Update: Fjordman sends us this background on the article’s author:
Regarding Thomas Hylland Eriksen: He’s one of the biggest idiots in Norway, yet pops up on TV and talks about Multiculturalism and tolerance quite frequently. He’s one of those academics who will bash Western civilization every chance he gets, yet is still “respected” by some, and is leading a government sponsored project about the new Multicultural Norway.
Regular reader Phanarath has applied himself to the translation of the entire article from the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet Snällposten referenced in our earlier post. It’s a review of a book about the Motoon crisis, and the general thrust seems to be: “Denmark brought this on herself, what with all those intolerant right-wing xenophobes stigmatizing the poor innocent Muslims.”
Notice that it was written in Norse, translated into Swedish, and then into English by a Dane. You want Multiculturalism, ladies and gentlemen? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Phanarath was unable to restrain himself from interpolating comments, which I have left in the text within square brackets:
[Did anyone say “Dhimmi”? It’s Dhimmi, all right!]
Thomas Hylland Eriksen reads about the cartoon crisis
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A year ago Jyllands Posten published the caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. That led to a crisis in Denmark’s relations with several Arab countries. But it was no coincidence that the cartoon crisis happened precisely in Denmark. Thomas Jylland Eriksen has read a book on the subject.
A year has gone by since Jyllands Posten published 12 caricature drawings of Mohamed. No one thought at the time that printing these cartoons would lead to a crisis in Denmark’s relationship with several Arab Countries, violent demonstrations all the way from Nigeria to Malaysia, burned-down embassies, flag burnings, and a boycott of Danish products.
“Cartoongate”, as the cartoon crisis is called in Great Britain, reminds us that it [Pyr — Sorry; I have no idea what Pyr means, that can’t be a word, lol] among Muslims in many countries. In itself the whole thing was no big deal, and the drawings were first and foremost exploited as an opportunity to express hate and frustration with root causes in other matters.
But it was no coincidence that the cartoon crisis broke out in Denmark, if we are to believe Rune Engelbreth Larsen and Tøger Seidenfaden, who recently published a book on the matter, “The Cartoon Crisis: An examination of background and responsibility”. The book impresses with its contents as well as a wealth of details. It follows the development of the case on a day-by-day basis, and seems to include most relevant events and quotes in Denmark as well as abroad.
Larsen and Seidenfaden, both active in the public opposition, tell (föredömligt?) about the development of the situation, but their main objective is to show what a divided society today’s Denmark has become.
The government of Fogh Rasmussen, who is dependant upon support from the xenophobic Dansk Folkeparti (Danish Peoples’ Party), as is well known, dit its utmost to ignore the growing rage from the surrounding world over the drawings. Commentators from all countries, from South Africa and USA to Great Britain and Sweden, argued that freedom of speech requires responsibility.
Leading Danish Commentators (Bent Jensen, Ulrik Høy and Lars Hedegaard were among the most active in this) struck back by insisting that freedom of speech should be absolute, and that it would be a catastrophe for Denmark if considerations of Muslim sentiments were to prevent people from speaking freely.
It is not easy to take a principled stand in these matters. As Larsen and Seidenfarden points out, Jyllands Posten declined to print caricatures of Jesus some years back, because they assumed it would offend their readers. Besides, it is difficult to count cultural editor Flemming Rose among those who consider it important to prioritize dialog and compromises in order to achieve a peaceful coexistence between ethnic Danes and Muslim immigrants.
The book is a gold mine of astonishing quotes and political turnarounds among the politicians of the country. It bases its cosmopolitan recommendations on showing respect in the meeting between cultures, especially if you are the stronger side. The authors do not draw the conclusion that it should be illegal to print the cartoons, but that the cartoons fit into a rhetorical monster supported by the government and parts of the press, where the production of “enemy pictures” of Islam and Muslims is seen as a good and important thing.
According to Larsen and [Said Intifada, sorry hehe] Seidenfaden the cartoon crisis can be seen as: (1) a question about freedom of speech vs. censorship, (2) an example of religious war between the west and Islam. (3) an expression of the stigmatizing and teasing Muslims experience in Denmark. Depending on how one sees it, it is likely that one reaches different conclusions. Larsen and Seidenfaden argues that the matter can only be understood as a long-term campaign to discredit and exclude Muslims. It is a war-maximizing tactic that doesn’t bode well for a future multicultural Denmark.
As a worried reader I read their illuminating book first and foremost as a study of a deeply divided and polarized country. Those who place themselves on the different sides of the cartoon crisis are also far apart in other areas. If you read Politiken [Seidenfarden’s Newspaper] and Information you get a totally different picture of Denmark than you do if you read Jyllands Posten and Weekend-Avisen. Compared to Norway and particularly Sweden, the language here is hard and unforgiving in debates about immigration and minority questions, which have dominated the public debate in Denmark for several years now.
Several European Countries are divided along similar lines, but nowhere are they more visible then in Denmark. But the line cannot just be described as a division between cosmopolitan tolerance and nationalistic closed-mindedness.
Many of the hardest critics of Islam are neither Christian nor nationalistic but Liberals; this exemplifies what Philosopher John Grey describes as the Liberal dilemma. On the one side Liberalism is a teaching about freedom and tolerance, but on the other side it also represents a way of looking at life. Where the liberal way of looking at life ends, there the liberals’ liberalism also ends. The cosmopolitan point of view is contrary to this and bases itself on the belief that we have basically different ways of viewing the good in life and therefore looks for similarities and ways to communicate.
The cultural strife in Denmark isn’t about Islam vs. Danishness, but about the conflict between dogmatic liberalism and cosmopolitan will to compromise. The Muslim role in this changes from scapegoat to hostage to victim The Danish public should thanks its Creator for providing such farsighted Muslims as Naser Khader and Rushy Rashid, who have chosen to take a militant middle position. There is room for more.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Professor in Social Anthropology at Oslo University
Translated from Norwegian to Swedish by: Osten Roswall