Former minister guilty of slander

October 27, 2010

The Copenhagen City Court has ruled that statements made by former Minister of Welfare Karen Jespersen against the spokesman for The Muslim Association of Denmark were unjustified.
In early 2009, while still minister, Jespersen said Zubair Butt Hussain, spokesman for The Muslim Council of Denmark, advocated the stoning of women. The comments were made in connection with the government’s cooperation with the association on preparing teaching materials about Islamic extremism. Jespersen was ordered by the court to pay Hussain damages of 11,000 kroner. In addition to the comments about stoning, Hussain sued Jespersen for her calling him an ‘extremist’. The court, however, did not believe the second remark warranted any libel payment.
Hussain says he is satisfied with the verdict, saying it demonstrated that despite Denmark’s strong support of freedom of speech, people cannot simply say whatever they want. He added, however, that the court’s failure to consider calling someone an ‘extremist’ as being slander was ‘unfortunate’. Jespersen did not comment on the ruling, but stated on her website that she was not engaged in a battle against Islam: ”On the contrary – we need to stand together with those Muslims who are supporters of the values and freedoms our society is built upon. But we shouldn’t accept that new reactionaries’ beliefs continue to spread and we can’t bow to demands for special treatment of religious considerations in the public sector” Jespersen says.