Two elements in the ongoing conflict between Denmark and the Muslim world that have not been mentioned in earlier posts here, are worth mentioning.
Firstly, there is the reaction of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who refused to meet eleven ambassadors from Muslim countries, including Turkey, Bosnia, Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab countries, who wanted to complain about a series of cartoons published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. “This is a matter of principle. I will not meet with them because it is so crystal clear what principles Danish democracy is built upon that there is no reason to do so,” Rasmussen said. He added that individuals who felt offended by the tone of the public debate should bring their grievances to the courts. “As prime minister, I have no power whatsoever to limit the press – nor do I want such power.”
The Danish PM’s explicit refusal to censor the press must have sounded bizarre to some of the ambassadors, such as the one from Iran. Not everyone in Denmark, however, agreed with Rasmussen. Left-wing opposition parties said the PM should have met the ambassadors “in order to improve mutual understanding.” Nevertheless, the Social-Democrats, the Radicals and the Socialist People’s Party applauded Rasmussen’s refusal to limit the freedom of the press and his suggestion that those who feel offended should bring the case to court.
Secondly, it should be said that the cartoons are not the only reason why the eleven ambassadors wrote to the Danish PM. In their protest letter they also mentioned the case of Radio Holger and the declarations of Brian Mikkelsen and Louise Frevert.
Radio Holger, a private radio in Copenhagen, was temporarily closed down by the Danish authorities last summer when after the London bombings its owner, Kaj Wilhelmsen, had called for “exterminating” extremist Muslims in Europe, by expelling or even killing them.
Brian Mikkelsen, the Danish Minister of Culture and a member of the Conservative People’s Party that forms a coalition with Mr. Rasmussen’s Liberal Party, called for a new culture war. He told a party conference of the Conservatives that “a parallel society is developing in our country in which minorities cultivate their medieval values and undemocratic beliefs.” Mikkelsen said that this was unacceptable and it had to be fought by confronting the Muslims with Danish culture and values.
Louise Frevert, a member of Parliament for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, wrote on her website that “Muslims apparently think they are entitled to rape Danish women and beat up Danish citizens.” Reacting to instances of violent rapes by immigrants she added that “as the law forbids us to kill our enemies we have no other choice but to put these criminals in jail.” However, as the Danish prisons are full, Frevert suggested to put them in Russian jails and pay the Russian authorities 3 to 4 euros per day per prisoner.
The ambassadors claim that all these cases prove that Muslims have good reasons to be worried in Denmark today. Indeed, while in Belgium the minister of Culture subsidises Muslims who depict a naked-breasted Our Lady, his Danish colleague wants to wage a “kulturkamp” against them by confronting them with the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. The Iranian ambassador may be justifiably concerned that immigrants from his country are ending up out of the Iranian frying pan into the Danish fire.