(This article was originally posted on blogger.com on Oct 13, 2005)
The Danish People’s Party (in Danish “Dansk Folkeparti”, or just DF) is a populistic anti-immigration right wing party known for its extreme Islamophobia, directed towards individuals perceived to be either Arab and/or Muslim. In passing, it should therefore come as no surprise, that the DF opposes Turkish membership of the EU (I’ll say more about the Turkey-situation in a forthcoming post).
The general election to the Danish parliament held on Feb 8th 2005, resulted in the Danish People’s Party winning 13.2% of the votes and 24 seats (up from 22 seats in 2001) in Parliament, sadly enough making it the third largest political party in Denmark. While it was already excluded from the conservative coalition government in 1998, its continuing success has meant that prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen have passed extremely restrictive asylum legislation, which was followed by a halving of asylum applications. Unlike similar parties it has historically been at pains to moderate its language, but in reality obscure racist-like as well as “Islamophobic” statements by members of DF are served more or less on a daily basis (one example was described in a previous post. A simple experiment is to sample statements (which are puplically availiable) asserted by members of DF, some of which are represented in the Danish parliament, such as Pia Kjaersgaard (their leader), Louise Frevert, Mogens Camre, Soeren Krarup, Jesper Langballe and many others – and then substitute the term “Muslim” with “Jewish”; the resulting rhetoric is infinitesimally close to the one prevalent in Germany early before the 2nd World War, leading to the killings of at least 5 million Jews.
Let me tell you a little bit more about DF and their politics. DF’s party program can be found at danskfolkeparti.dk. Here are some excerpts from their program:
1. “As has been the case until now, the essence of the party program is a warm and strong love of our country. In the Danish People’s Party we are proud of Denmark; we love our country and we feel a historic obligation to protect our country, its people and the Danish cultural heritage.”
2. “The aim of the Danish People’s Party is to assert Denmark’s independence, to guarantee the freedom of the Danish people in their own country and to preserve and promote representative government and the monarchy.”
3. “The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church is the church of the Danish people.” […] “Christianity has been honored in Denmark for centuries and is an integral part of Danish life. It is impossible to measure the significance Christianity has had and indeed has on Danish life and the Danish way of life. Through the ages it has been a ground-stone for and given guidance to the people. Christianity draws a sharp distinction between the temporal world and the world of faith – a distinction of crucial importance for any country’s evolution, for freedom, openness and democracy.”
4. “The Danish People’s Party wishes friendly and dynamic cooperation with all the democratic and freedom-loving peoples of the world, but we will not allow Denmark to surrender its sovereignty. As a consequence, the Danish People’s Party opposes the European Union. We value the fundamental liberties of freedom of speech, the right of assembly and religious liberty and thus emphasize the importance of also respecting these rights for other nations.”
5. “The country is founded on the Danish cultural heritage and therefore, Danish culture must be preserved and strengthened. ” and “This culture consists of the sum of the Danish people’s history, experience, beliefs, language and customs. Preservation and further development of this culture is crucial to the country’s survival as a free and enlightened society. Therefore, we wish to see action on a broad front to strengthen the Danish national heritage everywhere. Outside Denmark’s borders we would like to give financial, political and moral support to Danish minorities.”
6. “Denmark is not an immigrant-country and has never been so. Therefore, we will not accept a transformation to a multiethnic society.” and “Denmark belongs to the Danes and its citizens must be able to live in a secure community founded on the rule of law, developing only along the lines of Danish culture. It ought to be possible to absorb foreigners into Danish society provided however, that this does not put security and democratic government at risk. To a limited extent and according to special rules and in conformity with the stipulations of the Constitution, foreign nationals should be able to obtain Danish citizenship.”
One quickly notices, that the statements #1 through #6 above are formulated in such a way, that if you tend to disagree with them, you are more or less automatically considered anti-nationalistic (this is especially true for #1, 2 and 5). So, can one disagree with any of these points without being “anti-nationalistic”? Surely you can, and I’ll explain why.
Concerning #1, I definitely love my country (even though I actually like some other places around the world more) and I’m in many ways proud of my country. But the critical change in the Danish policy towards immigrants definitely does not make me proud. And don’t think that this change in policy has been going unnoticed in other countries – as an example I’ll mention a number of articles below, which are related to the Danish xenophobia, as reported in the Economist since 1998.
This xenophobia, which is largely a result of the DF’s strong influence on contemporary politics, is – I believe – based on flawed understandings of: other cultures, the importance of interactions (at many levels) between different cultures, the origin of modern society, the historical development of our cultural heritage and many other things.
A vital element in the politics of the DF is the claim to “the Danish cultural heritage”. I’’ll not dispute the existence of something which could be called “the Danish cultural heritage” (even though you could occupy 100 philosophers and historians for 100 years in trying to define this term). But it is as correct to say, that our cultural heritage is fundamentally Danish, as to say that the Swedish culture is fundamentally Swedish (granted that Sweden was part of the Danish kingdom a few centuries ago). Some of the ‘important’ elements of our cultural heritage include: Danish furniture and design, porcelain, “Tuborg” and “Carlsberg” lager-beer, the Danish writers Ludvig Holberg, Hans Christian Andersen (probably Denmark’s best-known writer) and Isak Dinesen (also known as Karen Blixen), the philosopher Soeren Kirkegaard, the physicists Tycho Brahe, Hans Christian Oersted and Niels Bohr. None of these would have had such an impact on society, if it was not for inspiration from, and collaboration with foreign countries. Porcelain originated from China, but was in Denmark much inspired by Italian handcraft; Carlsberg beer was developed on the basis of German recipes; Hans Christian Andersen was largely inspired by his numerous travels to other European countries; Karen Blixen lived much of her life in Africa; Oersted studied and worked much of his life in Germany, France and the Netherlands; Niels Bohr was partly educated in Cambridge, England under the supervision of British physicist Sir Joseph J. Thomson and helped develop quantum mechanics in collaboration with some of the best international physicists at the institute in Copenhagen.
Apart from the fact, that it is virtually impossible to identify what part of our cultural heritage which is fundamentally Danish, the view that our culture should be “protected” is completely old-fashioned. It’s like saying that our culture is a fixed quantity, which should be preserved, but actually our “cultural heritage” is in a constant state of flux and in a time of globalization, the exchange of ideas, arts and sciences with other countries is happening at an ever increasing pace.
The claim, that “the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church is the church of the Danish people” is only correct in the sense that most Danes (85% according to the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs) are members of the Danish church, even if virtually everybody were never asked if they really wanted to become members.
Another point is that the claims above secretly implies, that if you don’t belong to the Lutheran Church, then you’re not considered a ‘real’ Dane – as for example people who are Muslim, but not as much if you are Jewish, Catholic or whatever else, as far as I can judge. The assertion, that “Christianity draws a sharp distinction between the temporal world and the world of faith [- a distinction of crucial importance for any country’s evolution, for freedom, openness and democracy]”, might apply to some extend in Denmark, but is clearly not globally valid – examples are Italy (with the Vatican opposition to abortion among other things), Ireland (abortion again), Portugal and Greece. And Christianity, like most other religions, have traditionally prohibited the ordination of women as clergy and from other leadership positions. In Denmark, only two out of ten bishops are female. Is this an example of “freedom”, “openness” and “democracy”?
The assertion #5 is also flawed for reasons I outlined above. Again, our culture is not a fixed quantity in time, as much as writings by philosopher Soeren Kirkegaard can only bee interpreted in one globally accepted way, which should be preserved indefinitely.
The goal of giving “financial, political and moral support to Danish minorities [outside Denmark’s borders]”, is also at odds with DF’s stand on (mostly Muslim) immigrants. DF opposes teaching of minorities in their own languages, minorities religious traditions (as the desire to wear a headscarf at work) as well as many other things. If minorities do not live up to their standards, they are not considered “well integrated” in Danish society. Why should the same not apply for Danes who choose to immigrate to countries like Sweden, France, Spain, England, the US or any other place?
Let me say a few words about the claim #6 above, as: “Denmark is not an immigrant-country and has never been so. Therefore, we will not accept a transformation to a multiethnic society” and “…Denmark belongs to the Danes and its citizens must be able to live in a secure community founded on the rule of law, developing only along the lines of Danish culture. […]. To a limited extent and according to special rules and in conformity with the stipulations of the Constitution, foreign nationals should be able to obtain Danish citizenship.”
Whether Denmark is an immigrant-country or not depends on the time-scale involved. What you usually call “imigration” is something, which can change rather quickly, and the relevant time-scale is maybe 10 years. In this sense it is true that Denmark is not as much an immigrant-country as the US is, for example. What is usually called “migration” involves movements of larger groups of people within a country or between different countries (or geographical regions) over a time-scale of maybe 1000 years. Without migration, ‘Denmark’ would essentially be wetlands, meadowlands and forrests populated by deers, bears, foxes, numerous birds and so on.
In reality, the Danes make up more than 90% of Denmark’s population. The Danes are for obvious historical reasons closely related to the Norwegians and the Swedes. Should one not include our Scandinavian friends who work and live in Denmark as part of a society with different ethnicities? What is a ‘multi-ethnic’ society? Does it consist of more than 3 ethnic groups? More than 20? Or more than 127?
What are other countries view on the rather new and very strict immigration laws in Denmark? Just by going to the homepage of Economist.com and searching for articles on “danish people’s party” should give you a rough, but actually a very good idea of how Denmark’s foreigners are treated and how the outside world are looking at us. Here are some examples I found at Economist.com:
A tough anti-foreigner stance pays political dividends
(From The Economist print edition) Dec 16th 2004
Why fewer asylum-seekers go to Denmark
And the rush of people claiming asylum has suddenly slowed
(From The Economist print edition) Jul 4th 2002
A restrictive new Danish immigration law
The Danes say other Europeans may copy their immigration rules. Really?
(From The Economist print edition) Jun 6th 2002
Immigrants in Sweden and Denmark
Help them, or keep them out?
(From The Economist print edition) Jan 31st 2002
A Danish row about race
TO PIA KJAERSGAARD, the xenophobic Danish politician whom a rival recently described as “Jurg Haider’s Danish cousin”, it was harmless satire
(From The Economist print edition) Feb 3rd 2000
That should be enough for today’s story about the ‘Danish People’s Party’ …. 😉