The Danish Ugly Duckling and the Mohammed Cartoons

An anlysis of the Mohammed Danish cartoons and of the Muslim immigrant society in Denmark, by Dr. Holm, of the Danish Institute for International Studies.

The government’s difficulties in handling the current row over cartoons is linked to the Danish perception of state and nation: The Danish state being seen as an arche-type of a nation-state and the Danish nation being defined as an ethnic imagined community whose cultural survival is guaranteed by the state, which through the formulation of laws takes care of the cultural assimilation of immigrants into Danish cultural values. The concept of cultural homogeneity is thus the most important definitional element in the construction of the Danish nation.

However, the fact that around 250.000 immigrants – especially from Muslim countries - are now living in Denmark (the Danish population is 5.3 million), challenges the concept of the Danish nation-state based on cultural homogeneity. Suddenly it seems that the Danes have discovered that the younger generation of Muslim immigrants consciously challenges the cultural homogeneity of the nation – state.

Some sections of the Danish population (part of the Social Democratic Party, part of the Conservative and Liberal Parties, the whole extreme Right and part of the extreme Left) consider the criticism of the cartoons by some Muslim organisations as a confirmation of all Muslims’ lack of will to assimilation. This perception is now challenged by many Muslims who both criticize the conservative Muslim organisations as well as the Danish government. They wish to find a way out of the binary constructed discursive order: Cultural Danes against cultural Muslims. Secular Danes against religious Muslims. Democratic Danes against undemocratic Muslims. This movement has gained support from many ethnic Danes too; Demonstrations, new websites, conferences, petitions, open letters to the government flourish for the time being. The impact of the publication of the cartoons may now reconstruct what Danish identity is all about.

All school kids have read the fairy tale the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. It belongs to the national literary heritage. From childhood on, Danes learn that Denmark is a cosy and peaceful agricultural corner. It might appear at first glance that Danes are ugly because they have too big heads, but with age they learn how to behave gracefully and civilized. The fairy tale tells the Danes that they grow up to ‘swim’ even better than other swans. This perception is linked to a vision of the Danish state-nation being more democratic than other nation-states due to the welfare state and tradition of political anti-elitism and egalitarianism. Danish governments therefore consider it a moral right to exercise influence beyond the Danish borders.

This self-perception is however shattered now because the Danish state-nation did not take into consideration that other state-nations and other societies do not consider Danish foreign policies as the best policies in the world.

Source: Danish Institute for International Studies (English)

1 comment:

Kleinverzet said...

OMG, what a piece of PC drivel. Again it's all the Danes fault. This made me laugh, though:

"Danish embassies in Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon and Iran, have been set on fire and the staff has been threatened. As a consequence, the embassies have been evacuated and Denmark is no longer represented in these important Muslim countries.

These events should be seen in the light of the fact that Danish governments are not used to being heavily criticised"

So, Danish embassies have been burnt to the ground and Danish nationals were threatened and now the embassies are empty because those touchy Danes can't take a bit of constructive criticism?