“Spineless European politician” is such a common image that an author can safely omit the first word if under a word-count crunch. So it is definitely newsworthy when the Prime Minister of Denmark shows some serious spine, by standing up to the world of howling Muslim street thugs. His country deserves our support.
In case you’ve been in a cocoon for the last two weeks, the Muslim world is in an uproar over some cartoons published in a minor Danish newspaper last September. These cartoon protesters remind me of street gangs. Angry young men sauntering around the ‘hood, (that’s street talk for “neighborhood”) daring somebody to diss (that’s street talk for “disrespect”) them. You ‘diss me, you die. Great. The whole Muslim world has decided that thugs are the emissaries of its civilization.
What do you do when confronted with a gang of angry teen-aged boys? If you are an old person, you hide. If you are a woman with small children, you protect yourself and your children as best you can and hope that an armed adult man shows up to deal with them.
Europe is filled with cowering old people. The vast majority of the industrialized world is acting like a bunch of women with small children.
But the little giant of Denmark has decided to stand up to them.
According to the Washington Post, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has publicly said he was sorry that the cartoons had offended Muslims. But he has steadfastly refused to apologize for their publication, because, “neither the government nor the Danish people can be held responsible for what is published in an independent newspaper.” Rasmusssen continued, “I think freedom of expression is the safeguard of all other freedoms. I consider freedom of expression the most important freedom of all.”
It takes guts for a tiny country like Denmark to confront the fury of the entire Muslim world. Muslim protestors have burned and destroyed Danish flags. Western embassies in Beirut, Damascus and Tehran have been attacked. A Catholic priest was murdered in Turkey. And protests of European Muslims have featured calls for “a real Holocaust” on the West. Editorial boards of major newspapers that didn’t shed a tear over “Piss Christ” getting government funding, are now dithering with feigned horror over offending religious sensibilities of Muslims.
Meanwhile, a country slightly smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire combined, with a population of 5.4 million, about the size of Miami, carries the flag for an uncensored, independent media.
Rasmussen has refused to support an idea floated by top EU officials that the EU should adopt a voluntary code of conduct for the press. And, he takes in stride the fact that he has been the subject of unflattering cartoons and altered photos. “I don’t feel offended– that’s part of the game. As a politician, I am used to caricatures.”
He was less cheerful about the economic boycott that has damaged many Danish companies with significant business in the Middle East. According to a New York Times News Service story, Rasmussen said, “attempts to gain commercial advantage at Denmark’s expense had struck at the heart of all Danes.” Preliminary estimates suggest that Danish industries have lost more than $55 million in sales in the Middle East in the opening week of the cartoon controversy.
A Washington Post story indicated that Danish dairy industries which have spent decades establishing themselves in the Middle East are seeing their businesses collapse. Arla Food, a dairy company which produces cheeses and flavored yogurt drinks in Riyadh, estimates that they have lost about $1.7 million per day since January 28.
Even children come into stores in the Middle East and ask whether something is a Danish product. “We can’t bear anybody cursing our prophet,” one sixth-grader was quoted as saying. A store owner who supports the boycott, even though he has lost about 5% of his revenue, said, “The problem these European countries have now is with the Islamic giant, and they should think about who they mess with.”
Ooo! I’m scared now. Some little shopkeeper in the West Bank has me shivering. The Islamic world is gigantic only in terms of numbers of people willing to go out into the street making fools of themselves. If you’re looking for an economic boycott, I don’t think I’ll get too worried about losing the vast purchasing power the Muslim world, kept impoverished by their corrupt leaders.
Last I checked, Americans buy things also. We should show some support for our Danish friends who are sticking their necks out for an uncensored media. We might not be able to help a local Danish dairy that is set up to do business in the Middle East. But we can check the labels in our own supermarkets and make a point of buying Danish cheese, yogurt, hams and those little butter cookies that come in the blue tins.
And we could have American children asking for what is probably their favorite Danish product of all: Legos. That’s right. Lego is a Danish family-held company. Were you thinking of donating a set of Duplos to your children’s pre-school? Now would be a good time. Could your office use a Lego Table for the waiting room? Now would be a good time. Can your kids use another Lego set? (And honestly, can’t they always use more Legos?) Now would be a good time. As for me, I’ll be looking for an excuse to take the kids to LegoLand soon.
And we can call, write or e-mail the Danish embassy in Washington D.C. to show our solidarity with the Danish people.
We are all Danes now.
You can contact the Embassy of Denmark, here:
3200 Whitehaven St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: +1 (202) 234-4300
Fax: +1 (202) 328-1470