Politics Of Race And Religion In

The Politics of Race and Religion in Denmark

A reader living in Denmark writes:

‘ I was most surprised to hear that there had been a demonstration of “as many as” 5000 Muslims here in Denmark. I do recall a demonstration, but 5000? That’s a darn big demonstration here! We didn’t a much bigger turnout here when we had to suffer the ignominy of a visit here by Bush this last summer. Perhaps there was one too many zeroes?

Your point that the Saudi gov’t or parts of it have not been responsible for the inflammation is correct. However, the source you draw on is ignorant or ignoring the local political and social situation in Denmark. That and the activity of a few Imams here who represent a very small percentage of the Muslim population of 180,000 are essential to understanding what the Danes are now experiencing as practically a 911 event.

The Venstre party of Mr. Fogh-Rasmussen is about as far right as you can get in Danish politics. The only party to the right of them represented in the Folketing is the Danske Folkeparti, run by Pia Kj√¶rsgaard. The DF has quite a few seats and although not in the gov’t it’s support is absolutely necessary for Fogh’s gov’t. The DF is a right-wing populist party, which split off from the even more right Fremskridts (Progress) party some 10-15 years. Pia is a damn talented politician, sort of a Maggie Thatcher type. She and her party have been hammering away in particular using (and increasing) the tensions between the “Danes”, the “new-Danes” and “second-generation immigrants” (these are of course all code words — if I refer to myself as a “new-Dane” or my sin as a “second-generation”, people find it funny — has something to do with the fact that I don’t have brownish or dark skin, I guess… ).

The Jyllandsposten is a right-wing paper — but it’s the two tabloids, BT and Ekstra Bladet, who along with the help of Pia K’s DF who been stoking the fires of racial/ethnic tension. There among the Danes a perceived anxiety and mistrust because of murders, “honor” murders, general criminality, gang rapes, arranged marriages, female circumcision, sending youngsters to madrasses and so on. The fact is, of course is that entire Muslim community, to a certain degree, is getting tarred with the same brush because of a few.

There are approx. 180,000 Muslims in Denmark. A very small number, from congregations composing 2-3% have been very visible the past couple of years — in particular a handful of imams, two of which I should name, Abu Laban and Mohammad Fouad Albarazi have been very visible. What can I say of them? Sort of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell wannabes, I guess. Anyway they sent delegations to the Middleeast — and misrepresented the character of the drawings. Supposedly, Mohammed was shown in sexual encounters of some sort, and was shown with a pigs nose, among other things. Also, people in the M.E. were told that the Koran was being burned. (To be fair, there was some talk of it when the Danebrog (the Danish flag) was burned — but nothing came of it.

The Danebrog differs from most flags in that it was not designed — it fell down from heaven in Estland in 1219!

Also, to be fair, the Imams I mention don’t know Danish, some of this group, not even English. On the other hand, this is also a source of irritation and tension — how are they supposed to guide people on how to live as good Muslims in Denmark when they know little of our culture here?

One of the parliament members here, Nasar Kharder, has made quite a stink about Abu Laban saying one thing to the Danish media and the complete opposite to Arab media. A concrete case is that he thought the boycott wrong (to the Danish media) but to the Arab press, that it was good and that he was very happy about it . . .

Nasar Kharder is from the “Radikal Venstre” (Venstre means “Left”, but it is usually translated as “Liberal”). The RV party is one that pretty much defines the center in Danish politics and has been in many governments over the years — both to the right and to the left of center. They are not in the government at the moment, which for the past 5 years has been Konservativ / Venstre (with the support of the DF, as I mentioned before. The RV has made a point of attracting “people of other ethnic background” (code for people with Arab/Muslim/ origins into their party work — both on the national as well as the local level.

Nasar Kharder was born in Damascus of Palestinian parents. The tabloids are making a big deal over threats being made against him and the fact that he is (again) under police protection. He’s long made a lot of effort to activate the moderate Muslims in Denmark. ‘

Charles E. Cliff

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