my life I have opposed racist attitudes, by which I mean hatred towards and denigrating speech about people due their descent, skin color or other so-called racial characteristics – in other words, antipathy against or ill treatment of people due to circumstances over which they have no control.
Islam is not a race and therefore criticism of Islam cannot be racism.
Islam, which lurks behind this entire case, has been described from a variety of viewpoints. Some say that it is a religion, others that is an all-encompassing ideology that contains a religion, still others emphasize its cultural norms, its culturally transmitted customs and practices. Some even maintain that Islam is so multifaceted that it is impossible to describe it.
But regardless of one’s approach, it must be clear that Islam is not a hereditary human attribute.
If our Western freedom means anything at all, we must insist that every grown-up person is responsible for his or her beliefs, opinions, culture, habits and actions.
We enjoy political freedom and we enjoy freedom of religion. This implies a largely unlimited right to disseminate one’s political persuasion and religious beliefs. That is as it should be. But the price we all have to pay for this freedom is that others have a right to criticise our politics, our religion and our culture.
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