Denmark in troubled water

Reuters_Flag_Denmark.jpg Given the fact that the majority of my readers are English speaking I am finding it hard to provide links which describe the events as they take place but more crucialle as they have actually been taken place up until now. Below are some links to BBC articles which gives a reasonable overview of the flurry ...

Saudis recall envoy in Danish row

Muslim anger at Danish cartoons

What has actually happened?

Cartoons in a Danish newspaper

Four months ago the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten posted 8 12 drawings of the muslim prophet depicting him as they saw him but with a clear provocative bordering to tactless zeal ... the most notable drawing was one showing Muhammed, with a turban containing a large bomb.

muhammed.jpg The cartoons resulted in immediate protests and demonstrations from Muslims in Denmark, but to sum it all up; two very important things happened as a result of the drawings.

1. Ten muslim ambassadors approached the Danish Prime Minister in an open letter demanding that he should condemn the newspaper's actions and consequently give his apologies on behalf of Denmark to Danish muslims as well as muslims abroad. What did the Danish PM answer to this ... ? Essentially the only answer he could give - given the principles of freedom of speech and press polticians in Denmark cannot interfere with what is printed in newspapers; the public opinion decides!

2. ... and perhaps most importantly the drawings spawned a public debate in which not the nature of our society and democracy was questioned but a sound debate on the need to display tact and respect for other cultures. This debate was/is good as it outlined some important things concerning the Danish society; i.e. not only muslims thought that Jyllandsposten had gone too far. Obviously this should be seen a bigger picture and perspective which has something to do with the general tone and voice in Denmark concerning particularly the muslim minority.

There is no doubt that these drawings put fire on an already slumbering fire. Danes do not hate muslims nor do we regard them as unwelcome in our society, but that admittedly misses the fact that muslims in Denmark on a whole often are related to and blamed for all sorts of unfortunes and crimes, and as such I can see why muslims in Denmark sometimes feel unwelcome. It is the classic case of blaming the group for the faults of one or two members.

Where are we now then?   

Until a couple of days ago the debate had continued in the outskirts of the public agenda with the most notable contribution being some current and former Danish diplomats and ambassadors stating that Denmark's debate and tone concerning muslims could potentially damage Denmark's international reputation in the Arab world - boy they were going to be vindicated on that one. 

What apparently really got the things cooking was a re-print of the drawings in a Norwegian newspaper which in the last couple of days has prompted ...

1. A boykot on all Danish goods in Saudi-Arabia and Kuwait with other states in the region saying they will follow suit. This is really the bulk of the reaction against Denmark and the one that hurts most (apart from the flag burning:(). The big Danish food producer Arla is really under strain and is currently losing mill. Dkr 10 a day, and other large Danish cooperations are beginning to feel effects as well.

2. Saudi-Arabia and Lebanon have re-drawn their ambassadors from Danish soil which essentially makes this a diplomatic crisis.

3. Misinformation/propaganda is spreading; i.e. all Danes and Scandinavians hate muslims and want to kill and exterminate them. This is of course not flowing from official sources but there have been a large surge of internet sites, SMS messages and leaflets with the message above.  

The demands are clear as they are impossible to follow; a formal/official apology from the Danish government in which it distances itself from the drawings  ....

What should Denmark do then ? 

I probably should spend more time providing my own view on this matter but then again my view is very simple. NO concessions what so ever can be given. Danish interest organizations and stakeholders are wobbling at the moment, I am not; ... we must not and essentially cannot give them what they want ...  I am sorry! 

Comment added 22.32 PM -

One important point which does not show above is the fact that I actually think the drawings are spot-on in terms of capturing a crucial part of the (global) debate on Islam; Not because I associate Islam with terrorism Not because Islam is a terrorist religion but because many terrorists invoke Islam as the vessel and essentially legitimizing factor of terrorist acts. This is exactly what is captured in the drawings. In Denmark the debate dealt with showing respect towards our muslim minority, and rightly so, but in a broader perspective muslims should ponder the reasons why Muhammed and Islam often are associated with bombs and terrorism?