Denmark seeks to raise level of EU racism


Richard Moore

World Socialist Web Site

WSWS : News & Analysis : Europe
Denmark¹s media mount a provocation by reprinting Mohammed cartoons
By Jordan Shilton

Virtually the entire media in Denmark reprinted the notorious caricatures of the
Prophet Mohammed on February 13.

The decision to re-print came just one day after three men, two Tunisians and a 
Danish national, were arrested for an alleged plot to kill one of the 
cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard. At least 15 papers across Denmark reprinted 
images of the cartoons, in what can only be described as a calculated 
provocation. Despite having no evidence regarding the guilt of the three 
detained, since the security service claimed it moved on suspicion and did not 
have enough grounds to charge the men, the Danish media raced to be first to 
print the cartoons, supposedly to underline their defence of ³free speech.²

Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that commissioned and first printed the cartoons 
in 2005, chose to use the image in place of every letter ³O² in the paper¹s name
³Posten² throughout that day¹s publication. Extra Bladet, a prominent tabloid, 
took the opportunity to print the entire selection of 12 cartoons in its 
February 13 edition. Even the nominally left publication Politiken, which had 
criticised Jyllands-Posten for its original publishing of the cartoon, reprinted
the image. ³In a free society, we can discuss how public discussions should be 
conducted, but not if they should be conducted,² Tøger Seidenfaden, 
editor-in-chief, said.

Jyllands-Posten had justified its original publication of the cartoon as an 
attempt to test the limits of self-censorship. However, the history of 
Jyllands-Posten, including its support for German and Italian fascism during the
1920s and 1930s, makes abundantly clear that this was nothing more than an 
attempt to stir up racial and religious antagonisms. When the original printing 
of the cartoons failed to generate the desired outraged response from Islamic 
groups, the newspaper continued to stoke the controversy.

As protests spread, the images were republished in newspapers across Europe 
under the specious claim that what was involved was the defence of ³freedom of 
expression² in opposition to a ³totalitarian² Islam.

The Danish government refused to meet with delegations of majority Muslim 
countries opposed to the defamatory images, leading to weeks of protests across 
the world during January and February 2006. Danish embassies were targeted and a
boycott of Danish goods by Middle Eastern countries was instituted. In the end 
this was one of the major factors that impelled the government to seek 

As the World Socialist Web Site noted at the time: ³The basic lie in the 
controversy over the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published by Danish and
European newspapers is the claim that the conflict is between free speech and 
religious censorship, or between Western enlightenment and Islamic bigotry. The 
systematic defamation of Muslims is being used to prepare public opinion for new
wars against countries such as Iran and Syria‹wars which will be even more 
brutal than the Iraq war, and could well involve the use of nuclear weapons.² 
(See ³Denmark and Jyllands-Posten: The background to a provocation²)

The latest events demonstrate the extent to which the so-called liberal and 
³left of centre² sections of the establishment have lurched rightwards. 
Justifying its decision to publish the cartoon, Politiken said that the Danish 
media should stand behind Jyllands-Posten ³when it is threatened with 
terrorism.² The alleged murder plot ³shows that there are fanatic Islamists who 
are ready to make good on their threats and there are people in this country who
neither respect freedom of expression nor the law.²

The real assault on democratic rights

Recent events confirm the fraudulent character of the Danish establishment¹s 
claim to be defending democratic rights. The fact that those arrested for the 
supposed plot were not charged and that the two Tunisian nationals will be 
expelled from Denmark without any legal proceedings whatsoever did not raise any

Little has been said in the media about the three accused of the murder plot and
their right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and to a fair 
trial. The two Tunisians, although they have been living in Denmark for more 
than seven years, are to be deported under reactionary legislation which 
provides for anyone deemed to be a ³national security threat² to be expelled 
from Denmark.

Lawyers representing the Danish Institute for Human Rights and one of the 
Tunisians accused explained that the decision to expel without trial has deep 
implications for fundamental principals of democracy. ³It is incomprehensible 
that we can release one of the three suspects in this affair, a Danish citizen, 
for lack of evidence, yet expel two foreigners without knowing the reason why or
giving them the chance to defend themselves before a judge,² Franz Wenzel told 
Danish TV.

³It is profoundly troubling that the reasons for these expulsions will not be 
judged by an independent court,² said Christoffer Badse, a lawyer at a 
state-funded institute.

As an op-ed piece in the Middle East Times by Frank Kaufmann put it, ³One 
presumes that Denmark upholds due process, and that in Denmark arrests are not 
equated with guilt, but remarkably 15 Danish newspapers reprinted this very same
cartoon on Wednesday in protest against the alleged plot.

³Even if these papers had waited for a guilty verdict following due process, it 
would remain the case that an infantile provocation of this magnitude is beyond 
reproach. Considering the vast difficulties worldwide that derived from the 
initial printing of these cartoons, there are simply no words to describe the 
decision of not one or two deranged editors, but a coordinated effort among 15 
newspapers in what is generally regarded as a modern nation.²

The government remains committed to using the anti-democratic law, which is part
of Denmark¹s anti-terrorist legislation adopted in 2002 after the September 11 
attacks. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated on February 19 that the 
expulsions were necessary to protect Denmark from terrorists, even though no one
has been charged with such a crime.

Social upheavals

Underscoring the degree of calculation, the cartoon was republished in the midst
of rioting in predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods over a period of eight 
days, beginning February 10. The disturbances were in response to increased 
police surveillance and stop-and-search powers. Over 50 people were arrested 
during the troubles, as young people took to the streets of many Danish cities, 
burning cars and setting fire to other properties including schools.

There is no doubt that the Danish media seized the opportunity to fuel tensions 
and justify the police crackdown.

It is the third time in just under a year that rioting has broken out in Danish 
cities. In March 2007 many took to the streets to protest the eviction of a 
group of squatters from a youth centre. The protests became violent and were 
only quelled after a number of days, with 650 people being arrested. On the 
six-month anniversary of the demolition of the youth centre, riots broke out in 
Norrebro, the local district, in early September.

It was after these events that police instituted a random stop-and-search 
policy. Originally confined to a limited number of areas, they were greatly 
expanded. The final straw that triggered the recent disturbances appears to have
been the alleged violence by police towards an elderly Palestinian man in early 

The prospects for young people, especially immigrants, are bleak. Many complain 
of alienation and marginalisation. This position has been actively encouraged by
the government¹s right-wing allies, the Danish People¹s party (DPP), which has 
taken part in government coalitions with the Conservative and Liberal parties 
since 2001 and has been the driving force behind some of the most reactionary 
measures adopted, including the severe tightening of immigration legislation.

More fundamentally, it is the consequence of the putrefaction of the old 
organisations, particularly the Social Democrats and the trade unions, and their
inability to defend the basic social interests of the working class. This has 
led many young people to turn to violent protest as a means of expressing their 
sense of injustice and outrage.

Writing in the British Guardian, Jacob Illeborg noted that ³Denmark, once 
acknowledged for her liberal stance and social egalitarianism, has over the last
years become an increasingly polarised society where the differences between the
Danish majority and migrants and especially Muslim migrants have been the 
dominant political agenda.² He added, ³In certain neighbourhoods the atmosphere 
is now so tense that I avoid going there when in Copenhagen.²

It is still not clear what the implications of the re-printing of the cartoons 
will be in terms of protests in other countries. A relatively small protest took
place in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, Rafah in the Gaza Strip, in the Indonesian 
capital Jakarta, in Bahrain and in three cities in Pakistan‹Multan, Karachi and 
the capital Islamabad. Earlier in the week, Pakistan summoned the Danish 
ambassador to demand an apology and to express ³strong protest² to the 
republication. Iran and Egypt have also lodged complaints and a conference 
organised in Denmark to discuss the situation in Iraq issued a statement 
condemning the decision.

It is quite possible these protests could escalate. In this environment, it is 
to be expected that any protests will be used by the defenders of ³free speech² 
to bolster their opinion that Muslims are fundamentally ³intolerant² and 
³totalitarian² and that they threaten western democratic society. Thus the 
³freedom of the press² campaign will be used to promote the most reactionary of 
political ends.

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