Monday, February 16, 2015

Danish attacks echo France

On Saturday, the Danish capital of Copenhagen went into a frenzy as a gunman went on a violent rampage. The suspect attacked a free-speech debate hosted by controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. A Swedish film producer was killed in the conflict and and three police officers who were on the scene were wounded. Hours later, the same gunman opened fire on a Copenhagen synagogue only a few miles away from the first site, where a bat mitzvah was being held. He killed a Jewish guard who was patrolling the event and wounded two more police officers.

These attacks are strikingly similar to Paris just a month ago: the killers in each instance are sad to have been habitual criminals with comparable targets and aligning motives. The main difference is that it’s not entirely clear whether the Copenhagen attacker was connected to established extremist organizations, whereas the killers in Paris openly claimed their allegiance to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic state.

These assailants are believed to be attacking the values of free speech and the freedom of expression, seen as fundamental values of Denmark and Western society as a whole. Denmark is not accustomed to gun violence like this, but the nation has experienced similar ideologically-charged violence not too long ago after a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting Mohammed in 2005. Now, citizens in Denmark and much of Europe believe that attacks like these will continue to occur, and will likely increase in frequency. 

What are your thoughts on the issue of freedom of speech when it could bring such violent backlash? People like Lars Vilks, the target of the first attack, have been "marked for death" by Islamic extremists for practicing their freedom of speech. Is there an issue, perhaps this one, that you feel strongly enough about to risk your life over? Should more be done to protect vulnerable minorities and possible targets of extremist action from further violence? And if so, what can or should be done?

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