16 February 2006, Thursday
The Cartoon Crisis has increased the hatred against the Muslims and foreigners in Denmark. Although Muslims make about 2 per cent of the Danish population, many Danish people see Islam the biggest threat to Denmark. The cartoons undermined positive efforts at integration and the old discrimination habit surfaced with the ‘insulting’ cartoons crisis. Even the Denmark Government has declared that it will exclude the Islamic priests (imams) from talks on ethnic minority integration because the imams do not share the Danish official opinion on the cartoons. Danish minister Rikke Hvilshoj accused the imams of damaging Denmark’s national interests in the Middle East.
According to the Danish Government, all of the Muslims in Denmark have to think in a way as the Danish Government allowed them. Ironically the Danish authorities have never defended the freedom of expression for the Muslim imams in the cartoon crisis.
However it is understood that anti-Islam and racist discrimination are not the new habits in Denmark. Even Qeen Margrethe II of Denmark named Islam religion as threat to Denmark in her 15 April 2005 speech:
"We are being challenged by Islam these years - globally as well as locally. It is a challenge we have to take seriously. We have let this issue float about for too long because we are tolerant and lazy. We have to show our opposition to Islam and we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance. And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction". (uruknetinfo)
It is noticed that Rasmussen Government has shown a very bad crisis management since the beginning. If Rasmussen had accepted the 11 ambassadors’ offer to make co-operation to calm both sides in October 2005’ the crisis would have been ended with no violence months ago. However Rasmussen intentionally or unintentionally provoked the masses because his minority government relies on the support of the openly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party, DPP), whose leader Pia Kjaersgaard has called for the deportation of any imam who is not a Danish citizen and has whipped up protests. Pia Kjaersgaard wrote in her weekly newsletter that “The seeds of weeds have come to Denmark - Islamists and liars - who have fuelled the lethal fire through their tour of the Middle East. We will deal with them.”
Recent opinion polls showed a sharp rise in favor of the anti-immigrant Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party - DPP) and its party leader Pia Kjaersgaard. In another word the Cartoon Crisis has made the extremist stronger in both sides.
‘Anti-Semitism Worldwide 1999/2000 Report’ vividly describes the DPP’s activities racist and discriminative:
“The party generates a climate of anti-immigrant hatred by suggesting, for example, that Muslims are appropriating apartments that should go to homeless Danes. The party also opposes the establishment of mosques and Muslim cemeteries. After a heated debate both in parliament and in the media in October, the party proposed the deportation of entire Muslim families if one family member was involved in a criminal offense. The party’s representative in the European Parliament, Mogens Camre, was until 1999 a member of the Social Democrat Party, but was expelled after protests over his racist outbursts (see ASW 1998/9). Since his arrival in Brussels, however, Camre has been relatively subdued, in keeping with Kjaersgaard’s attempts to prevent her party from drifting into open racism. In one of the harshest personal attacks ever in Danish politics, Peter Duetoft, vice-president of the Center Democrats compared Kjaersgaard to Hitler: “Hitler and Pia Kjaersgaard are of one piece. I do not say that she is a Nazi, but she has the same attitude, dividing people into Unter-Menschen and Uber-menschen, as Hitler did,” Duetoft said to the Danish mainstream newspaper Jyllands-Posten (30 January 2000).”
‘Anti-Semitism Worldwide 1999/2000 Report’ proved that the anti-Muslim Danish parties and politicians are not only anti-Muslim, but they are the old racists and anti-Semitists. It is understood that old habits die hard:
“Several anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 1999. In one violent incident in December, a man threw bottles at the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen, breaking some windows. A number of groups and individuals, including the Progress Party, have long campaigned against Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter, as well as circumcision. Hundreds of letters were published in the Danish media during 1999 protesting ritual slaughter as “bestial” and as a practice from the Dark Ages. An anonymous letter sent to the Jewish community in October warned that ”If you continue your cruelty to animals” (shechita) you ought to try concentration camps again… You should try to die yourself by having your throat cut.” A booklet sent to the chief rabbi by a man professing to be a devout Catholic included such phrases as “Circumcision is a Jewish plot to destroy Gentiles,” and “The political Zionist Jew has tried to make slaves of all mankind.”
Now the Danish Government needs the racist support and the far-right groups have become more and more extremist. If the Western Governments and media continue to consider the cartoon crisis in terms of ‘freedom of expression’, the extremist right in Europe will continue to get more votes to control the national powers. The situation reminds the pre-Second World War circumstances.
I had warned two years ago that if the European Union (EU) continues not to accept any Muslim European country inside, it would be a Christian club and the racist clashes would erupt. The cartoon crisis confirms our prediction. The EU still resists considering the Muslims as equal partners in Europe. The Brussels and the Christian Europeans perceive the Muslims aliens in the continents. The target of the old religionist and racist European identity was Jews, gypsies and blacks. Little has changed in the decades since the end of the Second World War. The far right groups are still against the so-called foreigners. It seems they only attack the Muslim values yet they are also against the Jews and other ‘aliens’. They ca openly attack the Muslims and no one criticize them for their racist discriminative assaults, because the Muslims have no protection. They have no strong lobbies and governments as the Jews have now. Even the liberal and leftist European media give strong support to the far right anti-Muslim groups in the name of freedom of expression.
The EU must to redefine Europeanness on new values as it did after the Second World War. The new Europe has to be based on liberalism, democracy, human rights and other universal values. It should cover all of the religions, sects and nations, including Muslims. There are more than 100 million Muslim people in European continent who are ignored by the Brussels and national EU Governments. There are many Muslim countries in Europe, including Turkey, Bosnia, Albania, Azerbaijan and TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). The EU accepted the Christian people in Cyprus island and excluded all Muslims Turks in 2004. The Brussels is not sensitive in occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenians as it is sensitive in 1915 Events. None of these Muslim countries believe in EU’s sincerity on issues regarding the European Muslims. Almost none of them has a EU membership perspective. Turkey is a candidate country and it was decided to start negotiations on 3 October 2005. However it is known that many EU leaders, including Merkel and Chirac, do not see Turkey as true European. Turkey has done anything the EU asked from it. The 15 December 2004 Summit and 3 October 2005 Summit clearly declared that Turkish economy and democracy both are mature enough to become EU member. However everyday new conditions are being created by France, Austria or any other member. The EU Commissioners and EU leaders have frequently asked Turkey to become more European. However even they do not know which Europe they are talking about.
The Danish Cartoon Crisis has clearly showed that Turkey’s EU membership is the last chance to define the European identity on universal values. Otherwise the Europe will back the past’s dark days, and the Europeanness would be prisoner to narrowly defined Christian values. On the one hand the European identity would become more aggressive and isolated, on the other hand the discriminative European identity do construct the aggressive Muslim identity outside. The modern European ‘crusades’ like the 12 Cartoons against the Muslims create a Muslim world which do not exist in fact. Muslims all around the world unite against the ‘Western attacks’. As a result both civilizations lose the chance to co-operate.
Both sides need a miracle to break the vicious circle. The Muslims sincerely want to believe in the Christian West’s sincerity. The West has more responsibility in constructing an inter civilizations dialogue due it is stronger than the Muslims. If the EU and the West in general cannot redefine itself on universal values it will be the West itself who will lose a lot because the Muslims have very little to lose. And Turkey could be the last chance in minding the gap between the sides.
Imagine, if there was a Muslim member among the EU countries, would Denmark Cartoon Crisis have reached such a violent point?
Sedat LACINER: ISRO Director
Mr. Laciner is a Davos Economic Forum Young Global Leader (YGL) 2006
16 February 2006