Remember the affair about the Muhammad cartoons? Well, it is still leading its more or less quiet life in Denmark as Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Jyllands-Posten and the Danish People’s Party for different reasons want to keep it on the public agenda.
The latest round of controversies have to do with a radio programme where the former foreign minister and Liberal leader Uffe Ellemann-Jensen comments Jyllands-Posten’s and its cultural editor Flemming Rose’s initiative. According to Politiken, Ellemann-Jensen says this:
Det (at man i et demokrati må være parat til at finde sig i hån, spot og latterliggørelse) ville han nu demonstrere ved at bestille nogle karikaturer af Profeten, som han derefter trykte i avisen. Hermed gik han videre end det oprindelige udgangspunkt, idet han bestilte karikaturer af Profeten, og ikke bare tegninger.
Or in my English translation:
He [i.e. Flemming Rose] wanted to demonstrate this [that you have to accept scorn and ridicule in a democracy] by commissioning some caricatures of the Prophet which he then published in the paper. By doing so he went beyond the original point of departure by commissioning caricatures and not just drawings.
Jyllands-Posten and Flemming Rose have reacted furiously by demanding the right to broadcast a correction to Ellemann-Jensen’s programme while the Danish People’s Party’s member of DR’s board has demand that the board discuss the programme and forces a correction. The DR’s general manager and the chairman of DR’s board have rejected these calls.
And just to finish the slugfest, Ellemann-Jensen has stated that if Jyllands-Posten is so annoyed by his interpretation of the events, the paper is welcome to sue him for defamation.
What to make of all of this?
- The Danish People’s Party is by definition offended by Muslims. (Actually the DPP’s recurrent initiatives perfectly mirror “the politics of being offended” pursued by Islamists and other religious and ethnic groups)
- In legal terms the question about Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons has been closed long ago: The paper did not breach Danish law by publishing the cartoons, caricatures or not.
- During and after the cartoon affair, Ellemann-Jensen echoed the standpoint of the Confederation of Danish Industries perfectly. The CDI wasn’t and isn’t concerned about freedom of speech, but about exports to Arab countries. (Slightly related: Back in 1948, the Liberals and the Conservatives weren’t too keen on recognising Israel because they feared that this could harm Danish exports. Sound familiar?)
- Whether or not Jyllands-Posten made a wise decision in publishing caricatures instead of illustrations is an interesting topic for discussion. I would argue that the paper would have put the Islamist imams at a disadvantage if it had simply published classic illustrations of Muhammad from the Muslim world as its first move.
- I will still argue that much of the affair had more to do with internal power struggles in the Danish Muslim community/ies than with relationships between Danes (…hmm, tricky terminology!) and Muslims.