Now is when History is Written
By Lars Hedegaard, Historian and Journalist, Copenhagen
The intransigence of the continuing Muhammed-debate shows that the combatants are painfully aware of what’s at stake. Posterity will ask a simple question: “On whose side were you when it mattered?” Says today’s feature writer.
Shortly after the travelling Imams had been to the Middle-East to spread lies about the country that had received them, it was said that the case of the Muhammed-cartons would enter Danish press history.
When news of demonstrations, boycotts, flag-burnings and embassy torchings started to dominate the media, most agreed that September 30th - the day Jyllands-Posten published the famous cartoons - would enter Danish history as the start of the most serious international crisis since the occupation [ED: of Denmark by Germany]. And following the last days’ undiminished international press interest and the involvement of several of the world’s foremost organisations and players, it is probably reasonable to conclude that “The Battle of Khartoon” - as witty foreign commentators have taken to calling it - has taken on the shape of an event in world history.
After the cartoons, the world will never be as it was. The same was true of the Rushdie-affair which exploded in 1989, but the Muhammed-affair will leave yet deeper marks.
Many wish for a return to normalcy - and others are busy finding the guilty, someone to blame for how badly things went. Even a rather sleepy politician such as Bendt Bendtsen has suddenly emerged from hibernation and concluded that it would probably be wise to investigate the residence permits of certain Imams. That is so novel, especially since the Danish People’s Party has long ago suggested the same thing and were then met only by yawns from the Government coalition.
But this unheard-of activism shows exactly how massive an event we are facing. Historical events are things politicans and persons involved with culture, the press, opinion formation and organisations have to relate to. If for no other reason, then for reasons of history. If you’re seen to be sitting on the fence while the world burns about your cradle, that is seen as a statement too. So it was seen by posterity as a statement that many Danish politicians and pillars of the community during the first years of the occupation hid behind their doors and hoped for the storm to pass.
Speaking of which, the parallel to the time of the occupation becomes still more striking. The enemy has yet to have troops in-country - not many at least - but when all the fuss and the increasingly embarrasing excuses are weeded out - things the establishment excells at - the matter is very simple: Foreign powers and their local agents are trying to yoke a liberty which most of Denmark takes for granted - the right to speak freely, answerable only to the courts.
All the talk the appeasers have put up about showing restraint to sensitive religious people, seems to have run off the populace as water off a goose — if the latest polls are to be believed.
There are several reasons for this:
Firstly, many have wondered that only the most loud-mouthed of the Moslems have the right to not be mocked and ridiculed. There’s certainly no such right for any other part of the populace.
Secondly, the violent methods of the Moslem activists have made it clear to anyone with eyes to see with and the will to do so, that it is not the merits of the arguments that have made so many Danish appeasers accept limits on Freedom of Speech, no, it is threats and violence.
The calls on the public from former foreign secretaries, the have-been ex-ambassadors, the appeasing bishops, the writers and others have an eerie reminescense of King Christian X’s proclamation after the occupation of April 9, 1940 “During these for our country so troubled times, I urge all the people of Denmark to be fully correct and diginified in their behaviour, since any uncautious act or utterance may have the most severe repercussions.”
Are not these the same words we hear today - demands to not make uncautios utterances - not because they are unlawful, but because foreign lords will not tolerate them? And these demands are made at a time where the Moslem part of the population is still only somewhere between 4 and 5 percent. How much freedom will be left, I wonder, in 10, 15 or 20 years? The sheer horror of a life of serfdom has begun to spread amongst the people and this is where we see the explanation for the massive displacements of voters we have seen the last few weeks.
While most politicians of the opposition have been busy with: meetings the Prime Minister should have accepted, semantic discussions of single words of a document, the sales of Arla in the Arab world, interpretations of the real intentions of Kofi Annan and so on, the people of Denmark have asked themselves another more basic question: Who is on our side when it comes to defending Danes against bondage and serfdom to foreign powers?
It may seem primitive and old-fashioned to the relativists and globalisation-hippies who basically think that there is nothing here to defend, that it is all about opening up this country to foreign influence to the greatest extent. Nevertheless, that is what the People thinks and the opinion of the People is a bitch in a democracy.
That is why it has become so important to understand who are the sheep and who the goats. Because this is where the waters part and your actions in this situation will follow you for the rest of your life and in history books thereafter. Many of the most educated combattants know this very well.
That is why this conflict has become so intransigent. You have to win because the winner is the one who writes history. That is why the articles in Politiken are becoming still more desperate and that is why the politicians are now delivering statements so clear that they cannot be misunderstood.
History vil show not a sliver of sympathy to the half-hearted, who with reservations, buts, and woolly mouths have been evading the issue.It will ask the same questions of today’s players as it did of the British political establishment when it was faced with the challenge of Nazism in the 1930s: Who failed when it mattered? Who stood up for democracy and Freedom and who called for appeasement, dialogue and sweet understanding for the dictators?
Having lost the battle for popular support in Denmark, the defeated try to threaten the People into submission with references to the wrath of foreign lords. They say Denmark’s reputation at large has suffered irreperable damage, that we are scoffed at, that we are despised for not accomodating our society to the forces that have destroyed all hope for a better future for the Middle East and have condemned the region to permanent underdevelopment.
Some of these foreign-fixated opinion-formers are apparently truly distressed at Denmark’s choice and their public statements have the mark of desperation on them.
That is probably the case for former foreign minister Uffe Elleman-Jensen who in a column printed in the Pakistani newspaper New Times of Lahore on February 19, having referred to the “Prophet Muhammed” (capital P for the prophet), adds “peace be upon him”.
But perhaps it is the editor who wrote that without consulting Ellemann? Perhaps it is also the editor of the New Times who spoke of the “Holy Koran” (capital H for holy)?
If that is the case, the shrewd old journalist Uffe Ellemann-Jensen has shown considerable negligence to leave his manuscript in the hands of a newspaper that allows such editorial discretion.
Another interpretation could be that he is placating and kow-towing to the powerholders of a country where little girls are decapitated for not wearing a Moslem scarf.
The rest of us have to feel comforted by the fact that the Muhammed-affair has shown that Denmark has many more friends and admirers than we have ever dreamed of: Mario Vargas Llosa, Lee Harris, Mark Steyn, Christopher Hitchens, Bruce Bawer. Pavel Kohout, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Bat Ye’or, André Glucksmann, Ibn Warraq, Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen and many more.
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