Before the Muslim world exploded ... before the riots and the arson and the murder ... before a Danish newspaper printed 12 cartoons, Kaare Bluitgen was an author trying to find an illustrator for his biography of the Prophet Muhammad. What happened next seemed bizarre. But to others, it was almost predictable
A (somewhat long) overview of the Danish cartoon riots by Dan Gardner appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.
Rikke Hvilshoj doesn't resemble anyone's image of a bigot, but the petite, 36- year-old blond represents a government that has been accused of bigotry.
The Danish minister of refugee, immigration and integration says her government's program is far from the radical rejection of immigration and multiculturalism it has been made out to be.
"What we see is communities in Denmark that live in the Danish geography but in their minds they live in another part of the world," she says. "And that is a problem. For me, successful integration is that everyone in Danish society feels a part of the same community, that they see themselves as active citizens in this society."
That doesn't mean the end of multiculturalism, she insists. "We are not trying to assimilate people. That is not our vision. As a Liberal, as I am, we shall always respect different religions, different cultural backgrounds."
What's needed, she says, is an agreement among all Danes, whatever their faith or culture, that certain values are fundamental and must be respected. "They are not especially Danish values," she says, "but they are Western fundamental values. It's democracy. It's freedom of speech, freedom to choose your religion, or to not choose your religion, that's just as important. It's rule of law.
"And it's equality between men and women. I want to make sure Denmark is a place where there is room for different cultures, different religions, but I also have a limit."
Rikke Hvilshoj manages to hit it right on the nail. What Europe needs right now is to define its values, to decide what it is that makes European countries liberal and democratic. It's not the right to vote, it's the personal freedoms afforded each and every resident.
Source: Ottawa Citizen (English)