Remember when you were 23 years old? Didn’t you also say stupid things? (If you’re not there yet: don’t worry, you will.)
“23-year-old charged with rejoicing over terror on Facebook.” This guy is supposed to be a spokesman for a Danish organization named Kaldet til Islam – “Called to Islam” – and he wrote some asinine stuff on Facebook. Specifically – from what I can make out here, the problem is not language, it is the paucity of details the authorities are willing to release – he put a “smiley-face” next to a link to an article about the Charlie Hebdo murders and added, in Arabic, something to the effect that God had been honored.
Then the article continues:
The 23-year-old is charged according to Criminal Law paragraph 136. This prescribes that whoever “publicly condones” actions covered under terror legislation is to be punished by a fine or imprisonment up to two years. Copenhagen police have additionally made a thorough search of the residence of the man in question in Copenhagen’s north-west district.[!] . . .
The police and prosecution authorities have in the past months slowly and painstakingly sought juridical authority for charging and prosecuting Muslims with Danish backgrounds who have expressed sympathy on social media with terrorist attacks and the Islamic State, without having to be able to show that those in question themselves have been involved in carrying out or planning terror.
Indeed, this 23-year-old is only the latest target, the article goes on to list two other Danes awaiting prosecution on these grounds: one who put on-line a photo of himself in Syria surrounded by decapitated heads, another who published a video urging people to “terror.”
Actually, it is handy that Berlingske makes mention of these two latter cases, since those are the sort that do merit prosecution. Now, expression must be free – isn’t that what we’re all up in arms about after those Charlie Hebdo killings? But free without limit? No, of course not, but within very broad limits that only have to do with the maintenance of public safety. I happen to like the classic American First Amendment standard that only begins to bring the force of the law down on speech once it is equivalent to “crying ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.”
So that Danish Muslim in the photo surrounded by all the severed heads should not be prosecuted for the sheer fact of the photo; rather, such a photo can easily be used as evidence that he violated national laws about fighting for a terrorist organization. And that other Dane who urges everyone on to terrorism? I see that as equivalent to “‘Fire!’ in a public theater,” so set loose the law.
On the other hand, consider the 23-year-old. He puts something stupid up on Facebook and then finds himself arrested, and his apartment searched! What happened to just being able to dismiss such people as fools? Why can’t people be allowed to make up their own minds about something, rather than having society – through the law – impose its opinions by forbidding the very utterance of any alternatives? Were you aware that – way back in 1977 – the American Nazi party won a court case, which went all the way up to the US Supreme Court, that allowed it to march in uniform through a Chicago suburb (Skokie) where one-in-six of the inhabitants was a Holocaust survivor? Don’t you remember that, only a few centuries ago, people were persecuted if they questioned the doctrine that kings were God’s true emissaries, sent to rule over their lands with divine right?
For it’s all “Je suis Charlie!” now, don’t you know? That has to apply to all of us, whether we truly feel it or not; all of us must take a proud stand against limitations to free expression – and if you happen to express your disagreement with that, we’ll send in the police! That 23-year-old – foolish asshole though he clearly is – should be lauded rather than imprisoned: to be sure, not for what he wrote on his Facebook account (c’mon fellah, give us a wink that you didn’t really mean it!), but rather for his gesture that exposes the hollowness of all the “Je suis Charlie!” sanctimony.