Dustup over poet and free speech in Denmark

website snip Yahya Hassan

Poet Yahya Hassan’s website snip.

I once wrote an essay as part of a global movement to lobby for the equivalent of the 1st amendment in every country. Free expression, assembly, and choice of faith are among the linchpins of liberty. Sadly, the U.S. 1st amendment has few if any equals even in countries like Denmark.

Poet Yahya Hassan could attest to that. The Danish government may levy hate speech charges against the best-selling poet (an oxymoron if ever there was one) because he has criticized his own faith, Islam.

Hassan stated that Muslims “love to take advantage of free speech.” I wouldn’t apply that to Muslims I know personally, but Hassan obviously has a different experience.

It is true that Islamist groups go after anyone who criticizes their faith, viewing such criticism as defamatory. As a result, activists in countries like Denmark have faced legal battles.

In the U.S., I took issue with President Barack Obama when he sought a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The council passed a resolution barring defamation of faith shortly before Obama’s decision, but only one faith was singled out for protection. Not one U.S. legacy media outlet reported on the debacle.

Denmark is largely evangelical Lutheran, with only 2 percent of the population practicing Islam.

Want an example of the “defamation” Hassan allegedly engaged in? A Muslim politician said this:

“His poetry ‘says that everybody in the ghettos like Vollsmose and Gellerup steal, don’t pay taxes and cheat themselves to pensions…’”

The politico reported Hassan to authorities shortly before the Christmas season. How ironic is that?

That sort of idiocy is what happens when we go to sleep and permit our God-given rights to be trampled. If you think it can’t happen in the U.S., look to past actions by the current administration as well as the Human Rights Council.

Hassan is currently enjoying something poets rarely experience—lots of attention and solid book sales. His Facebook page and website are in Danish, but both can be translated using popular tools available on the Web.

Hassan’s collection was released in 2013. He explained the aesthetic the book rests on:

“This is my story. There is not much to dice on. Honesty was the premise. And that’s become a collection of poems and not an autobiography, it is poetry that I feel inside. It’s the universe I think in. It is what affects me. “

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Jan. 3, 2014)

About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.

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One Response to Dustup over poet and free speech in Denmark

  1. Gene Retske says:

    Kay, Denmark may be historically Lutheran, but the church there, as in most of Europe, especially Scandinavia, is suffering huge losses in membership and attendance. I have seen estimates that less than 5% of Scandinavians attend church at all, probably a lot less.

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