Denmark is one of Europe’s smallest countries; it has only 5.5 million inhabitants. Until the beginning of this year it was known mainly for dairy products, butter cookies, Legos, and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. However, conservative Europeans had been watching Denmark for some time. Since Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s center-right coalition came to power in 2001, Copenhagen has introduced the most sensible immigration policies in Europe.
Today, Denmark is at the center of a controversy over 12 drawings, the infamous Danish cartoons. Syria and Iran have virtually declared war on Denmark, Danish consulates and embassies have been attacked in the Middle East and Africa, and Islamic countries are officially boycotting Danish products.
Those who believe that the whole issue has to do with 12 cartoons are naïve. Denmark is being punished for its alleged Islamophobia. Its crime is not the publication of 12 drawings in Jyllands-Posten, a paper in the rural province of Jutland. Its crime is the staunch refusal of the Danish Vikings to allow Muslim immigrants to impose their laws upon their host country.
In 2001, the various parties of the center-right and so-called “far Right” won the Danish elections. As a consequence, Rasmussen’s free-market Liberals formed a coalition with the Conservatives. The new government did not have the majority in the Folketing, the Danish Parliament, but it received the support of the Dansk Folkeparti, the populist, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party led by the housewife-turned-politician Pia Kjaersgaard.
In return for Kjaersgaard’s support, but also because the two coalition parties believed it was necessary, the government introduced drastic measures to curb the influx of low-skilled immigrants from Third World countries. “There is no danger that Denmark will become a multicultural society, because this is not our goal,” Rasmussen said before the elections.
The new government introduced legislation that made it harder for immigrants to enter Denmark and to acquire Danish nationality. Copenhagen began to repatriate illegal immigrants and encouraged rejected asylum seekers to leave. It implemented stricter rules to determine who should receive residence permits. It slashed social benefit payments to newcomers, allowing them only a box of bare necessities.
As a result, the number of asylum seekers in Denmark dropped from 12,100 in 2000 to 3,222 in 2004. The number of people recognized as refugees decreased from 5,159 in 2000 to 1,607 in 2004. Residence permits for family reunification dropped from 10,021 in 2000 to 4,791 in 2003. The number of people acquiring Danish nationality fell from 18,811 in 2000 to 6,583 in 2003, with Asians down from 7,844 to 1,436 and Africans from 2,371 to 312. People who wanted to become Danes had to pass a language, culture, and history test.
After the February 2005 elections, which the Labour opposition lost, Rasmussen formed his second Liberal-Conservative minority government. Again he could count on the support of Kjaersgaard’s Dansk Folkeparti. “Our immigration policies are widely supported by the people,” Rasmussen said.
The government announced that in 2006 it would curb the flow of immigrants from Third World countries even further. According to Claus Hjort Frederiksen, the minister for employment, immigrants from countries such as Somalia, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon constitute an untenable burden on Danish welfare. “We are simply forced to adopt a new policy on immigration. The calculations of the welfare committee are terrifying and show how unsuccessful the integration of immigrants has been up to now,” he said. Frederiksen announced that from this year on immigrants will only be allowed into Denmark if they have a job waiting for them. A government committee calculated that if immigration from Third World countries were blocked completely, 75 percent of the cuts needed to sustain the very generous Danish welfare system in the coming decades would not be necessary.
During the past five years the Danish government also took measures to ensure the assimilation of immigrants already present. Confronted with the fact that many young Muslims are forced into marriages and that many of them marry someone from their country of origin, a bill passed prohibiting Danish residents from bringing foreign spouses into the country unless both partners are at least 24 years of age.
Last autumn Rikke Hvilshøj, the minister of immigration and integration, ordered local authorities to report the slightest suspicion of immigrant families forcing their children into reconditioning trips to their countries of origin. (Muslims send their children on such trips in order to prevent them from becoming too Westernized.) The government announced that it will deport families that engage in such practices. “When you come to Denmark to live here, you are expected to do everything in your power to be integrated,” Rasmussen said.
Denmark is restricting the number of immigrants because it wants to be able to absorb those that settle in the country. “The number of foreigners coming to the country makes a difference,” Hvilshøj said recently. “There is an inverse correlation between how many come here and how well we can receive the foreigners that come.” The minister added that immigrants should be prepared to discard certain cultural and political notions from the countries they left behind: “In my view, Denmark should be a country with room for different cultures and religions. Some values, however, are more important than others. We refuse to question democracy, equal rights, and freedom of speech.”
By insisting that immigrants integrate, Hvilshøj, who joined the government as immigration and integration minister in February 2005, has become a hated figure. Radical imams, who do not want Muslim immigrants to accept Danish values, despise her. Last June, there was an attempt to set fire to her home, where she, her husband, and her two little children were sleeping. Her car was torched and flames engulfed the roof of her house, but the minister and her family were able to escape unharmed. Following the incident, Mrs. Hvilshøj and her family were moved to a secret location, while bodyguards were assigned to all cabinet ministers.
The arson attempt occurred just two days after Hvilshøj snubbed Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, the leader of Denmark’s radical imams. The minister had rejected his demand that blood money be paid to the family of a Muslim who was murdered in a Copenhagen suburb. The family had announced that its thirst for revenge could be sated if 200,000 kroner were paid. Abu Laban said that the practice of paying blood money to the family of a deceased person was normal in Muslim societies, but Minister Hvilshøj rejected the proposal. She stressed that what is normal according to Islamic law is not necessarily normal in Denmark.
The notorious cartoon case should be viewed in the same context. It is blasphemy for a Muslim to depict the prophet Mohammed. Abu Laban and his followers would enforce this rule upon non-Muslims as well. On Sept. 30, 2005, Jyllands-Posten published 12 drawings to illustrate an article on censorship and freedom of speech in a multicultural society. Flemming Rose, the cultural editor, commissioned the drawings after Kåre Bluitgen, an author of children’s books, complained in an interview that he could not find an illustrator for his book about the prophet Mohammed.
Bluitgen’s book was not in the least disrespectful of Islam. On the contrary, it was a narrative of the prophet’s life. However, Bluitgen said, he had a hard time finding an illustrator because Danish artists were afraid to draw Mohammed out of fear for reprisals from Muslim immigrants, who represent about 4 percent of the Danish population. To verify whether Denmark’s multicultural society was indeed leading to the majority being intimidated by the minority, Flemming invited 40 illustrators to draw Mohammed for an article about self-censorship and freedom of speech.
Only 12 artists dared to accept the invitation. Some made simple drawings of an Arab man, others made cartoons mocking Jyllands-Posten and/or Bluitgen for staging a PR stunt, and just a handful sent cartoons that could, by Western standards, be considered mildly provocative. The “worst” cartoon of the series showed Mohammed as a bearded man with a bomb hidden in his turban.
Nothing much happened at first. Abu Laban and his radical imams staged a noisy protest in which some 5,000 Muslims participated. The imams also appeared to have good contacts in Egypt. On Oct. 17, the Egyptian newspaper al-Fagr republished the most offensive of the cartoons, accompanied by an article denouncing them. However, even though one of the cartoons was published on al-Fagr’s frontpage, the article did not provoke an outcry in Egypt. There were no reports of violence nor calls for a boycott of Danish products.
On Oct. 20, the ambassadors from 11 Muslim countries complained about the drawings in a letter to Rasmussen and demanded that he condemn the paper. Mona Omar Attia, the Egyptian ambassador, who acted as the spokesperson for the group, which included the ambassadors of European and would-be European countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey, said that the publication was a “provocation.” They demanded to meet Rasmussen and also demanded that he ensure that Jyllands-Posten apologize for its insult “to 1.3 billion Muslims.” They also demanded that the Danish government guarantee that similar things would not happen in the future.
On the same day, it was discovered that Jyllands-Posten had been included on an al-Qaeda website listing possible terrorist targets. An organization calling itself “The Glorious Brigades in Northern Europe” announced: “The Mujahedeen have numerous targets in Denmark-very soon you all will regret this.” The Danish police advised the 12 artists to go into hiding. Round the clock police protection was provided for the newspaper and its staff. The jihad against Denmark had begun.
Rasmussen, however, refused to meet with the ambassadors. He wrote a letter telling them he could not discuss the matter with them because Denmark recognizes freedom of the press. If people feel offended, they can take the case to court rather than ask the government to introduce censorship, he said. The Egyptian ambassador was furious. She announced that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which includes 56 member states, would take the matter into its hands.
The next month the OIC sent a letter of complaint to the United Nations. On Dec. 7, Louise Ardour, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, declared that the Danish cartoons were “an unacceptable disrespect” to Muslims worldwide. Ardour appointed a special investigator, Doudou Diene, to ascertain the level of Islamophobia in Denmark. Diene emphasized that the UN was taking this case very seriously because “Islamophobia is the greatest component of discrimination within Europe.” He asked the Danish government to investigate the racism of Jyllands-Posten and the cartoonists, but Copenhagen repeated that the proper way to do so was through the Danish courts, not the government.
The European Commission in Brussels, noting that the UN was criticizing Islamophobia in Denmark, felt it had to intervene as well. On Dec. 22, Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner for Justice, declared, “these kinds of drawings can add to the growing Islamophobia in Europe.” The Italian Commissioner called the publication of the drawings “thoughtless and inappropriate” because they fomented hostility against Islam and foreigners. “Honestly,” he said, “I fully respect the freedom of speech, but, excuse me, one should avoid making any statement like this.”
In late December and early January, a delegation, which included Abu Laban, visited religious and political leaders in Egypt and other Arab countries. The imams’ road trip led to an outburst of Muslim indignation. Copenhagen was puzzled until the Danish tabloid Extra Bladet got hold of the 43-page report that the imams were handing out. It included three cartoons that had never been published in Jyllands-Posten, nor in any other Danish publication. The three bogus cartoons were obviously offensive. One showed Mohammed with a pig snout. The second showed the prophet as a pedophile, and the third one depicted a praying Muslim being raped by a dog.
When the Danish press asked the imams where they got the three fake cartoons the spokesman of the imams, explained that they had been been added to “give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims.” Three weeks later, in early February, American bloggers discovered that the man with the pig snout had nothing at all to do with Mohammed. The so-called “cartoon” was a fax image of an Associated Press photograph taken at a pig-squealing contest in France.
The bogus cartoons were not the only lies being spread by Abu Laban and his group. After meeting with the Danish imams, the Egyptian press claimed that the government in Copenhagen was planning to introduce a state-censored version of the Quran, that a Danish film is underway “to show how horrible Islam is,” that a total of 120 offensive cartoons had been printed, and that the Danish government was directly responsible because Jyllands-Posten was a government-owned paper.
Prime Minister Rasmussen was shocked by the actions of the Muslim clerics. “I am speechless that those people, whom we have given the right to live in Denmark and where they freely have chosen to stay, are now touring Arab countries and inciting antipathy towards Denmark and the Danish people,” he told journalists. In the Danish Parliament there was general indignation. Kjærsgaard described the imams’ visit as “treason.” Instead of using strong words, however, the government asked Danish embassies to correct the facts, while Rasmussen urged the Muslim representatives to correct the misinformation themselves.
Despite threats and international pressure, Rasmussen refused to give in to demands that he apologize for cartoons published in a privately owned newspaper, but he misjudged his enemies by underestimating the extent of their deceit. The imams continued repeating their lies and called for an international boycott of Denmark. By the end of January, Muslims were up in arms throughout the Islamic world. Danish products were boycotted, flags were burned, embassies and consulates were ransacked and destroyed.
Meanwhile, Muslim extremists threatened the citizens of all the countries where the cartoons were republished. This prompted the left-wing government of Norway to distance itself from the republication of the cartoons in a couple of Norwegian papers. Despite Oslo’s immediate apologies, however, Norwegian embassies were ransacked. In Sweden, the government closed down a website that had posted the cartoons.
Where Denmark is concerned, however, the lying imams seem to have shot themselves in the foot. There is a general call to expel Abu Laban and the other imams, as well as all immigrants who do not accept the values of Danish society. The affair has conveyed the message that a multicultural society cannot work because the intolerant culture will impose its will on the tolerant one. “I believe it has become obvious that the imams are not the people we should be listening to if we want integration in Denmark to work,” said Integration Minister Hvilshøj.
As soon as the deception by the imams was revealed in the Danish press in mid-January, moderate Muslims began to speak out against them. The first was Hadi Kahn, a Copenhagen IT consultant, who told Jyllands-Posten on Jan. 5, “We have no need for imams in Denmark. They do not do anything for us.” On Feb. 3, Naser Khader, a Muslim member of the Danish Parliament for the Radical Party, announced the establishment of a network of moderate Muslims, the Demokratiske Muslimer. “If these imams think it is so terrible to live in Denmark, then why do they remain here?” Khader said. “They can always move to one of the countries in the Middle East which are based on the Muslim values they insist on living by. It seems that their loyalty is mainly to countries such as Saudi Arabia, so I think they should move there. I am tired of hearing them complain about the situation in this country which has given them shelter, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and tons of opportunities for their children. If they cannot be loyal to the values of this country they should leave and by that do the majority of Danish Muslims a big favor. The imams should stop criticising the cartoons and instead criticise the terrorists that cut the throats of innocent hostages in the name of Allah.”
When Rasmussen met a delegation of the Demokratiske Muslimer for the first time on Feb. 13, about 700 Danish Muslims had already joined the group. It prompted a member of Parliament from Pia Kjaersgaard’s Dansk Folkeparti to say that he did not know there were so many moderate Muslims in the country.
While the moderate Muslims began to speak out, the Danes rallied behind the government. Opinion polls indicated that the majority supported the government throughout the cartoon crisis. Rasmussen’s party retained its position, while Kjaersgaard’s party advanced considerably at the expense of the Labour Party.
The events in Denmark have been closely monitored in the rest of Europe, and will probably strengthen the electoral appeal of immigration-reform parties, who have been observing Danish policies for a couple of years now. In France and Germany, leading right-wing politicians and advocates of law and order, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister, and Wolfgang Schäuble, his German colleague, spoke out in support of the Danish government.
The cartoon affair comes as the second clash in barely three months between the traditional territorial nation-states of Europe and the forces of Eurabia. The first clash was November’s French intifadah when Sarkozy opposed gangs of Muslim thugs who wanted to assert power over parts of French territory. In Denmark, radical imams tried to assert power over the media. In both cases, Europe fought back, albeit hesitantly. The Danish resistance even compelled the generals of Eurabia to enlist the help of the entire Muslim world to intimidate one of Europe’s smallest countries. And still the Vikings held their ground. Perhaps all is not yet lost.
Paul Belien is the editor of www.brusselsjournal.com.