A few days ago, a man tried to assassinate Lars Hedegaard in Copenhagen - an event Mark wrote about here and here, but about which the broader western media has been shamefully silent. Last summer, Mark had the honour of presenting Lars with a Defender of Freedom award at the European Parliament. Here is some of what Mark had to say:
Thank you. I don't spend a lot of time in the European Parliament or in Brussels, and one of the few things that could persuade me to set foot here is the opportunity to say a word for the man we honour today, Lars Hedegaard.
After I accepted the invitation to come here, I received a couple of emails from prominent persons saying wasn't I a bit worried that some of the people here are a bit controversial and it might not be a good idea to be seen in the same room as them. And that's a fair point. Obviously, it would be far safer for one's reputation to appear in the same room as less controversial figures such as the chaps appearing last weekend at the Muslim Council of Calgary's big event in Alberta. Their keynote speaker was the Saudi-educated imam Dr Bilal Phillips, who's on record as saying that every male homosexual should be executed. He later clarified his position: He only wants all male homosexuals in Muslim countries executed. "The media tends to take my words out of context," he said.
Also on the bill was the moderate Muslim Shaykh Hatem Alhaj, who supports the introduction of female genital mutilation to North America. But he's a "moderate" Muslim because he only believes in nicking the clitoris rather than slicing the thing right off. So the head of the Calgary Police Diversity Unit and multiple representatives of the Canadian state had no problem whatsoever being in the same room as Messrs Alhaj and Phillips.
There is literally nothing a prominent Muslim can say – about gays, about Jews, about women – that would render him persona non grata. That's the world we live in: sharing a stage with a man calling for compulsory execution for homosexuals isn't controversial; sharing a stage with Lars Hedegaard is.
I'm bored by this double standard; I'm tired of one-way multiculturalism; and I thank God that here in Europe, where you need it most of all, there are a few brave souls like Lars willing to stand up against it. Like Lars, I am guilty of crimes against humanity – I always think that looks good on a chap's resume. And you'd be surprised how much work it brings in. As with Lars, it was a thought-crime prosecution, in which truth is no defence. Unlike Lars, I beat the rap without having to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Maclean's magazine and I were acquitted of quote "flagrant Islamophobia" for essentially political reasons – because neither the British Columbia court nor its travesty of a "human rights" code could withstand the heat of a guilty verdict. (I never did find out quite what the difference is between "flagrant Islamophobia" and common-or-garden Islamophobia, but I think flagrant Islamophobia is a lot camper.) Unlike Denmark, where the law under which Lars was prosecuted remains on the books, in Canada just a few days ago, and as a result of my case and the publicity it generated, the House of Commons finally voted to repeal the relevant provision of Canada's Human Rights Code. At some point, it will go to the Senate and then receive Royal Assent, and a disgraceful law at odds with eight centuries of Canada's legal inheritance going back to Magna Carta will finally be consigned to the garbage can of history. So, for those of you fighting these battles in Denmark, in Austria, in the Netherlands and elsewhere, victories are possible. But they're hard fought, and far too few people in the multicultural west have the stomach for them. Lars Hedegaard does.
As most of you know, Lars was charged, acquitted, re-charged, convicted, fined 5,000 kroner and forced to appeal to the Supreme Court – for the crime of expressing his opinion about Islam. He won, but he lost. He lost three years of his life. The point of these new heresy trials is that the verdict is ultimately irrelevant – the process is the punishment. After I saw off the Islamic enforcers in my own country, their frontman crowed to The Canadian Arab News that, even though the Canadian Islamic Congress had struck out in three separate jurisdictions in their attempt to criminalize my writing, the lawsuits had cost my magazine (he boasted) two million dollars, and thereby "attained our strategic objective—to increase the cost of publishing anti-Islamic material." In Denmark, as in Austria, as in Germany, as in France, the Islamic imperialists are also achieving their strategic objective. For every Lars Hedegaard, for every Kurt Westergaard, there are a thousand cartoons that are never drawn, a thousand newspaper columns that are never written, a thousand novels that are never published, films that are never made, plays that are never produced …because thousands of people look at what Lars had to go through, and conclude that the price of raising the subject of Islam is too high. For every contrarian spirit such as Lars, there are a thousand other public figures who get the message — best just to steer clear, keep your head down, write about something else, anything else.
Two years ago, as part of Lars' conference on Islam and humor, I shared a platform in Copenhagen with the Swedish artist Lars Vilks. They have a tradition in Sweden of roundabout dogs - canine scultptures that pop up mysteriously on Swedish roundabouts - and Lars Vilks decided to do a drawing of Mohammed as a roundabout dog. He wound up with a fatwa on his head. And one night he came home to find the jihad boys had firebombed his kitchen. As they escaped across the field heady with the thrill of their glorious victory, they noticed that in the course of setting Mr Vilks' home alight they'd also accidentally set their trousers on fire, and, after some effort to extinguish their smoking pantaloons, were forced to discard them. Unfortunately, in abandoning their pants and scampering off through the icy night in their jihadist underwear, they neglected to remove the charred driver's licenses and other identifying documentation, from which police were able easily to track them down. When Mr Vilks told this story in Copenhagen, the whole room was roaring with laughter. Muslim terrorists are like Yosemite Sam in the Loony Tunes cartoons, forever shoving the stick of dynamite in their own pants – until one day Yosemite Ahmed manages to get it right. After the bombing of the British Conservative Party conference in 1984, the IRA taunted Mrs Thatcher: "You have to be lucky every day, we only have to be lucky once." Those jihad incompetents with the smoking trousers would modify the line: We only have to be competent once, and no matter how many years roll by they'll keep trying. Over four years after Mr Vilks' drawing, seven men were arrested in Waterford, Ireland for plotting to kill him. I don't know how many of you know Waterford. It sits in a beautiful spot on the southern Irish coast, the oldest city in the country, population about 45,000. And yet in an Irish city of 45,000 you can find seven men willing to kill a Swedish artist. At the height of the so-called Irish "Troubles", you'd have been hard put to find seven residents of Waterford willing to participate in a plot to kill a British cabinet minister. But in the new multicultural Waterford you can find seven men willing to kill some guy halfway across Europe over a four-year-old drawing.
And the position of the European elites is always the same: No, no, they tell the blokes in Waterford, you don't need to kill the guy; we'll ban the drawing, we'll scrap the book, we'll cancel the exhibition, we'll drive him out of polite society, haul him into court, force him into a safe house. We'll save you the trouble of killing anyone by pre-emptively surrendering on anything that matters to you…
I would like to quote from one of my favorite pieces by Lars Hedegaard. He was writing about the ostensibly perplexing alliance between Islam and the left. And he began with a quote from Karl Marx: "Criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism." Lars continues:
Criticism of religion is not only the starting point of all criticism. It is the prerequisite of any kind of criticism. In a society where religion cannot be criticized, everything becomes religion from the length of your beard to what hand to use when wiping your backside.
Where there is no criticism of religion, life and society in their entirety become religious and the littlest squeak against the existing order is an act of blasphemy.
Lars had been at the House of Lords for the showing of Geert Wilders' film Fitna, and he was struck by the way the media relentlessly applied the adjective "right-wing" to Wilders. Now I am right-wing. Always have been, always will be. And, speaking as a bona fide far-right nutcase, I rather resent the label's increasing elasticity in Europe: This guy Vilks isn't right-wing, he's an old Euroleftie who thinks he should be able to make the some jokes about Islam he makes about anything else. The Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot wasn't right-wing, he was an equal-opportunity provocateur who figures if you can draw a black guy sodomising Queen Beatrix - your actual living head of state - you can surely mock some fellow who's been dead since the Seventh Century. A couple of decades back, when I was at the BBC, I quickly figured out that in media-speak the term right-wing meant no more or less than the side you're not meant to like, the side we disapprove of. But what's not to like about feminists and gays and anti-monarchist cartoonists? In nothing flat, Islam has ingeniously managed to get the western media to entirely redefine the term, Islam vs gays, Islam vs feminists, Islam vs artists, Islam vs your-team-here – and suddenly it's gays and feminists and artists who are the right-wing extremists, the side you're not meant to like - because Islam doesn't like them. In Lars Hedegaard's words:
You may be a staunch supporter of the welfare state, socialized medicine, gay marriage, preferential treatment of women and 75 percent taxation of all private income. It won't help you if you have distanced yourself from the teachings of the prophet.
Thus, in the Netherlands, Islam's critics are also "extreme right-wing racists" - if by "extreme", "right-wing" and "racist' you mean gay hedonists (Pim Fortuyn), anti-monarchist coke-snorting nihilists (Theo van Gogh) and liberal black feminists (Ayaan Hirsi Ali). Whichever of these novel permutations of "right-wing" you fall into, you wind up either on trial (Nekschot, Geert Wilders), forced into exile (Miss Ali) or pushing up tulips (Fortuyn, van Gogh). Likewise, the artists and comedians I met through Lars in Copenhagen had been variously arrested, subjected to death threats, had homes firebombed and a family restaurant shot up. And in the final indignity they'd wound up sharing a stage with a right-wing loon like me because their leftie pals weren't there for them. All your liberal friends who went to the Amnesty International fundraisers and bored the pants off you with that bit of apocryphal Voltaire – "I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" – they all stayed utterly silent. C'mon, nobody's asking you to defend anyone to the death. A mildly principled Tweet would do. A tepidly supportive fax.
Lars Hedegaard matters because he was there when all those Voltaire-spouting lefties weren't. Modern social-democratic governments preside over multicultural societies which have less and less glue holding them together, and they've very at ease with the idea of the state as the mediator between different interest groups. Most of these governments haven't a clue what to do about their turbulent surging Muslim populations, but they have unbounded faith in their own powers and so it seems entirely natural to manage the problem by regulating freedom in the interests of social harmony. Go back to what Lars said about the Islamo-leftist alliance: "Criticism of religion is not only the starting point of all criticism. It is the prerequisite of any kind of criticism." That would have been an unexceptional observation to any Continental leftie of a generation ago. Why then are the Euroleft prostrate before Islam? Simple arithmetic, says Lars: "They are now increasingly dependent on the Muslim vote, which they hope will guarantee them a perpetual foothold at least in the major population centers."
He's right. So democratic parties maintain their electoral viability by pandering to the anti-democratic impulses of their fastest-growing bloc.
After that conference with Lars in Copenhagen a couple of years ago, I took the train over the water to Malmö in Sweden. Malmö was one of the first Christian cities in what was then Denmark. It's now on course to become the first Muslim city in Sweden. I sat and had a coffee in a nice little place in a beautiful medieval square in the heart of town. Aside from a few modernist excrescences, it would not have looked so different in the early days of the Lutheran church. I got lucky, and fell into conversation with a couple of cute Swedish blondes. Fine-looking ladies. I shall miss Scandinavian blondes when they're extinct. At dusk, and against their advice, I took a 20-minute walk to Rosengard. As you stroll the sidewalk, the gaps between blondes grow longer, and the gaps between young bearded Muslim men grow shorter. And then eventually you're in the housing projects, and all the young boys kicking a soccer ball around are Muslim, and every single woman is covered – including many who came from "moderate" Muslim countries and did not adopt the headscarf or hijab until they emigrated to Sweden, where it's compulsory, at least in Rosengard.
Do you remember the rationalization Israel used at the Oslo Accords? "Land for peace"? In Sweden, which is about as far as you can get from Gaza and the West Bank, they're also trading land for peace, and as in Gaza unlikely to wind up with either. The Jews are already fleeing Malmö: Soon it will be like Tangiers or Baghdad or any other Arab town with a weed-strewn, decaying "old Jewish cemetery" and no one left to tend it. But it's not just the Jewish graveyard that's destined to be abandoned, but the Lutheran ones, too.
I would urge anyone to do that twilight walk from downtown Malmö to Rosengard, as the blondes thin and the bearded men multiply. That's Europe's future walking toward you, and most Europeans did not choose to live in that world. In Malmö, in Rotterdam, in Yorkshire and here in Brussels, their betters made the decision for them. A society that becomes more Muslim becomes less everything else – less Jewish, less gay, less feminist, less artistic, less scientific, less free. That's a simple statement of fact, but we shrink from it. I saw an ad the other day for a clothing store called U.S. Arabia, and it showed happy, smiling, apparently Caucasian models in Muslim garb. And I could see how that might catch on. You're in an office where two of the ten people are Muslim, and then it's three, four, six, and suddenly it's the non-Muslim workers who are feeling the odd ones out. And the fashion magazines are running all these features about how cool it is to wear head coverings, even for non-Muslim women. So you try it, and suddenly you feel less obvious when you're walking through certain neighborhoods late in the evening. Why not meet Islam halfway? A headscarf here, halal-compliant meat there… What's the big deal? By the time, you formally convert, you'll barely notice it.
Islam won't have to blow anything up, it just has to be – to be itself, and in being itself make us less ourselves – less Belgian, less Dutch, less Danish, as already Malmö is day by day less Swedish. The man we honor today will not go quietly into that Rosengard night. He understands that we cannot prevent it if we cannot talk about it, honestly and openly. But the zombie husks who lead the western world in twilight pass off their groveling prostration as a defense of "multicultural tolerance". It's not. It's the Pansy Left (in Orwell's phrase) auditioning to be Islam's lead prison bitch (that's mine, not Orwell's). In the same way that the left embarked on its long march through the institutions, so too has Islam. Its Gramscian subversion of transnational bodies, international finance, human rights institutions, the academy and the justice system is well advanced.
At one of his trials – maybe it was the first, the second, the third, I forget which – Lars quoted John Milton:
Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
Milton wrote that in 1644. Three hundred and seventy years later, it falls to our generation to fight that battle all over again. Lars Hedegaard has led that fight, a fight that so many of his fellow Danes, his fellow Scandinavians, his fellow Europeans have either ducked or joined the wrong side of. In some of the oldest free societies on the planet, far too few are doing the heavy lifting for all of us, and paying a very high price. So I am honored to salute today a champion of liberty, a defender of civilization, and a European hero whether Europe's rulers know it or not – Lars Hedegaard.