1. avatar Conor O'Dea

    The views of a recently arrived Irish Immigrant to Denmark

    First off, congratulations on an informative website, it has helped a new arrival get his political bearings. Who knows, I might have laboured under the impression that Venstre were somehow left wing.

    I arrived here at the start of October and have been quite bemused by the whole cartoon saga and was surprised that it took this long to go international. There is one aspect of this that is not touched on here, nor have I heard touched on in general and that is this: the cartoons are actually grossly – and pointlessly – offensive to Muslims.

    You note that average Danish Muslims have kept their heads down. Im not surprised. I would imagine that seeing those cartoons in Denmarks leading business newspaper graphically illustrated to them how they are regarded by those that count in Denmark terrorists one and all. That should do wonders for integration, do Danes not realise that it is a two-way process?

    I am all for Free Speech. I am all for the right to say stupid things. I also believe in taking responsibility for ones actions. Jyllands-Posten is like a bully called to account hiding behind the skirts of free speech. What should be of chief concern is ignored, the gratuitous insult dealt out to an easily identifiable section of the Danish population, who must already feel under siege, by a leading opinion maker. Or are Danish and Muslim mutually exclusive terms?

    The constant referring to Free Speech would be more bearable if it was suffixed by even if they are idiots. And yes, there is something the Govt can do, as well as the CDI. They can withdraw their advertising from the paper until it does feel inclined to use its free speech to freely say Sorry. Hopefully that will happen before even more damage is done to Danish society, Danish business and the international reputation of Denmark. Free Speech does not constitute a free lunch.

  2. avatar Nick

    The point made by our Irish friend is eloquently put. But I completely disagree with it.

    Freedom of speech can’t be total. We don’t allow incitement of crime, for instance, and we put limits on the dissemination of false information (libel, bomb hoaxes, etc). But I strongly believe that religion should not be protected in this way, but should instead be subject to open discussion like any other set of ideas.

    Meanwhile, whatever your views on whether we should bring back blasphemy laws, I think it’s untenable to suggest that (as a former Danish foreign minister put it in The Economist the other week) “We have a right to speak our minds, not an obligation to do so”; in other words (and as several Swedish papers have argued), Jyllands-Posten, France Soir and the rest were entitled to publish the cartoons, but shouldn’t have done so. This can only mean that “freedom of speech is great, as long as you don’t exercise it,” which is obviously absurd.

    I think that the European papers were right to publish the cartoons. People, especially but not only religious people, need to understand that the price you pay for enjoying the benefit of living in a free society is taking offence sometimes. Once we’ve all agreed on that, the integration and coexistence of society’s diverse elements could take a big step forward.

  3. avatar Mohamed

    Couples of observations are in order here:

    The fact that both sides are on edges -how did we get to this point unkowingly.
    2nd point is the fact that some of folks feeding this fire are being motivated
    by more than they’re saying publicly.
    Ok, for point #1, its clear that the west feels somehow Muslims are un-fair
    and have got away with a lots of special treatment: The extent to which this
    is true is based on the eyes of beholder!
    For instance, for the average Nordic, seeing a women veiled or with head-scarf seems somehow she is making a point or militant, whereas for the Women, she is simply following what Allah has asked of her(i.e. verse, I’m paraphrasing, “Oh, you prophet, tell your women to cover their bodies properly and now show of their bodies like the early time of ignorance”…).
    See, how much Mis-understanding on both sides!
    Muslims on the other hand feel that lately, they have been assaulted over and over
    and enough is enough; now they’re going after the Prophet personally(peace be upon him).
    You get the point of “how both sides” are on the edges.
    The 2nd point is: Mainly the groups who published this are very anti-Islamic,
    anti minority folks whose their bottom line is marginalize or challenge
    anything that looks like Islamic (be it book, women, Islamic businesses, schools etc).
    Problem with this idea is that, its very counter-productive, but gives
    the nationalistic folks something to shout about (protest, messages etc) while
    it rallies the other side. Counter-productive that it doesnt help in changing the position of women in certain countries, it rather created tough climate to work with!
    Example is new Danish gov that came to power with sole agenda of anti Islamic,
    anti immigration policy. Good portion of the Danish Muslims are indigenous &not immigrants by the way.
    I think both sides should sit down and say, ok, we live in this world
    together, nobody is gonna eliminate nobody so how can we live without being
    on each others throats. Doesn’t look like a hard discussion -just takes town hall meetings!


  4. avatar

    Just a short factual comment to your statement that the present Danish government came to power (in 2001) with the sole agenda of an anti-Islamic, anti-immigration policy.

    If you mean that an anti-Islamic, anti-immigration policy is the only or most important part of the government agenda, then I would say that the statement is not correct.

    Domestic policy questions such as the quality of social and health care services and old-age pensions played a very large role in the 2001 and 2005 election campaigns along with immigration and integration policy.

    If, on the other hand, you mean that the present government’s immigration and integration policies are meant to discourage immigration and that the rhetoric employed by the government and especially its supporting party, the Danish People’s Party, (the Danish government is in fact a minority government and relies on the DPP to reach a majority in parliament) in a number of cases has had – and still has – an anti-Islamic character, then I would say that you are right.

    And, finally, if you mean that Muslims as such are discriminated against in Danish society, then I would also have to say that you will find important cases of high-profile public discrimination. The embarassing saga about the establishment of a Muslim burial site in Denmark is one example. Reactions to proposals about the building of a proper Mosque in Copenhagen another.

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