It is an equation becoming all too familiar. A new book released in Europe contains essays critical of Islam and illustrations of the Prophet Mohammed. In response, some are calling for blood.Danish journalist Lars Hedegaard’s book Groft Sagt (Rough Talk), was released in Denmark Monday. It is a collection of about 100 of his favorite newspaper columns from a Copenhagen daily. Many of the columns are critical of Islam. In addition, the book features 26 new illustrations from Kurt Westergaard, whose drawings of the Prophet Mohammed in the newspaper Jyllands Posten in 2005 sparked a wave of violent protests.
An Israeli security center is sounding the alarm about calls for a violent backlash after noticing a series of incendiary posts on jihadist web sites. According to an International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) release, someone identifying himself as Abu Salem posted comments about Hedegaard’s book on a website called Hanein, “a mouthpiece for Al-Qaeda and other jihad organizations”:
“Abu Salem requests that all who love the Prophet Muhammad help spread the news of the upcoming publication and notify religious leaders of what ‘these pigs’ are attempting to do. One forum visitor responded to the post, suggesting that Bin Laden attack Copenhagen, repeating the call: ‘Bin Laden, Copenhagen!’ several times. Another forum visitor wrote: ‘Our blood… our souls… our children… our money… all that we have… the entire world… anything so that a single hair of your distinguished head [i.e. Muhammad] is not harmed.’”
In a separate post on another site, the ICT reports an internet user identified as Saqr Al-Islam Al-Maqdasi said a boycott of Danish goods would be an insufficient response. Instead:
“[…] by attacking Denmark everywhere so that it be known we are a nation sacrificing itself for Islam and its Prophet […] this cattle doesn’t understand anything but the language of rage, and we will decapitate the heads and set fire to the ground underneath their feet. They do not understand anything but the language of blood and scattering of body parts. I ask that Allah make successful the way of the loyal Jihad warriors, in order to blow up and set fire to Denmark.”
In an interview with the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Hedegaard said he has been in communication with Danish law enforcement but isn’t letting the threatening response curtail his activities. His book is being used by jihadists looking for an excuse to justify their violence. “It is quite obvious that they think it is the right moment to strike a new offensive against Denmark and against free speech. It could be anything. This is planned. This is orchestrated.”
In February, Danish police arrested three men suspected of planning to kill Westergaard, who had been forced into hiding after the 2005 publication of his Mohammed illustrations. Many Muslims consider any image of Mohammed to be blasphemous.
The response to perceived insults against Islam has grown increasingly violent.
In 2004, filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered on an Amsterdam street by a Dutch Moroccan angered by his film “Submission.” The murderer stuck a note on van Gogh threatening Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who developed the idea for the film and wrote it. Since that time, Ms. Ali, formerly a Dutch MP, has had to live with constant protection, often a contentious issue in the Netherlands.
In September, the home of British publisher Martin Rynja was firebombed in advance of the publication of the novel “The Jewel of Medina,” a fictional account of the life of Aisha, a child bride of the Prophet Mohammed.
These incidents make it more important to continue issuing work that may offend some people, Hedegaard said. “The point has to be made again and again. We live in a country with free speech. Unless we make this point again and again, every day, we don’t have free speech.”
Most of the columns in the book are not about Islam. Others deal with foreign policy, religion and “idiots that need to be taken down.”
Hedegaard’s newspaper, Berlinske Tidende, let him go earlier this year. His bosses told him he was getting boring and repetitive but he said he thinks they were bowing to pressure from his critics. As the new controversy brews, he said he feels he has strong public support, but felt Danish journalists and academics were either passive or hostile toward him.
Despite the controversy and the threats accompanying it, Hedegaard vowed to continue speaking his mind. Whether those threats should ever target him personally is not something he thinks about.
“I cannot live that way,” he said. “I might as well be dead. It’s like dying before you die… Death is when you are forced to shut up. I don’t want them to shut me up before I die physically.”
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