Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Criticism of Danish racism record in human rights commission

(If the option is excluding muslims or Louise Frevert, we know what to do!)

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today released five new reports examining racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg and the Russian Federation. The commission is set up by the Council of Europe, an organisation that Denmark was a co-founder of in 1949. The council works with human rights matters.

The Commission report on Denmark is very critical of the racial situation in Denmark.
It expresses deep concern about the climate in Denmark having deteriorated since the Commission's second report. There is a penetrating atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia against refugees and asylum seekers, and against muslims in particular.
This corresponds to a lot of the analysis of Danish xenophobia on this blog (february-march arhive). The ECRI report puts a lot of blame on the Danish People's party and the Danish media which have spread the word. The report remarks that on several occasions members of the DPP
have made shockingly racist utterances in the media, without it having led to suspension of such members from the party. The report notes that it's the government's parliamentary dependency of the DPP that has given the latter substantial influence, so that it has been able to push through an anti-immigrant agenda and legislation that affects minority groups very hard.

Besides the report concludes that the police hesitating to prosecute the Jyllandsposten for blasphemy or violation of the racism article in the penal code and the fact that freedom of expression is given higher priority than anything else has given these politicians freedom to come with condescending statements on minority groups in the media:

ECRI notes with deep concern that the situation concerning Muslims in Denmark has worsened since its second report. ECRI has been informed that, apart from the above-mentioned discrimination that Muslims face together with other minority groups in areas such as employment, education and housing, politicians from some political parties such as the Danish People’s Party and some media continue to make incendiary remarks about Muslims. Although, in 2003, a number of cases of incitement to racial hatred in general, and against Muslims in particular were successfully prosecuted, ECRI notes that the police are generally reluctant to investigate complaints made by Muslims concerning hate speech directed against them. ECRI regrets in this regard that the lack of a strong message that would be sent by consistently prosecuting those who breach Article 266 b) of the Criminal Code has given some politicians free reign to create an atmosphere of suspicion and hatred towards Muslims. This problem is compounded by the fact that the media mostly interview those imams who express the most extreme views, thus confirming the image that is being given of Muslims as a threat to Danish society. In September 2005, with the stated intention of verifying whether freedom of speech is respected in Denmark, a widely-read Danish newspaper called on cartoonists to send in caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad; such drawings are considered to be offensive by many Muslims. This newspaper thus published 12 such cartoons, one of which portrayed the Prophet as a terrorist. The issue has caused widespread condemnation and a protest march was organised in Copenhagen as a result. The fact that, according to a survey carried out regarding the publication of these drawings, 56% of the respondents felt that it was acceptable is a testimony of the current climate in Denmark.

After reading a draft of the report the Danish government has criticised it vigorously. "This report goes right down into the litter bin", Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister said at his weekly press conference. He added that ECRI has made the report on the basis of listening to randomly selected sources. "That we cannot take seriously".


Blogger Sophia said...

Cosmic, Thanks for the post. Really interesting. I think effectively that racial prejudices ahave been let loose in the public space because of the war on terrorism. I think those politicians and those who listen to them should never forget that the majority of Muslims are against their extremists but if they see extremists on the other side (like Rasmussen) they are then afraid to talk because they will be labeled as being against their own people. I think extremist rhethoric shuts down the voices of the moderate majority and renders it null.
In that regard, Rasmussen and Co are not different from the Muslim extremists they criticize !

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Cosmic Duck said...


Rasmussen is primarily an opportunist, a kind of Danish Machiavelli. He has seen his great chance of being prime minister of Denmark for an extended period of time, because he has built this alliance with the Danish people's party and it is based on some kind of xenophobia and petty-nationalistic welfare chauvinism (welfare to ethnic Danes) that makes Danish voters feel secure. By building this alliance he has thwarted decades of social democratic rule.

But maybe he has miscalculated a bit. Tomorrow there is going to be a big demonstration in Copenhagen and all the large cities in Denmark, where trade unions and young people are going to demonstrate against his welfare cuts.

11:19 AM  

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