Denmark: Nationalist leader says Danish identity under threat from Muslim immigrants

Raving xenophobe or fearless defender of Danish values?

Nationalist leader Pia Kjaersgaard's anti-Muslim outbursts have earned her many labels — and many votes.

Despite predictions of her populist Danish People's Party's demise, Kjaersgaard remains a powerful force in domestic politics after winning 14 percent of the vote in last week's election.

"The most important thing for the Danish People's Party is to maintain the Danish identity," Kjaersgaard, 60, told The Associated Press in an interview.

"I am convinced that the Islamists want to sneak Sharia (Islamic law) through the back door, that they want to combat Western society and they want Islam to become the main religion," she said.

Her party — Denmark's third biggest — has held the role of kingmaker since 2001, giving the center-right government the backing it needs for a majority in Parliament.

In return, Kjaersgaard has been able to press the government to adopt some of Europe's strictest immigration laws, which she says have been instrumental in stemming the inflow of Muslims with radical views.

There are an estimated 200,000 Muslims among Denmark's 5.4 million residents.

"The individual Muslim has never been a problem for Danish society. But their number has," Kjaersgaard told AP in her office, decorated with Danish flags and paintings depicting Danish landscapes.

To emphasize her point, she said she shops at a grocery store owned by a Turkish Kurd who respects Danish laws and culture.

"He has a lot of great stuff — fruits, vegetables — and he's a good friend of mine," Kjaersgaard said.

The flow of asylum-seekers has dropped by 84 percent since Denmark tightened its immigration laws in 2001. There is now broad agreement across party lines to maintain the system.

But critics say the Danish People's Party has polarized Danish society by bashing Islam and stereotyping immigrants as welfare cheats.

"She is a scare-mongering populist and opportunist," said Holger K. Nielsen of the left-wing opposition Socialist People's Party. He added Kjaersgaard was a skillful politician who has tapped into undercurrents of nationalism and worries over immigration among Danes.

During last year's uproar over Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Kjaersgaard and other leading party members took turns blasting Islam as incompatible with Danish traditions including free speech.

Ahead of the Nov. 13 election, one of the party's campaign posters showed an artist's hand drawing a picture of Muhammad, with the text "Freedom of speech is Danish, censorship is not."

"Sometimes I wonder what other people think about me — 'is she a monster?'" Kjaersgaard conceded in a moment of introspection. "I need to brush these things off, otherwise I will go down."

Kjaersgaard, who lives with round-the-clock police protection, quickly added she has no regrets about anything she has said.

She rejects accusations of racism and comparisons to far-right parties across Europe such as the National Front in France.

"There is nothing racist about what I have said, I know that. I have a clean conscience," she said. "My driving force is the love for my home country. ... I want Denmark to be a safe and good and cozy nation that has a good relationship to the rest of the world."

When asked if she thought Islam can contribute to Danish society in any way, she replied: "I don't think so at all."

Source: International Herald Tribune (English)


Anonymous said...

I'll jump in here and comment ahead of the coming Little Green Footballs smear campaign against Pia and register my support.

"What do these people bring to the table?" is a perfectly valid question to ask.

VinceP1974 said...

I wish we had politicians in our country (the USA) like this lady. She kicks ass.

Anonymous said...

I think Islam doesn't have to contribute to have a place, but if its followers don't improve their collective track record then they can't complain if they are targetted. However, there is never a reason to be a collectivist, and I think that the racism of the host countries create the kind of segregation no new population can react constructively to, be they muslim or not.

Anonymous said...

When a person decides to immigrate to another country they are saying "I want to be there, I want that." Whether it be a conscious decision or not, an immigrant has chosen to become a part of another culture with a different set of values. Yes they are called to add to it and make it better, but they have to respect what was already established.

It would be like going to a car dealership and demanding they sell you a boat. Nobody in their right mind would do that, and nobody would tolerate it.

Yes we should all hold onto our cultural heritage (mine happens to be Celtic-German) but we can do it in a synergistic way.

And I believe part of the western world's fear of islam is not a lack of understanding. On the contrary it seems everyone knows the teachings of Muhammed. But while the scholars and certain leaders claim that Islamic tradition doesn't support terrorism or radical Islam. But the rest of the world sees no public outcry against terrorists and radicals, the people of Iraq are not handing over terrorists by the dozens, Pakistani villagers are not chasing out the immams who pervert justice, and we see that and think "why aren't they stopping it? they must be for it."

For example, when radical Christian groups started bombing and assasinating abortion clinics and workers, a majority of the Christian churches quickly denounced those groups and distanced themselves from it. This doesn't appear to be the case in the Islamic world, and that leads people to equate all of Islam, if not with terrorism directly, then at least to being sympathizers.

That is what I think the Islamic world needs to do, to shake itself of the negative association by actively seeking out justice, publicly condemning and criticizing, and turning terrorists over to the authorities.