A Danish perspective on recent events concerning the Muslim world
The latest unfortunate events affecting the perception of Denmark in the Muslim world call for a reaction from an ordinary Dane. As a Danish woman, living and loving in Cairo, Egypt, I would hereby like to volunteer my point of view on a situation that saddens me deeply.
I have been traveling to and around the Middle East for the last three years, and I have especially fallen in love with the contrasts of Egypt, its rich and complex culture and with a wonderful Egyptian (Muslim) man.
When the Danish embassies were burning in Damascus and Beirut and the diplomatic ties between Denmark and the Muslim countries were severely damaged because of the publication of the cartoons on the Prophet Mohamed, I, along with the majority of the Danish population, felt a deep frustration at not being heard.
At the time I was living in Copenhagen and it was my understanding that the only Danish voices that reached the people of the Muslim countries were those of the Danish government, the political right wing, and the Danish imams. When I spoke to my Muslim friends in Egypt, I found that the information they had received about the crisis and the Danish mainstream opinion were, to my understanding, misinterpreted and distorted.
Almost a year after the beginning of the first crisis, another potential crisis is looming in light of a recent incident. According to an Egyptian governmental body, the Information and Decision Support Center, more than 60 percent of Egyptians apparently consider Denmark hostile towards Egypt. Furthermore, as I am now living in Cairo, my suspicions about the media coverage and the general portrayal of Danes have unfortunately been verified.
The biased way the Egyptian media presented the release of a video in which a Danish political youth group attempt to mock the Prophet Mohamed leaves much out and requires further elaboration on the background and status of this imprudent youth group and their party’s status in the Danish community.
The national rightwing party, the Danish People’s Party (DPP), came to power in the 2001 election where they won 22 seats in the parliament. This election made the party the third largest in parliament. In exchange for supporting the Conservative-Liberal coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, they managed to get some of their key demands implemented, including strong anti-immigration policies.
The party has been criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups due to their controversial policies on immigration, immigrants and Muslims, stances against the Charter of Human Rights on the question of discrimination. They have also come under fire for their discriminatory comments and official statements coming from individual members of the party. Discriminating not only to immigrants and Muslims, but also to ordinary Danes like myself, who have chosen life with a foreigner.
But within the Danish borders the party’s horrendous statements have caused serious outrage. Thus, several high-ranking members including the party leader, Pia Kjærsgaard, have been accused of racism and found guilty in the Danish Supreme Court.
A majority of the Danish population generally views the DDP as bigoted and morally offensive, however DPP has managed to distinguish themselves enough from the traditional political class of economists and academics to be seen as less elitist and more in touch with those disenchanted with Danish politics.
Combined with the DPP s populist policies, this has given the party strong support amongst rural lower-middle class and elderly voters, who feel removed from the elitist political classes, fear for their own future interests and comfort and fear what they do not understand, assuming the worst of the unknown – the immigrant.
The video recordings, which are currently being debated around the world, unveil the activities of the DPP’s youth department’s summer camp, and to be honest with you, I find the broadcasting unfortunate but necessary.
It was relayed in its full length on the Internet, but only fragments of the video were shown on national television, when the issue was being debated and the rest of the parliament, the media, experts, and the common Dane were criticizing the video, the politics and the behavior of the DPP.
The video was produced in secrecy, by an undercover artist, to document and show the true nature of these people, who are being trusted with seats in the parliament. It is my hope that if enough Danes realize what is actually going on behind the curtain in the DPP, we can prevent the party from seizing more support and power in Denmark.
However, it is with a great amount of frustration that I am now witnessing a tendency around me here in the Middle East to associate all Danes with this group of fools that behave in an absolutely unsavory manner and who do not at all deserve the attention they are now being given by the international media and Muslim society.
As a Dane, I have to object to this and assure you that these extremists do not in any way represent the Danes’ general view of Muslims or understanding of Islam, and all I, and the rest of the Danish population, have in common with them is our passport.
When people do not understand, they turn to their assumptions, no matter where in the world they live and which religion they have. I hope that my testimony as a Dane living in the Middle East will help you to avoid relying on your assumptions and better understand the discrepancies between one political party and the general public.
By giving extremists and racists this kind of attention, we are actually doing exactly as they want us to do, and extending the crisis further. Let us instead do the opposite and try and close the incipient gap between us. By not generalizing, we respect each other as individual human beings. “Live and let live.