After Critic of Islam Escapes Assassination Attempt, Moderate Muslims Come to His Defense

Lars Hedegaard, head of the Danish Free Press Society, was nearly the victim of an assassination attempt a few weeks ago. When the accusations about who tried to kill him began flying, Muslims extremists were at the top of the list. Hedegaard had made many remarks against Islam (many of them admittedly unfair and despicable) and, in a country where a newspaper’s cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammad led to worldwide riots, they weren’t exactly unwarranted accusations.

Lars Hedegaard

Normally, when this sort of thing happens, moderate Muslims are nowhere to be found and the rest of us are left to defend the right to free speech.

Not this time.

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 Islamic Society, which runs Denmark’s 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.

“We Muslims have to find a new way of reacting,” said Qaiser Najeeb, a 38-year-old second-generation Dane whose father immigrated from Afghanistan. “Instead of focusing on the real point, we always get aggressive and emotional. This should change. We don’t defend Hedegaard’s views but do defend his right to speak. He can say what he wants.”

That’s an incredible shift in attitude from just a few years ago — and a welcome one at that. If Muslims responded like this all the time, there would be less of an incentive for free speech advocates, cartoonists, and bloggers to lampoon their beliefs. Sure, criticizing bad ideas would (and should) still occur, but deliberate provocation of sensitive beliefs would probably decrease.

The question now is whether that moderate attitude will spread enough so that the extremists who are still out there have no popular support.

(Thanks to Feminerd for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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