Magazine article Current Trends in Islamist Ideology

Something's Rotten in Denmark

Magazine article Current Trends in Islamist Ideology

Something's Rotten in Denmark

Article excerpt

In Spring 2007, I formed a new centrist-right political party in Denmark called the New Alliance. It was the first time in 15 years that a new party had been formed in my country. The New Alliance is for all Danish people, and if it hadn't been for the crisis Denmark is facing, our party might not have come into existence. Now, however, according to the latest polls, the New Alliance stands to have the final say as to whether Denmark's Prime Minister will remain in office or not.

My reasons for leaving the Social Liberal Party were many. I had long been frustrated by the naivete among my fellow party members, especially during the cartoon crisis. A lot of them condemned the Jyllands-Posten newspaper for printing the cartoons, but had a hard time condemning the overreaction to the cartoons in the Middle East. My former party represents typical European intellectual cultural relativism and naivete at its worst. Their general view goes something like this: all views are equal. In the 1980s and '90s, I shared that view, but I don't anymore.

Today I have become averse to cultural relativism. I find it old-fashioned and immature. I call those who hold such views "halal hippies," and no longer believe that all values are equal. Some values are better than others, and democratic values will always stand above the rest. To me, democracy comes before religion, because democracy includes people of all kinds, while religion and culture have a tendency to exclude people who hold a different view or lifestyle.

In Denmark they call me a "democratic fundamentalist," which I'm actually very proud of. (I even got "Democracy" tattooed in Arabic on my arm!) I am especially proud of it when it comes to fundamental democratic rights such as personal free- dorn and the right to make decisions about your own life, body, and future. My old party minimized the problems with the Muslim Brotherhood in Denmark and in the world. Their view was that if we speak out too loudly about the problems with the Brotherhood, we will instead find ourselves supporting the right wing's point of view. These naïve people did not and will not differentiate between Islam as a religion and the politics of Islamism. They have accepted the Brotherhood's point that there is only one Islam-the Muslim Brotherhood's Islam.

Something that happened in Denmark while I was in the United States last spring was the last straw in my process of leaving the party. At that time, we had a tough debate in Denmark about the Muslim headscarf, especially whether or not it is okay to sexualize little girls and force them to wear a headscarf and other Islamic clothes which limit their freedom of movement. To make the point that all values are equal, one of my then-fellow colleagues of the old party, a former minister of culture in Denmark, put on a headscarf in solidarity with Muslim women who wear the headscarf and hijab. It was an expensive designer scarf with the words "speak up" printed on it. She went so far as to be interviewed with one of Copenhagen's tourist attractions, a woman fish seller who also wears a scarf as a part of her work.

When I learned about this I was furious. For me this issue was not about selling fish. Why show solidarity with those who feel that women should cover up, who believe that women are not equal to men? I'm not in favor of banning the headscarf. My mother wears a headscarf-she chose on her own to start wearing it about 10 years ago. Like her, many women choose it freely, and that doesn't bother me. However, there are also many women who are not allowed to decide for themselves. Even little girls, not more than six years old, are forced to wear the headscarf. In making such a statement, my former colleague gave the Brotherhood and other conservatives a legitimacy they do not deserve. Afterwards, they could say to their young daughters, "You see? A former Minister of Culture agrees with us!"

I left the party after that, shaking my head in disbelief that we in Denmark had not learned anything from the cartoon crisis just a year before. …

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