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Palestinian-Danish poet who criticized Muslims dies

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Danish poet of Palestinian descent who made headlines as a teenager in 2013 for a book that was critical of Muslims has died, his publishing house said Thursday. Yahya Hassan was 24.

His editor at Gyldendal, Simon Paternak, called Hassan's death “a disaster.” The publishing house gave no further details. Although Hassan had received death threats, police said they did not immediately suspect a criminal act.

Pasternak paid tribute to Hassan's “insisting on having his own voice, defending his territory, finding his own place — despite what people thought.” “He wanted to be himself and write the poems he wanted with the enormous cost that followed," Pasternak said.

Hassan's self-titled book has sold more than 120,000 copies since its publication. Most poetry books in Denmark sell fewer than 500 copies, according to the industry. In his poetry, Hassan criticized what he claimed was a culture of hypocrisy underpinning Denmark’s Muslim population. He pointed to his Palestinian immigrant parents and their generation as the reason why he quit school and committed petty crimes.

He also lashed out at Muslims for committing fraud with social benefits, beating their children and failing to integrate in Danish society while clinging to the Quran. Hassan’s publication triggered numerous death threats and he had police protection during public readings.

Police, asked about Hassan's death, would only say they were looking into the circumstances around the death Wednesday of a man in his 20s in Aarhus, western Denmark, where Hassan lived. “There is currently nothing in our investigations to suggest that there has been a criminal act,” a spokesman for the police told the B.T newspaper on Thursday.

In December, Hassan published a second collection of poetry, but it did not receive the same attention as the first one.

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