The headline in the New York Times was “Danish Opponent of Islam Is Attacked, and Muslims Defend His Right to Speak.” After a would-be assassin narrowly missed the head of Lars Hedegaard, a well-known anti-Muslim commentator, Denmark’s Muslim leadership chose to defend his right to speak, no matter how much they disagreed with the message and condemned his attacker.
Denmark is at the heart of Europe. Like many other European countries, it has a sizable Muslim minority. And Denmark’s Muslims have been at the center of a controversy about free speech that began in 2005 with the publication of an opinion piece in Jyllands-Posten that included a group of cartoons depicting Mohammed. That publication led to protests and riots worldwide and eventually resulted in at least 200 deaths according to an article in the New York Times.
What is interesting to me is that this is a situation where Muslims actively chose to accept and work within the societal norms of the country where they live. They chose not to demand that Islam be treated differently than other religions, working within the system to express their own opinions and fully supporting the rights of a man who recently told the Danish Parliament “I don’t have a problem with Muslims but do have a problem with the religion of Islam.”
It is very encouraging to me that there are elements in Muslim society who are learning to adapt to the countries in which they live. This is the essence of the immigrant experience. The law of the country where one lives is the law that one must follow. Violating those laws under the banner of religious or any other imperative is simply not acceptable.
In every democratic society speech in its many forms is always considered an appropriate way to express and influence opinions. I encourage you to notice and actively celebrate momentd like this one where opponents come together to peacefully analyze and resolve their differences and join in condemning those who would use violence no matter which side of the debate they represent.