Monday, March 13, 2006

Unpatriotic Danish Muslims?

According to an opinion poll among immigrants made by Catinet research for A4, a weekly newsletter of the Danish Trades Union Congress (LO), 11 per cent of Danish muslims express ”full understanding” for the burning of flags and embassies in Middle East countries. About two thirds think that the Danish prime minister should offer an unreserved apology for the Mohammed cartoons.

The poll has been responded to with some bitterness from leading Danish politicians. The minister of integration Rikke Hvilshøj asks the 11 per cent mentioned to consider, whether “Denmark is the right country for them to live in.” The minister seems surprisingly to interpret freedom of speech to have a special significance when immigrants are concerned.

Pia Kjaersgaard from the Danish People’s Party says: ”I quite simply don’t grasp that as a muslim in Denmark you can have any kind of understanding of that. Not at all. It is shocking, just as it is shocking that only two per cent say that in the actual situation they feel mostly like Danes. Many of those interviewed obviously are Danish citizens, and one can very well choose to be a muslim and a Dane at the same time”.

There are also disappointed responses from politicians from the opposition. Leader of the Social Democrats feels offended by the fact that there is not more solidarity from Danish muslims at this moment of national crisis. And the leader of the Socialist People’s party Viggo Søvndal says he is also disappointed at the lack of solidarity from immigrants. He himself feels affronted “when seeing my flag and my embassies burned off”.

It is only Marianne Jelved, leader of the social liberal Radicals who does not express disappointment or anger at the Danish Muslims after this poll, in which 843 individuals have been asked. She is also critical of the methodology applied in a poll of this kind, as the responses “are put into respondents’ mouths”. Those who make the test get the responses “they want” from the way they design the questionnaire. What the muslims mean by saying that they want an apology from the PM is that they want a PM that is also a PM for them. “They are offended at the way he has rejected the ambassadors, who referred to Radio Holger, Louise Frevert, and not only the Jyllandsposten. But they have seen how he has distorted the issue, so that it has been solely about freedom of expression. They don’t understand how Louise Frevert is allowed to call them cancer growths on her homepage, and that reverend Langballe, MP from DPP, is allowed to call them “pest over Europe” in the parliament in session. It is an affront to their self-esteem, and they call for a prime minister, who also represents them”, Marianne Jelved says.

One really must wonder at the intellectual level of Danish politicians. Or perhaps it is a kind of populism: This is the way to get the voters to vote for you: Unite yourself with the basest sentiments in the electorate. We're constantly bombarded with opinion polls, and sometimes it is quite relevant to be just a little bit critical of them. And then the lack of cultural understanding is appalling. It is only Marianne Jelved who seems to be capapble of that. Or perhaps she appeals to other segments of the electorate?

It is astonishing to see the trade union movement make this kind of unscientific opinion poll. Marianne Jelved has pointed out systematic faults in the questioning technique. And it may be added that respondents are asked about their attitude to flag and embassy burnings and boycott as one issue, instead of distinguishing between these diverse phenomena. The whole purpose seems to be sensationalistically revealing "shocking attitudes" to inflate virtuous indignation in the population at "these terrible immigrants"! It ought to be the task of the trade union movement to work for solidarity and common understanding.

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