February 8, 2006
These days it is strange to be DanishBy A. N'rgaard
All over the world, Denmark and the Danish people are hated, and this is something completely new to us. We see ourselves as a small, peaceful nation. A little homogeneous tribe of well meaning, hard working and genial people for whom equality is one of the most important values.
That means social, political and religious equality as well as equality between sexes and generations. Some examples: If you have the proper academic requirements all education is free and the government pays students a certain amount of money each month (called Government Education Support) as long as they are studying, in order to make the opportunity for education as equal as possible. All medical treatment is free, we have an extensive social security system and each year Denmark pays almost 1 percent of it's GPD in aid to developing countries.
We have, in short, a society where "few have too much and fewer have too little" as a famous Dane said two hundred years ago.
Our own image of our country as a cozy little corner of the world has now been completely shattered. We are now demonized in a way that has the whole Danish community completely baffled and shocked in disbelief.
Our sin is this: We have been too na�ve. The Danes have a strong tradition for satire, and normally to be made fun of means that you have been accepted as one of "our own."
Our Queen Margrethe II is the most beloved symbol in Denmark. She is "the first among equals", and in this land of secular equality she is almost the only thing close to sacred. Even she is often made fun of, though never in a hateful way.
To be frank, the Danish people can generally be accused of taking things too easily. We certainly have in the case of the notorious 12 cartoons of Mohammed.
I personally do not think, that the cartoons should have been printed in the first place, because I do not think that "let's see just how much furor we can make" is a good way to start a discussion of freedom of speech. At the same time, I think that Jyllands Posten had every right to print them and that is a good point to make, and worth defending in the spirit of Voltaire.
What saddens me the most is, that this problem would never have gotten out of hand had it not been for a band of radical Muslim imams residing in Denmark and their propaganda campaign in Middle—eastern countries last year. It is hard to believe that fellow citizens would do such a thing to our beloved country.
Now it seems our Queen has been misquoted and accused of being anti—Islam. This has resulted in much hateful mockery of our otherwise much respected head of state. It is true that the Queen has said that there are some forces in radical, fundamental Islam which we should not accept and that Danes should stop being lazy and na�ve and taking things easy and instead resist these radical forces. The passage ends with the Queen saying: "Instead of just living side by side, we should start living together" which I find very true.
That this misery has developed the way it has is of course not just because of 12 stupid cartoons. The Middle—Eastern dictators and various fundamentalist groups have their own agenda and reasons for keeping the pot boiling.
And here is where I am much disappointed with Denmark's so—called allies: The UK and USA. The support on government level for Denmark and Norway has been very weak and all the time wrapped in apologetic formulations toward the Muslim society.
Where was all this understanding for Muslim feelings at the beginning of the War on Terror? It seems that American and English opposition to radical Islamism is not about what radical Islamists do, it is about who they are doing it to. A hard pill to swallow for the standard bearers of equality.
I hope the world has noticed the plea for peace and tolerance expressed by Muslims as well as Christians in a peaceful demonstration in Denmark's second largest city Aarhus yesterday evening. The event was organized by the Muslim community in Aarhus.
Finally, I can begin to recognize a "Danish" way of expressing Muslim opinions. The fundamentalists, like Abu Laban, have dominated the media long enough.
A. N�rgaard lives in Denmark and regrets the need to request that no further identifying data reach the eyes of the general public.