Lars Hedegaard
Lars Hedegaard (scanpix)

An assassination attempt on Lars Hedegaard, a Danish writer and vocal critic of Islam, has been linked to the launch of a weekly newspaper that contains content that stigmatises radical Islam, a colleague of the 70-year-old scholar said.

Lars Hedegaard was targeted by a gunman in his 20s who posed as a deliveryman and fired a gun at the writer when he opened the door.

"The bullet flew past my right ear, after which I attacked him and punched him in the face, which made him lose the gun," Hedegaard said.

A leading advocate of free speech under Islam, Hedegaard founded both the Free Press Society and the International Free Press Society following a row with PEN international,  an association of writers, caused by his, I Krigens Hus ("In the War's House"), which discusses Islamic immigration to Western Europe from a historical viewpoint. PEN called the book a hate speech.

The murder attempt was allegedly linked to the launch of Dispatch International, which contains articles in English, Swedish and Danish and spans a range of topics including Islam.

"He [Hedegaard] has been chairman [of the International Free Press Society] for 10 years," Swedish journalist and Hedegaard's partner, Ingrid Carlqvist, told TheBlaze. "We are sure the attack has everything to do with the weekly newspaper."

A friend of Hedegaard, Casper Kobke, told IBTimes UK that Hedegaard "never had death threats before and was not under any active police protection scheme".

"[Hedegaard] is one of Europe's most prominent Islamic critics but he has never raised his voice against another human being, and he feels a big stress over the lack of freedom for women in Islamic societies," Kobke said.

The writer expressed support for outspoken Islam critics in Europe including Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who sparked the Mohammed cartoon controversy in 2007, and far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders.

Carlqvist said that Dispatch International has "a point of view critical of Islam". She added that the writer had moved to a secure location.

"I can't go to my [own] house tonight either," she said. "If they want to shoot the Danish editor-in-chief, then they want to shoot the Swedish editor-in-chief."

Police are hunting the suspect, a Danish-speaking of Arab appearance believed to be in his mid 20s.