Thursday, February 16, 2006

Danish PM wants to Downplay Importance of Religion in Denmark

The Danish Prime Minister (PM) Anders Fogh Rasmussen was interviewed on the national public service TV channel on wednesday night. Here he expressed the view that religion has become a too dominant force in public debate in Denmark. "It will threaten social cohesion", he said. The PM is clearly under a lot of pressure due to the Mohammed drawings, and this is his way of striking back.

His views on the role of religion has united the dominant religions in Denmark, the Lutheran state church, the Muslim religious communities, the Jewish community and the Catholics. Leaders of the religious communities have critizised these viewpoints and said that a precondition for social cohesion in a society is that people are free to express their religions also in the public space.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is a liberal, market economy oriented politician. It is difficult to create social cohesion in society with such values. Dancing around the gilded cow has seldom created social cohesion in itself.
The biggest problem for Anders Fogh Rasmussen, however, is the fact that he has made himself an easy target for accusations of "islamophobia", because he gets parliamentary support for his minority government from the right-wing Danish People's party. This has led to the toughest asylum and integration laws in Europe. A lot of young Danish couples of mixed nationalities working in Copenhagen have settled just across the Sound in Malmoe Sweden to escape the tough immigration laws that makes it impossible for people under 24, who are married to Danes, to get residence permits. The bridge across the Sound is called the "love bridge" in the popular vernacular.
Because of this parliamentary coalition Denmark has cut back drastically on development assistance programs to poorer countries. And Denmark is a member of the coalition waging war in Iraq.
Under previous governments Denmark worked in close cooperation with governments and even national liberation movements in the third world to foster development through support for development programs. Denmark was one of the countries that took the initiative to boycott South Africa under apartheid. Now Denmark participates with the US, Britain and Australia in a rather doubtful Western crusade for "freedom and democracy". Danish cartoonists have portrayed Anders Fogh Rasmussen as a puppy being patted on the head by Mr. Bush.
This is giving the Fogh Rasmussen government a rather tarnished image in the non-Western world, - and even in parts of the Western world as well. The cartoons crisis probably has to be seen in this perspective too. It is not only about religion. Anders Fogh Rasmussen must address this complex issue if he wants to solve the crisis in the long run.


Anonymous A Dane said...

Well even though the foreign support from Denmark has been cut somewhat, we are still one of the countries that gives the most foreign aid in relation to our GDP.

I would agree with out PM on this, Religion should be kept interely out of the governing process. besides I believe his comment was mostle attributed to the fact that there has been too much focus on this case in the media and public debate, so other things may have been neglected.

1:58 AM  

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