The Danish people, determined to defend free speech, held memorials for the two victims of an attack on Saturday by a Danish Muslim whose family was Palestinian. One attack was launched at a cafe event where Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has received death threats because of drawings he made of the Islamic Prophet Mohammad, and French ambassador Francois Zimeray were present. Neither one was hurt. Another attack occurred at a synagogue, where a guard was shot to death. The gunman was later killed by police in Norrebro, part of Copenhagen inhabited by many immigrants and known for gang violence.
But apparently signs were ignored that the man who committed the attacks, identified by the media as Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, had a record of violence, having been convicted as recently as 2013 for stabbing a man in the leg. El Hussein was apparently a gang member; he was released from jail in January.
TV2 perused a psychiatric assessment of El-Hussein conducted after the stabbing attack in which he said his childhood was happy, but also showed he did not graduate from school and was later considered homeless. Politiken daily newspaper went further, quoting two anonymous friends of El-Hussein, who said he was heated when discussing Israel and had a short fuse. Danish media said he was released from prison in January.
El-Hussein’s father, who emigrated to Denmark from a Jordanian refugee camp with his wife, protested his son’s moderate religious beliefs to TV2, saying, “He was ‘normal’ religious, nothing unusual, he didn’t go to mosque any more than the average Muslim.”
Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said, “We have now experienced the fear that terrorism seeks to spread. The Danish democracy is strong, the Danish nation is strong, and we will not accept any attempt to threaten or intimidate our liberties and our rights.” Dan Rosenberg Asmussen, chairman of the Danish Jewish Community, called for moderate Muslims to join the fight against terrorists, saying, “We fight together with them (Muslims) for religious rights. We are moderates. We fight together against extremism and radicalism.”
In October 2004, five assailants attacked a lecturer at the Niebuhr institute at the University of Copenhagen because he read the Koran to non-Muslims during a lecture. In September 2005, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper published editorial cartoons that depicted Mohammad; violent protests around the Muslim world followed. Danish embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran were set afire. Complaints from Danish Muslims were dismissed by a Danish court in January 2006.