Letter to a friend in the US who had asked about an inside view about the situation in Denmark concerning the newspaper cartoons ridiculing the prophet Mohammed.
8th of February 2006
In January some retired ambassadors, who had been working in Danish embassies in Muslim countries, said that the cartoons really reminded them of cartoons caricaturizing Jews in the 30ies and said that the government should come with an official excuse. The cartoons therefore had nothing to do with freedom of expressing one's opinion, but really were a discriminating action. The prime minister always refused to come with such an excuse, because he considered the drawing of cartoons to be part of freedom of expression. Things really escalated when Danish goods were boycotted, leading to the temporary loss of employment of many workers in the large diary producer ARLA.
Denmark does have some kind of tradition of blasphemy and rude assaulting of religious sentiments. During the 70ies much fun was made of Jesus Christ and a much debated pornographic movie giving a distorted image of the life of Christ was produced. During that time there were attacks upon the Danish embassy in Rome and the French government explicitly forbade the production of the movie on French ground - a fact with postponed its completion to 1992, when it actually became a flop. What is completely unknown to the public is the fact that, also during the 70ies, some US-American evangelical missionaries (church planters) were extradited from Denmark and it is also today quite difficult for e.g. a South African exchange teacher to get a visa in order to teach for half a year at a Christian charter school (this happened at the school our eldest daughter used to go to, when we still lived in the Aalborg area in Northern Jutlandia). During the 2004 reelection of G.W. Bush 83 percent of the Danes were in favor of Kerry, not so much because of politics and the gulf war, but because of G.W. Bush's (pseudo-?) "fundamentalist" Christian convictions. When I tell Danes that some US-American evangelical Christians also have misgivings about Bush due to the threat of some reconstructionist angelic false gospel turning the USA into some kind of a theocracy, they are very much surprised and of course they have never heard about reconstructionism (dominionism) and the like. They are just appalled at the fact that in some parts in Texas there are people who never had sex prior to marriage - this is completely unconceivable for them and they feel that these people must have been under some kind of brain-washing cultic psycho-terror in order to come into this situation. As in all countries with a high percentage of freemasons per citizen (Sweden is the record-breaker in that respect, and in Sweden there is no religious education AT ALL at public schools and Christian charter schools get shut down), promiscuity is generally propagated as the normal way of life.
The large majority of Danes really do not have a clue of what religion is all about. Religious education is superficial and usually used for socializing activities at school. Many Danish teenagers do not know what Christmas is all about. They think it has something to do with what their ancestors believed, but what that is, many fail to realize due to lack of proper teaching. Denmark was the first country in Europe (or the Western World?) to legalize pornography in 1967 and 1969 (first books, then pictures/movies).
With the rise of a "conservative" (but in fact merely populist) government in 2001, a subtle discrimination against Muslims took form. A new ministry of "Integration" was called into being, with the purpose of assuring the integration of non-Danes. I myself have been affected by some of the new legislation, which this ministry has spewn out, namely that we were actually forced to have our 3-year old daughter put into Kindergarten or else have a language therapist come and visit in order to teach her Danish (that was at a location in Denmark which we have moved away from). This is because we do not speak Danish at home (we speak Romanian at home). Fortunately there is a Christian chartered Kindergarten where we live now, and which our Hulda enjoys tremendously and she is now speaking Danish most of the time (she is speaking most of the time anyway, actually...). But in other countries, like France or Germany, immigrants are very much left on their own, which of course also leads to some kind of ghettoization.
Prior to this government coming to power, public schools offered mother tongue classes to immigrants (Arabic, Urdu, etc.), but then these became exempt from financing through public subsidies, in other words, immigrants now have to pay, if they want their children to learn properly Arabic as well, besides of Danish. Many pedagogues have wailed over this, claiming that it bereaves the pupils affected with a possibility of self-identification. As all ethnic groups lesser than 10 millions (Denmark has 5.4 million inhabitants), the Danes are nervous about their language vanishing away, while many higher learning institutions (such as technical faculties at universities) actually use English as teaching language.
Since 2001 it has also become more complicated to attain to Danish citizenship, now one has to prove his or her loyality to the society in many strange and petty ways.
On the other hand, however, the Muslim Imans seem to have been quite hypocritical (double-tongued) in their declarations of loyality to the Danish society. Much of the current situation is also due to statements from them given to Arabic news agencies etc. There have also been a lot of rumours about Danes burning the Coran on the streets of Copenhagen, distributed by mobile phone text messages around the globe, Muslim Imans as well as government officials have identified these as mere rumours.
Yesterday (7th of February 2006) there has been a demonstration of Danish citizen Muslims with immigrant background together with sympathizing ethnic origin Danes, in the city of Aarhus, intending to exhibit a sentiment of loyality to the Danish society. It was like Danish Muslims saying "This is our country, too, so please, dear Muslim friends, stop the ranting against Denmark!" and from the Danes participating it was some kind of saying "We want to be friends with our Muslim co-citizens!". This is typical for Denmark, too, which is a consensus-culture. It has been said that when three Germans are shipwrecked on an inhabited island, they will form three opposing political parties, while the Danes in the same situation will stage a conference in order to arrive at a consensus. There also has been a known personality (I think some kind of local politician) who recently sued the Jyllands-Posten for discriminatory activity.
A much scorned, threatened and ridiculed Danish evangelist, Moses Hansen, uses to evangelize on pornographic article fairs in big Danish cities. He hands out tracts, and he and his team talk to visitors of the fair, sometimes leading people to Christ. Usually he is facing a lot of opposition for doing so. During the last weekend, however, the chief organizer of such a fair would actually ask him to preach to the crowd of visitors on the stage and have people pray for Denmark. This obviously non-Christian person would realize that Denmark is in need of a religious element of self-identification. The team was on local TV and some people actually paid the 150 Danish crowns entry fee to the pornographic fair just in order to be able to speak to Moses Hansen and many people had existential questions about life.
Concerning the banishing of Muslims from the country: There have been some spectacular cases of refugees, facing execution and/or torture in their respective countries of issue, forcefully extradited from Denmark by the authorities. One Iranian actually took his life on a toilet on the airport, he had been tortured in Iran and knew he would be executed when forced home. There was also a case of a highly skilled butcher from Bosnia (also a Muslim), who was extradited, even though his employer sued the government and pleaded with the minister of Integration, all in vain. So there have been some ugly cases of extradition, but everybody knows that Denmark due to UN regulations has to keep up with its share of immigrants from Muslim countries. Also, there is a very controversial law intended to prevent forced marriages, actually making it illegal to marry for some people when younger than 24 and Denmark has been facing United Nations investigations because of this.
Now the national index is falling - Denmark has known economic progress during the last year. The Danes are at a loss to understand what has hit them - they are trying to find the pieces of the puzzle. This situation MAY lead to some re-discovery of long lost Christian values but it may also lead to an even more aggressive secularized-way-of-life-counter-reaction, plunging the country back into the 70ies as far as the religious climate is concerned. My previous employer, who was a Christian, told me that it was much more difficult to be a Christian back then as it is now. The society has been described as the most materialistic in the world.
An Iranian Christian who is pastoring the Iranian Christian Church in Copenhagen said on TV that while he considers Islam to be a false religion (from which he himself broke loose), he thinks the cartoons were very unfortunate, you just do not discuss religion by dragging people's carpets from under their feet like that. It is an emotional attack, ridiculing not only Islam, but any serious endeavour to examine religion in order to find the truth.
Hope this helps you appreciate the situation and gives you an incentive to pray for this country, for Moses Hansen, for me and my family and for the many Muslims in Europe, of whom many are in search of the truth, but who is going to present it to them?
Greetings in Christ,