Let me be honest. I have no doubt in my mind that Denmark these days is one of the most xenophobic countries in western Europe; one of the worst xenophobic parties in the western world, Danish People’s Party (which I’ve talked about before) is the third largest party in Denmark; the Danish government has cut down on immigration; Denmark is currently involved in a major political and diplomatic crisis because of satirical cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, etc., etc. (however, this situation is of course not directly related to the fact that xenophobia appears to be widespread in Denmark as well as in other European countries and the Danish population is not in any way responsible for this foolish publication of some cartoons – more comments about this below).
But can the relative xenophobia in the European countries be measured?
If there is one place where you – in principle – always can find the answer, its Google. So, I tried to search for the word “xenophobia” together with the name of certain countries. Here is how many hits Google returned:
1. 569.000 for xenophobia And france (60,7 million)
2. 558.000 for xenophobia And germany (82,4 million)
3. 352.000 for xenophobia And italy (58,1 million)
4. 341.000 for xenophobia And england (60,4)
5. 242.000 for xenophobia And austria (8,2 million)
6. 228.000 for xenophobia And sweden (9,0 million)
7. 206.000 for xenophobia And belgium (10,4 million)
8. 198.000 for xenophobia And portugal (10,6 million)
9. 180.000 for xenophobia And norway (4,6 million)
10. 169.000 for xenophobia And denmark (5,4 million)
The number in the parentheses is the population of the country in question. Maybe not so surprisingly, France and Germany top the list with Norway and Denmark taking last places, which actually surprised me. We all know about the problems with attitudes towards foreigners in France and Germany (and we should not forget the riots in the suburbs of Paris last month).
What if we look a relative index, which I more or less randomly define as the number of hits in thousands divided by the population in millions? Then we observe something completely different: Norway and Denmark top the list with Austria coming in at third place (which might not be too surprising for obvious historical reasons):
1. Norway 39.1
2. Denmark 31.3
3. Austria 29.5
4. Sweden 25.3
5. Belgium 19.8
6. Portugal 18.7
7. France 9.4
8. Germany 6.8
9. Italy 6.0
10. England 5.6
It is a strange historical fact that Norway also published the satirical drawings of Muhammad from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. To conclude, in my mind, Denmark is not only xenophobic but also relatively xenophobic…
However, I also want to make the following completely clear: Liberty of expression is fundamental to our society. And I resent fanaticism in any form.
Concerning the cartoons mentioned earlier (and which are not really directly related to the question of how xenophobic Denmark is), there is a large amount of stupidity on both sides (for example has Prophet Muhammad been depicted several times earlier in history, both in the Western and the Arab world, see here, and therefore the question can not just be about depicting Prophet Muhammad; my guess is that it is much more about frustration and internal political conflicts). The question is not about the Prime Minister acting against freedom of expression. And the question should not, I think, be about politics (I don’t like mixing up religion with politics even though that might be impossible in principle). The question is about respecting other peoples beliefs – even though maybe only 0.0001% of the people demonstrating against Denmark have actually seen those satirical drawings…
Update: The origins of xenophobia in Denmark are analyzed by a Danish historian at Random Platitudes (this is, by the way, an excellent blog).