There has been another terror attack in Europe against freedom of speech. To the day a month after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, two terrorists opened fire at a freedom-of-speech event in Copenhagen, Denmark. The event, held at a cafe the name of which translates to “The Powder Keg”, was organized to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Iranian government’s “fatwa” death sentence against the author Salman Rushdie. Among the participants were a Swedish artist, Mr. Lars Vilks, who has become well known in freedom-of-speech circles for his drawings of the muslim prophet Muhammed as a dog. Another participant was the French ambassador, who was actually speaking at the time of the attack.
Danish police had anticipated an elevated threat level and several police officers were at the scene already when the event started. This probably prevented a bigger disaster than what unfolded: one man died and three police officers were wounded.
This is yet another attack on one of the cornerstones of a free society and Western civilization. As was the case with the attack on Charlie Hebdo, this one took place in a country where the roots of liberty are deep. The Danish government reacted very strongly to the attack, with Prime Minister Helle Thorning scolding the terrorists and promising that this will only embolden the Danish people’s support for freedom of speech.
While, technically, we do not yet know who the perpetrators are, it is not far fetched to assume that they share the same loathsome fundamentalist views as the Charlie Hebdo attackers. The Danish government and the PET, the Danish equivalent of the FBI, characterize this as a terror attack and act accordingly. Regardless of whether the terrorists wanted to attack the event because of the “fatwa” anniversary, or because Mr. Vilks or the French ambassador were there, this is yet another reminder of the fact that there are ideologues who actually hate free society and who are willing to die and kill for their hatred.
And beyond the tragedy of yet more casualties at the hands of fundamentalist terrorists, let us once again remind ourselves and each other never to take freedom for granted. Let us once again remember those who have sacrificed their lives so that the rest of us can live under the banner of liberty. Now that free society is under active attack, we must once again remind ourselves of the epic words of President Reagan:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
But we must do more. We must fill those words with action. We must all contribute toward the defense of liberty against its fanatic enemies. That defense includes all the cornerstones of a free society: the freedom of speech; accountable government; and economic freedom.
Or, to paraphrase the classic French cry of freedom: Laissez-nous parler; laissez-nous gouverner; laissez-nous faire.