Since last September, the Danish society has been immersed in a hot debate due to a number of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. The drawings, however, are the result of the intimidation that some artists feel about Islam, considered a threat to freedom of speech. During the debate, quite a few commentators got surprised and even, they amused with the reaction of the Muslim community without understanding why it was so particular in view of a classic anti-religious joke, as it also happens with the rest of religions.
But from the Muslim point of view, long before this controversy, there was already a sense of unease about the way in which Danish Muslims and their religious submission were represented in the media. The most disseminated image by the Danish media is that of an Islam which did not experience a reform as it happened with Christianity and which, therefore, is still in the Middle Age. The issue of the caricatures is perceived, then, as the fulfilment of several years of persecution of different kinds of the Danish Muslim minority.
The role played by politicians is even worse. The political class, whether aware or not, felt that all Muslims are immigrants, they do not get to integrate in our country, and therefore, they are the source of everything that does not work in society. Most Danish Muslims have been living here for more than 40 years. Many of them were born here, but they are still called “immigrants of second or third generation”. Even the native Danish, converted to Islam, are called by some politicians (and not only by xenophobic extremists) “substitute immigrants”. A politician of the majority in power dared to compare them with the Nazis and suggested very seriously that they had to be watched by the police, and that their religion posed a threat to society. Another left-wing politician compared Muslims to cancer, while the deputies put forward a law for the criminals who were not “ethnically Danish” be isolated or exiled with their whole families.
The fact that Danish politicians can come up with such statements pretending they are raising the flag of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights, is a flagrant symptom of public moral degeneration in Denmark. I think that many Danish Muslims will end up emigrating to other European countries where prejudices are less violent – a great number of intellectuals and graduated from our society have already left, and others will not hesitate to follow them if they have the opportunity. Those who would leave will be the ones who have an intellectual and economic background to do it. Those who stay would be the non-skilled with a lower degree. That would only confirm the Muslims’ vision as a horde of louts without education, who are a burden for the social system. _Our responsibility now and forever will be that of contributing to the functioning of a multi-ethnic society. In this context, the lack of mutual consideration among Danish people when we fail to express ourselves publicly is a threat to pacific coexistence. I hope that we will be able to deal with our points of view less violently in the future and avoid the extremes. Freedom of speech has a price: responsibility.

Daily Star (Lebanon)

Something rotten in the state of Denmark”, by Zubair Butt Hussain The Daily Star, January 10, 2006.