Monday, March 20, 2006

Party Politics in Denmark

Random Platitudes has posted part 7 of his look at the cartoon crisis from a Danish perspective. This epistle is devoted entirely to the political fallout inside Denmark.

RP highlights polls that show that the major opposition party, the Social Democrats, lost electoral support during the cartoon crisis, not because they attacked the ruling party, but because they tempered their response to the crisis for fear of appearing too "immigrant-friendly."

The ruling party's support remained constant, with big gains for the xenophobic Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti) and the Danish Social Liberal Party (Radikale Venstre).
Clearly, the DPP were gaining as a result of a public perception that they represented a "tough stance" on "Islamic aggression" towards a Denmark that increasingly considered itself the wronged party.
That is not to say that Denmark has become a more xenophobic place on balance. The Social Liberal Party also saw gains from last October to this February, and they are a party that has "made working for a stable multi-ethnic Danish society a key plank of their platform." The party is home to several moderate Muslim politicians, including Naser Khader.
In response to the crisis, he had been instrumental in forming a moderate Muslim political network, Demokratiske Muslimer ("Democratic Muslims"), which strove to bring a moderate Muslim viewpoint to the debate, both in Denmark and in the Islamic world.
Of course, his existence has barely made a ripple in the international press (only 32 hits in Google News), but why would it? Complex political realites simply don't fit the template so many pundits are working off of here. Denmark is enlightened and Western (and therefore has no xenophobic tendencies), the "Muslim world" is backwards and threatening, and never the twain shall meet.

Not to burst that bubble, but here's what Khader's party had to say in the Danish parliament:
We agree that JP [= Jyllands-Posten] has the right to publish illustrations and text that provoke and test limits. That right to freedom of speech is something that we will defend every day. But we also have the right to have an opinion about what we read in a newspaper. Isn't that what the intent of the provocations in JP, among others, is?
This idea, in the shrill atmosphere of Weblogistan and beyond, is tantamount to heresy. Black or white! And choose fast! Life is never that simple, of course, but real life doesn't matter when you're working at the lofty level of a clash of civilizations.
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