October 27, 2005

Danish, Not Dhimmi

In contrast to Tony Blair, whose first action after the murderous London Transport bombings in July was to conjure up a panel of Islamic “advisors” – including Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens) – to tell him where we’re going wrong, Denmark’s prime minister has just given Islamic haters of free speech a hint of why Denmark has survived as a democracy for over a thousand years.

A group of ambassadors assigned to Copenhagen from 11 Islamic countries requested a meeting with Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen to protest their offence at depictions of Mohammad appearing in a Danish newspaper. But even the ever-trusty emotive phrase “smear campaign in the media” failed to move the cool Mr Rasmussen and he declined to grant them a meeting.

Think about it. He wasn’t turning down self-promoters on the level of Blair’s British-born Islamic “advisors”; he was refusing a meeting with 11 accredited ambassadors.

Islam proscribes pictures of Mohammad and there is an apparent desire to extend this ban to the Danish press. Prime Minister Rasmussen just said no. In refusing to give the ambassadors an appointment, Mr Rasmussen said: “This is a matter of principle. I won't meet with them because it is so crystal clear what principles Danish democracy is built upon that there is no reason to do so.

“As prime minister, I have no power whatsoever to limit the press – nor do I want such a power. It is a basic principle of our democracy that a prime minister cannot control the press.”

As Rudyard Kipling wrote in another context, “once you start paying the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.” Or in this case, Muslim demands for concessions.

Hat tip: Dhimmiwatch.org.

Posted by Verity at October 27, 2005 07:55 AM

Good for the Danes.

I recall that when the Nazis ordered the Jews of occupied Denmark to put on the yellow star of David, the King of Denmark put one on, as well.

They seem to have a knack for knowing where the lines must be drawn.

Posted by: Lex at October 27, 2005 08:51 AM

Has Denmark been a democracy for over a thousand years? That would be about the time of the Danegeld. I'd be interested to read your definition of democracy.

Posted by: Helen at October 27, 2005 09:33 AM

Helen - By "democracy" I didn't mean today's formal version. But the Scandinavians have governed by concensus for at least a thousand years and their parliaments developed from everyone sitting around talking and agreeing on things, as you know. Iceland's Althingi was founded in 930. I didn't want to get too wordy and explicatory when the point was the Danish prime minister's refusal to pay today's version of Danegeld.

Posted by: Verity at October 27, 2005 09:48 AM

Well, I think you should get a little wordier. After all, consensus is not precisely what most of us mean by democracy, a term that needs to be defined quite carefully just now with all that is going on in Europe, never mind the rest of the world. I agree about the Danegeld (having quoted that line myself a few times) in its modern manifestation.

Posted by: Helen at October 27, 2005 10:25 AM

I knew that comment would get someone going. Yes, this gets us back to our old buddies, Tacitus and the forest Germans, via Montesquieu. The Danes share this tradition of tribal assemblies with the English-speaking peoples. The Icelandic assembly at Thingvellir was one example of this; the Manx parliament, the Tynwald -- a cognate word, really -- is another, that has managed to stay alive into modern times. Scandinavia managed to carry much of this tradition forward into the period of medieval constitutionalism, as did England. Downing discusses the relatively robust survival of medieval constitutionalism in Sweden into the period of bureaucratic authoritarianism on the Continent. I haven't seen a discussion of the Danish case, but clearly Denmark preserved a stronger civil society than much of the Continent despite the unfortunate imposition of Roman law.

"Democracy" is a difficult word to use meaningfully in political discussion, since it is understood so differently by different people. I always try to use "constitutional democracy", or better still, "constitutional representative government". But that gets long-winded. At any rate, the independence of mind of the Danes is no sudden phenomenon; I don't think the the Dansih prime minister's admirable response is a coincidence. It is rooted in the historical strength of Danish civil society.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at October 27, 2005 11:03 AM

Bravo. Good for the Danes.

Posted by: Michael Hiteshew at October 27, 2005 11:21 AM

Yes to everything Jim said.

I was preparing a comment along similar lines, but it got long, so I made it into the next post.

Posted by: Lex at October 27, 2005 11:43 AM

Jim writes: "I don't think the the Danish prime minister's admirable response is a coincidence. It is rooted in the historical strength of Danish civil society."

This was my point. The robust response of Denmark's prime minister to an attempt to corrupt Danish national values compared to the flaccid, ingratiating, oleaginous response of the British prime minister to a greater physical threat and a cowardly refusal to defend historic national values.

Posted by: Verity at October 27, 2005 11:51 AM

Yep. All this underlying historical discussion (which on this blog can start flying around at the drop of a hat, or a historical allusion) should not obscure Verity's basic points, with which I absolutely agree. Rasmussen is admirable, and Blair is (on the same point) pathetic. The other point is that we in the Anglosphere have a wonderful inheritance, but that doesn't mean we will automatically live up to it or maintain it. We can blow the whole thing and many are doing their best to do so.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at October 27, 2005 12:11 PM

Agree with everything Verity and Jim say about Blair. But, you know, he is a democratically elected Prime Minister and, though I did not vote for him and will not do so ever in my life, I have to accept him as the head of our government. I expect Danes felt much the same way in the Tenth Century.

Posted by: Helen at October 27, 2005 12:30 PM

"Danes felt much the same way in the Tenth Century."

I can just hear it -- "Hrothgar's supporters banged their spears on their shields much more loudly at the meeting. There is no gainsaying that fact. I'd still really prefer to ravage the coast of Ireland again this year. But I respect the process. I bow to the will of the majority of my fellows in the war-band. I will go along with the majority who prefer to seize and hold East Anglia, instead."

Posted by: Lex at October 27, 2005 03:58 PM
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