“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 Hedegaard.
Mark Steyn quoted these words in a speech he made when he presented Lars Hedegaard with a Defender of Freedom award - somewhat startlingly, at the European Parliament.
Mark Steyn said inter alia in his speech (all of which is a must-read, for the importance of what he says, and for the enjoyment of his wit):
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. … 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. … 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. 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. …
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 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 … 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.