On February 14th 2015, a Danish café and cultural center called the Krudttønden hosted a lecture and discussion titled “Art, Blasphemy, and Freedom of Expression”. One of the speakers was Lars Vilks who had previously been targeted for assassination by Islamic extremists in 2009 and was placed on an Al- Qaeda hit list in 2010. The offense he committed: illustrating the Prophet Muhammad.
At approximately 3:30pm during the event, the mood shifted dramatically. Gunshots rang out as a man opened fire on the speaker and attendees. Although Vilks survived the attack, one man was killed and three police officers were injured.
Unfortunately, the violence didn’t end there. The following day, the shooter reappeared outside Copenhagen’s largest synagogue while a Bar Mitzvah was taking place. He shot a 37-year-old Jewish security guard who had been protecting the congregation. Although the guard died as the shooter escaped the scene, had it not been for his bravery, many more innocent people would likely have been killed that morning.
If this succession of events sounds familiar, it’s because it occurred less than six weeks after the shooting at the office of Charlie Hebdo, and the subsequent assault on a kosher supermarket in Paris, France. In the cases of Charlie Hebdo and Lars Vilks, blasphemous cartoonists were the primary targets. Additionally, in both instances the gunmen escaped, and, only hours later, indiscriminately targeted members of the local Jewish communities.
To understand the motives of the shooters in both Paris and Copenhagen, one must analyze the ideology that dictates the attitudes and behaviors of Islamic extremists. The public charters and proclaimed mission statements of terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al- Qaeda, and Hamas all identify their enemies as the West. is includes not only the United States and Europe but also Israel. In regards to freedom of speech and religion, there are irreconcilable differences between the secular West and fundamentalist Islam.