Quotes of the day

Police shot dead a gunman on Sunday whose attacks on a Copenhagen synagogue and an event promoting free speech may have been inspired an attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo last month, authorities said.

Denmark’s spy chief Jens Madsen said the gunman was known to the intelligence services prior to the shooting and probably acted alone. He did not elaborate…

“We cannot yet say anything concrete about the motive … but are considering that he might have been inspired by the events in Paris some weeks ago,” Madsen told a news conference…

Witnesses to the Copenhagen attacks said the gunman fired up to 40 shots at a cafe hosting a free speech event with Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has received death threats for depicting the head of the Prophet Mohammad on a dog.


In the second attack, a Jewish man was killed and two police officers wounded near the city’s main synagogue

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said it was “a very sad morning” and described the shootings as “a cynical act of terror against Denmark”…

Ms Thorning-Schmidt later visited the synagogue and said Denmark would do everything to protect its Jewish community…

The victim was named as Dan Uzan, 37. He had been on security duty while a bat mitzvah ceremony was taking place inside the synagogue.


After a short introduction, Inna Shevchenko opened the panel and started to talk about Femen and her work. She also discussed her close friendship with Charb, the editor of Charlie Hebdo, and how they both stood strong exercising their right to freedom of expression. A few minutes into her speech we heard separate bangs.

It sounded like crackers. Everyone was sitting and Inna was speaking as the bangs turned into a shower of bullets. It sounded like a machine gun. There was lots of shouting in Danish, the security shouted that Lars should evacuate, everyone started to run or hide. A few people remained sitting. I slid behind the stage to hide.

After the shooting subdued everyone started to come together. We decided to continue with the presentation. I presented Passion for Freedom’s work and we took a few questions from the audience. Everyone thanked us that we continued. We will not surrender; they cannot kill all of us.


Helle Merete Brix, one of the organizers of the event, said she believed Mr. Vilks had been the intended target. Amid the shooting, she said, she moved with Mr. Vilks into a cold storage room, as some French survivors did during the siege of a kosher market in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attack. “I was in a cold room and kept hold of Lars Vilks’s hand,” she told Denmark’s TV2. “He was very cool. We stood and told each other bad jokes.”

Mr. Vilks also said that he believed he was the target. “What other motive could there be?” he told The Associated Press.

Ms. Brix said Mr. Vilks’s bodyguards had done “a tremendous job” and added, “It is a dramatic and unpleasant reminder of what we are up against in these times.”
Remarkably, she said, the seminar continued after the shooting.


“As an artist, you have to take a stand for things,” Vilks, who has a PhD in art history, said in 2010, according to USA Today. “If you do something, you have to take full responsibility for it. I’m actually not interested in offending the prophet. The point is actually to show that you can. There is nothing so holy you can’t offend it.”…

Vilks, who reportedly sleeps with an ax by his bedside and booby-traps his art with electrified barbed wire, has also constructed a safe room patterned after a design used that reportedly saved Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, according to the Christian Science Monitor…

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, increased security concerns have led even fewer organizations to invite him for guest lectures, according to the Associated Press. Twenty-four-hour security provides Vilks with some sense of calm, but he is never fully at ease.


The attacks immediately brings to mind the events in Paris and beyond that began with the massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last month. But in fact, it was Denmark that began this whole cycle of debates and attacks on free speech and these latest attacks bring the whole grisly thing to a full and vicious circle

In 2005, a Danish writer named Kare Bluitgen complained that he was unable to find an illustrator for his children’s book about the Prophet. In response, the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten printed some cartoons showing Mohammed in “a variety of humorous or satirical situations“—including the most famous image, of the Muslim prophet with a bomb as  a turban. Several newspapers around Europe reprinted the images…

In 2006, Charlie Hebdo republished some of the Danish cartoons in solidarity with its Danish brethren—further inflaming Muslim anger in France. The magazine was taken to court over incitement to racial hatred over the cartoons and was cleared…

[Charlie Hebdo Stephane] Charbonnier, better known as Charb, was killed along with 11 other people in January when its offices were attacks by two jihadist brothers. Almost a decade after those first Danish cartoons were published, people are still dying over this.


In the years since, the cartoonists and editors responsible for the Jyllands-Posten publications have lived under constant threat, and so has Vilks.

A timeline published by Reuters in 2012 ticked off one plot after another, some of them only narrowly thwarted. Two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent were arrested in 2008 for plotting to kill Jyllands-Posten cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who had drawn Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. Then came a plot by the American David Headley and an accomplice who planned to attack the newspaper’s offices. (Headley, who is of Pakistani descent, also conspired with the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba and elements of the Pakistani intelligence agency in planning the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. A U.S. judge sentenced him to 35 years in federal prison in January 2013.) 

In 2010, the cartoonist Westergaard narrowly escaped an attack by an axe-wielding Somali at his home in Aarhus, Denmark, and other attackers set fire to the house a few months later. That same year a Chechen man accidentally set off a bomb in a Copenhagen hotel where police found a map with the Jyllands-Posten offices circled.

In December 2010, two bombs went off in a busy shopping district of Stockholm following an e-mailed threat that vengeance would be taken for Sweden sending troops to Afghanistan—and for publishing the sketches by Vilks (who was targeted today). Shortly after the 2010 bombings, Danish and Swedish police rounded up five people plotting yet another attack against the Jyllands-Posten, this time armed with a machine-gun and ammunition.


Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the attack at Copenhagen’s main synagogue should encourage Jews to leave Europe, in comments that disappointed Jair Melchior, Denmark’s chief rabbi.

“This wave of attacks is expected to continue,” Netanyahu said. “Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home. We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe.”


There are still more than a million Jews living in Europe, according to 2010 Pew Research Center estimates. But that number has dropped significantly over the last several decades – most dramatically in Eastern Europe and the countries that make up the former Soviet Union, according to historical research by Sergio DellaPergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem…

Since then, the global Jewish population – estimated by Pew Research at 14 million as of 2010 – has risen, but it is still smaller than it was before the Holocaust. And in the decades since 1945, the Jewish population in Europe has continued to decline. In 1960, it was about 3.2 million; by 1991, it fell to 2 million, according to DellaPergola’s estimates. Now, there are about 1.4 million Jews in Europe – just 10% of the world’s Jewish population, and 0.2% of Europe’s total population.


In writing about the (first) Copenhagen murder last night, I linked to a 2010 Philadelphia Inquirer story that revealed how a number of the meetings due to be addressed by Anders Vilks (the artist whose event was attacked) had been canceled.

If I had to guess, I suspect that those who, however sadly, canceled those events, are today feeling, however sadly, that they did the right thing. Violence works.

There will be many more cancelations, many more invitations that go unissued, many more articles that do not get written, and many more cartoons that do not get drawn.

The noose tightens a bit more.


So at that café this afternoon they came in shooting and yelling “Allahu Akbar!” – which is Arabic for “Can’t we all just get along?” Three policemen are wounded and one member of the public – a 40-year-old man – is dead. And, in a small hitherto peaceable Scandinavian kingdom, another little bit of European cultural life and artistic spirit shrivels and dies…

As much as I loathe these fanatics, despise even more Obama and the European political elite that gives them succor and trades our liberties to appease madmen. They have seeded a cancer in the heart of the west that will consume us all.

My thoughts and prayers are with my Scandinavian friends. I have spent the last week in America listening to the most fatuous and drooling eulogies for a retiring so-called “satirist” who has never in his life told a joke that mattered, who has never once strayed beyond the cozy media-Democrat comfort zone of dreary snarking at those Republican rubes. By contrast, Lars Vilks is a true satirist, and is insisting on no more or less, in a darkening Europe, than the right to choose what he laughs about. I know which of these men has genuine courage.

Our host in Copenhagen in 2010 was Lars Hedegaard of the Danish Free Press Society. He opened the door a couple of years later to find a man posing as a postman who shot at him and, fortunately, missed. The would-be killer is now in Turkey, which is refusing to extradite. There were five of us on stage that day – Lars Hedegaard, Lars Vilks, the comedians Shabana Rehman and Farshad Kholghi, and me. Two of the five have since been shot at, and a third has had her family restaurant firebombed. For Yosemite Ahmed, that 60 per cent hit rate is not unimpressive, and gives me pause.


The only two things which are in fact conjoined are the people who use guns and bombs to terrorise people for exercising their rights as free Europeans and the very large number of people from the ‘moderate majority’ who back up such violence (even while, like yesterday’s speakers, claiming to deplore it) with warnings that non-Muslims should be ‘careful’ when addressing their religion.

The interesting thing about this is that if you compare the photos from yesterday in London and the photos of protests during the Satanic Verses affair twenty-six years ago you will see that nothing has improved in this country.  If anything it has got far worse.  Why is that?  Why is it that in 2015 a crowd of thousands and a petition of a hundred thousand citizens can understand so little about the country they live in, its traditions and freedoms, that they would even think of petitioning the Prime Minister of Britain about cartoons in a French newspaper?…

It could have gone so much better if at any point since 1989 a political leader of any party had found the guts to say, ‘These are the rules here, and these are our traditions.  If you don’t like them then hop it.’  But no one has.  And that is why, in 2015, Britain has learnt nothing and progressed nowhere on all this.