Europe Adopts The Danish Model

News is coming in that France Soir and Germany’s Die Welt have now reprinted the Danish cartoons from Jyllands-Posten. From the freedom of Speech point of view there is no doubt that they have every right to do this, whether the action is well- or ill-advised is obviously another matter altogether. I guess we are about to find out.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

109 thoughts on “Europe Adopts The Danish Model

  1. Say via education, a strict application of civil rights (to emancipate immigrant women, in particular) and a campaign of secularization not unlike some of the French model.

    This could well be counterproductive: if state education becomes viewed among religionists (of whatever creed) as a secularist indoctrination camp, then they may well respond by keeping their children out of state schools. You can of course make state education compulsory, but if police action is needed to get children to school in the first place, one may well question how effective that schooling is going to be.

  2. Robert,

    Again the French model (I think)… resolutely secular public (not in the British sense!) schools with private schools tolerated but not subsidised in any way, and all schools obliged to satisfy a state-set pedagogic curiculum.

  3. “Whom will the Iranian trade go to, if economic relations with Europe are severed?”

    Here Oliver you are raising a fascinating question. As you can see, some are more reticent than others to see the dossier arrive at the UN security council. Iran will want to sell petroleum, and some will still want to buy if others don’t. Some will also want to sell them technology and weaponry. We will see better as this unfolds.

    I imagine the ‘inspection of contracts’ which could lead Iran to stop selling oil to France and other EU destinations is simply anticipating the boycott, and trying to draw some of its teeth in advance.

  4. “He wants to see ‘un Islam de France parce que je refuse l’Islam en France’ He wants to see French Imams, trained in France, speaking French, educated in French universities, imbued with French cultural values, and preaching in Mosques administered by French officials, so that the French state knows what’s going on in them.”

    This is very interesting, and you may well be right. It would be the old Russian model as operated in the context of the orthodox church. But if this is the ambition then surely it is bound to fail. Those who are really interested in their religion are only *more* likely to be attracted to the “authentic version” in this context, while those who are moving away from this will hardly be attracted to a Western ‘state’ version of their religion. They will want more control over their affairs rather than less.

    But then, was Desmond Tutu a tame lap-dog of Margaret Thatcher?

    In other words, either the Sarkozy initiative will be a real move towards the UK model, or it will end up like minitel.

  5. Dave

    This is an interesting debate. I think there are no easy answers. I realise you are looking for a serious and meaningful way forward, but I see difficulties.

    “and the only European country I can think of that has clearly come down on the side of anti-multiculturalism (to coin a term) is France”

    OK, I don’t know enough about all the EU countries, but this seems more or less right to me, since the French do have a special model of their own.

    “In the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the Scandinavian countries, even Spain and Italy, regardless of official policies, the result has been a studied governmental “hands-off” on cultural and — especially — religious matters.”

    Yes, again you may be right. I can only clearly talk about Spain, and that is the case here, but I think this is just the point, multi-culturalism is a hands-on approach. Let me go to a point Oliver made:

    “I am afraid from the triplet of Separation of Church and State, Equality before the Law and Multiculturalism you can have your pick of two elements, but you can’t have all three.”

    I’m not sure whether Oliver is right here, but I think he is in the right ballpark. Multi-culturalism implies some recognition of collective identities and collective rights (what they call at the UN the third generation human rights concept) and this clearly conflicts with the idea of formal equality before the law as it is seen, say, in Denmark.

    That this point has nothing to do with religion is evidenced in Spain with the recent notoriety which the debate about the Catalan statute attracted. The reason people don’t want to have Catalonia declared a nation isn’t because the Catalans would then want to be independent. This argument is simply silly. The reason is – and Mariano Rajoy, who is the leading opponent of the statute, is often absolutely clear on this – that it would involve the recognition of collective rights, that all “Spaniards” would no longer be equal before the law, since some citizens would have rights as “Spanish” and “Catalan” while others would have rights only as “Spanish”. ie it is the principal of formal equality before the law which is challenged in some people’s minds.

    John is also clear on this, since it is communalism more than anything else which he seems to see as the issue.

    Now in my mind it is hardly a coincidence that the UK moved more and more in the direction of a “hands on” cultural model at the same time as parliaments were created for Wales and Scotland since the underlying issues are the same. England, it will be noted, has no parliament.

    Does this mean that the rule of law doesn’t operate in the Uk. Does it mean that the UK is no longer a full democracy? I hardly think so. It is simply a recognition that (wo)man is a rational animal with feelings.

    Something similar could apply in Denmark. You could have “Danish” and “Muslims” as two implicit sets, with some people belonging to both of them, and some only to one. Fluidity, flexibility, this I think is what we need. This is an evolving situation. With the passage of generations most of this can resolve itself, what I think it is interesting to do is to try and not waste so much energy on internicine strife in the meantime.

    “It may be utopian, but it is a lot better than abandoning millions of immigrants to the nefarious sway of 7th-century demagogues.”

    I don’t think that is the alternative Dave. A lot of attention has been focused on the small group of terrorist sympathisers who demonstrated in London last weekend. I think the interesting thing is how few there were. The vast majority of UK muslims find this sort of thing absolutely abhorrent.

    Incidentally, I find it curious how so many people have noticed that the reactions to the Danish cartoons in the muslim world display a strong lack of appreciation of the Danish system and how it works, while so few have commented on the fact that a lot of the international press coverage of the London demonstration reveals an equal lack of understanding of the British system and how *it* works. If the demonstration was permitted this was in all probability a police decision. If the home secretary was involved in the decision he would have been paying pretty careful attention to police advice. Security questions are more important than political ones here.

    That the police allowed the demonstration could have a coherent explanation in my opinion: that they thought it better to get these people out in the open and see who they were, despite the political backlash this would inevitably attract. Hasn’t everyone heard, there is systematic video surveillance in the UK? And the UK isn’t, say, Syria, were it isn’t possible to diistinguish between police decisions and political ones.

    “As well, of course, it also meant that governments could conveniently ignore their (moral, social and financial) responsibilities in doing the truly hard work of integrating foreigners.”

    I think this is being really unfair on the UK, where a tremendous amount of work and effort has gone into this. More, I think, than anywhere else in Europe. Just try switching on the TV and see who is presenting what.

    “a reluctance to actively “shape” immigrants into citizens.”

    Well it depends what you mean by citizens, and what you mean by shaping I suppose. Everyone is supposed to go to school, and this is where the majority of the ‘shaping’ (or Bildung) takes place.

    Now you will undoubtedly say, that’s just it, that’s where the problem lies. But again there are more tensions, since in the UK there are private and charitable schools, and there is the idea of parental freedom of choice. And if you deny these you also have civil rights issues. So you need to encourage, say, Muslim parents (who will often be more conservative here than their children, and possibly in particular the fathers) to send their children to a state school and not to a religious ghetto, especially when the teachers in the ghetto may be Salafis trained in Saudi.

    So I see a lot of difficulties with this:

    “Say via education, a strict application of civil rights (to emancipate immigrant women, in particular) and a campaign of secularization not unlike some of the French model.”

    This is the whole point. Part of this is what I don’t agree with (say the headscarfe issue in France) and on the issue of civil rights, as the Pope himself has recently pointed out there are two sometimes conflicting rights here: that of freedom of speech, and that of freedom of religious expression and to practice your religion without offense.

    Basically I think sometimes prohibiting something (look at smoking and adolesence, indeed think about adolesence in general) makes it more attractive on occasion. It is much more interesting to get people to decide for themselves to give something up, and create an environment which is conducive to that change. ie, use more carrot and less stick.

  6. to practice your religion without offense

    There is no such thing. You may practice your religion freely within the limits of other people’s rights. Your religion as such is not protected.
    The European tradition is to protect people and their choice of religion, but not religions and their people.

  7. “You may practice your religion freely within the limits of other people’s rights.”

    Well the 1948 UN Charter says the following:

    Article 18

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

    Article 19

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    Since some people interpret their manifestation of their “religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance” to include not using certain images and representations these two articles may be thought by them to collide. Hence the present debate. I don’t think this issue is limited only to islam.

    Today the big debate on the Catalan statute will start in earnest in the Madrid parliament. As I write this there is a debate on TV about many of these issues, but this time in the context of language use.

  8. Since some people interpret their manifestation of their “religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance” to include not using certain images and representations these two articles may be thought by them to collide. Hence the present debate. I don’t think this issue is limited only to islam.

    That would logically allow every deed. We couldn’t ban polygamy and we’d have to ban payment of interest. In fact, how would you ban human sacrifice it it came to that? What would stop me from writing my own holy book as I saw fit? This path quickly leads to madness and utter chaos.

  9. So much understanding and interpretation in one place…

    Like Frans, I am getting angrier by the day.

    What you don’t seem to understand is that it doesn’t matter whether you come up with a solution or not. I doesn’t matter how sincere the apologies from the Danish government or others are, or how diligently the diplomatic cors swarms out to heal wounds and negotiate. There is now a critical mass of rage – angry young men – in the countries mentioned above, which has been growing for years. This silly incident just serves their self-justification.

    If the Spiegel is correct in their article from this week (not on-line I think) the initiator of the cartoons in Denmark, an old leftist, resident in an Copenhagen area where Danes are the minority, wanted to prove a point. He had experienced difficulties in finding someone to draw Mohammed for a book project and was irritated by the apparent taboo, so decided to see if there would be any willing cartoonists for a set of cartoons for the newspaper. Many turned the task down, but a few said yes. Maybe the newspaper thought this would be a nice little provocation and maybe the pictures aren’t al that funny. That’s is not the point though.

    We all know that it can be quite dangerous to joke with islam. I wouldn’t do it, my life is dear to me. But the fact is in itself offensive. How much understanding can there be? When is it time to let go of the notion that it’s possible to discuss rationally with fundamental monotheists? (Yes, this is not solely an islam problem.) Do you want to spend the rest of this century wondering what is next? Admittedly, I foresee this is what will happen, whether we want it or not. We can’t change this maelstrom. It’s beyond our control. But we can at least keep some dignity.

    This is not the time to apologize and retract. This is the time to, calmly and consistently, refuse to give up one inch of the critical enlightenment’s insights. That goes for this case as well as for other home-made strikes against what is inarguably the free-est society in history – not that it’s perfect and not that there isn’t much to critisize. Yet I would take it any time over a religious patriarchy.

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