Sunday, July 16, 2006

Arab media: Racist Danish Queen behind the Motoons

A few weeks ago some 55.000 pages af files and documents regarding the Muhammed Crisis were declassified by the Danish Foreign ministry. As a result, journalists are now digging up stories of what really happened in the Mideast and why things got so out of hand.

This [link need subscription] is from the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, the paper that originally posted the cartoons. (My translation):

The evil Queen of the Danes

From a simple statement to misconceptions, exaggerations and direct manipulation. That is how the story was born, that in reality it was Queen Margrethe who was behind the Muhammed-cartoons.

By Kim Hundevadt and John Hansen

Queen Margrethe was the great villain behind the Dane's malicious campaign against islam and muslims, culminating with the 12 drawings of the prophet in Jyllands-Posten.

It was her who set things in motion when she, in the spring of 2005, called on her people to resist islam and oppose the country's muslim minority.

This fantastic disclosure was printed in numerous media in the islamic world when the Mohammed-crisis peaked in february with the burning of flags and embassies.

Two examples from arabic newspapers were at that time refered to in the Danish media, but documents in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which the press and the public now has gained access to, shows that the stories about the evil and islamophobic Queen of the Danes reached a far greater circulation than assumed up to now.

The stories probably also helped legitimize that the boycot-actions and demonstrations was not only targeted at the impertinent newspaper, but against an entire nation, because it was now documented that the insult came from the highest place.

It began with a small but importent error in a translation: In the book "Margrethe" published in april 2005, the Queen talked to journalist and writer Annelise Bistrup about the totalitarian side of islam, which she found frightening.

"A response must be shown and sometimes one have to take the risk of being labeled in a less flattering way. For there are some things one cannot be tolerant about", the Queen said. The first reaction from Danish muslims was actually positiv:
"That was the right thing for the Queen to say," imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen stated. "We must challenge each other on religion. There is no better way to find tolerence than by meeting one another."

However, the story was also picked up by the foreign news agencies in Denmark. Reuters made a soft translation of the Queens remark: »A certain response must be shown,« was Reuters version of the sentense. The American agency AP tightened it quite a bit: »Resistance must sometimes be shown (to religious fanatics).« But the French bureau, AFP gave it all they got: »We have to show our opposition to Islam,« the Danish Queen was cited for saying.

A Berlin correspondent from the British paper, The Daily Telegraph, apparently saw the AFP's wire as a confirmation of her own view on Danmark as a xenophobic country and therefore gave the story an extra layer:

"Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has said her country needs to find a "counter-balance" [*] to Islamic fundamentalism, regardless of the opprobium such a stance provokes abroad.The Danish government has already been accused of fuelling xenophobia by introducing measures which effectively closed the country to asylum-seekers.

But in overtly political passages from an official biography published yesterday Queen Margrethe makes comments certain to complicate her nation's relationship with Muslims," The Daily Telegraph wrote.

Via the pan-arabian London based paper, Al-Hayat, this version reached the islamic world where it was cited in a few media - though without having any significant effect. But more than nine months later, when the cartoon crisis was nearing a dramatic peak it resurfaced from the archives. The Saudi paper, Saudi Gazette set the stage with a highly exposed article on january 30 based on the piece in The Daily Telegraph, Te Gazette announced that the drawings had been part of a larger pattern, involving an islamophobic goverment and Queen.

Racist Queen

Now the story really broke. Documents in the Foreign Ministry shows that Danish embassies in the following days found it in a number of versions in the Arab press. They tried in several cases to correct the most wildly exaggerations, but the more times it was told, the worse it got, and the more the rethoric was heated up.

Akhbar Al-youm in Egypt asserted february 1 that the Queen was actually behind the cartoons because she had called Islam a threat and had encouraged the Danish goverment not to show tolerance towards Islam.

The next day Al Watan i Saudi Arabia hinted, that the Queen was not only islamophbic but also racist. She had among other things: "encouraged her right-wing goverment not to show any tolerence towards the muslim minority."

An angry comment under the Hamlet-inspired headline, "There is something rotten in the state of Denmark" was printed in the large English-langueged paper, Arab News, was put on Al Jazeera's home page.

War against Islam

A no less angry commentator established in the Sausi Gazette that Jyllands-Posten was taking part in deliberate plan, supported by Queen Margrethe, who had requested her subjects to show intolerance.

By now, it had been established as an absolut fact, that the Queen and the goverment was cahooting in a great conspiracy against Islam and muslims.

The story was picked up in Indonesia by the paper Repubilca on february 7, causing furious muslims, among them members of the extrem organization Hitzb ut Tahrir to take to the streets in the capitol of Jakarta to demand an appology. A spokesman for the organiztion told the AFP that when one first had heard the Queens remarks and then seen the drawings, one had proof that this was a war against Islam.

The large Tyrkish paper, Milliyet did not take the matter lightly either, and on the large islamic news service IslamOnline a commentator sort of wrapped things up on february 14:
The boycot against Denmark was not simply caused by a single paper printing some drawings insulting the prophet. It was caused by a national attitude towards Islam, he explained and pointed three things out:
  1. Queen Margrethe had published a book in which she criticized the muslims.
  2. The Danish prime minister had three times since the printing of the cartoons described muslims as: "The scum of people".
  3. A number of newspapers had printet articles criticizing Islam and muslims.

The commentator also wrote, that the boycot was working because half the Danish agricultural exports went to Saudi -Arabia, and he stated that in the matter at hand, Denmark had offended muslims more than the US had ever did, as all danes were bragging about the ridicule of the prophet.

Helle Lykke Nielsen, head of the Center for Middel East Studies at the University of Southern Denmark are not suprised the story about the Evil Queen.
"It is a natural reaction from people living in authoritaerian societies that everything comes from above. The higher the reponsibility can be placed, the more things make sense. Of course the Queen have to part and parcel with the islamophobic goverment and the paper that printed the drawings. When she is found to be mixed up in the whole affair it blends in with the views people allready have. That is what conspiraty-theories are made of", says Helle Lykke Nielsen.


The Telegraph notes on its online edition of the story that: In the original version of this story, relying on a translation provided by an international news agency, the Telegraph quoted Queen Margrethe as saying "We have to show our opposition to Islam". But the correct translation should be "counter-balance". The story was re-published on Feb 16, 2006 to reflect that.

So the Telegraph got cold feet in the midst of the crisis, perhaps (hopefully) realising the implications of Hannah Cleaver's piece.
Personally I find the word "response" more than suitable. After all, Her Majesty did not call for a new crusade, she simply hinted that the muslim immigrants should pay a little more respect to their new home country. The "increep" of islamic values in society is creating a subsonic and ever growing rumble of resistance within the native Danish population. Something is going to snap sooner or later unless we put our foot down and draw the line. Give Our "response" so to speak.

Zonka has also done some translation of the JP-article


Exile said...

Bravo. And congratulations on opening another Danish portal to the "outside" world.
Glad to have you aboard!

War. On Tv. said...

Anything, I guess, to take the minds of most people in Islamic countries off their dire situation and create and enemy elsewhere is acceptable. The mullahcracy in Iran has been doing it for years. They always need enemies...America, Israel, the Bahais, Salmon Rushdie, to focus anger away from the government. It seems though that some of the problem came from western news agencies "correcting" the translation with their own bias about the people and government of Denmark.

That said, great post.

Mikael said...

Thank you, both of you. Especially to Exile for making pointer on your blog!

War. on tv.: You're quite right. Arabs (well, muslims in general I guess) do have a tendency to be locked in some kind of inferiority complex. Virtually every other part of the world is devoloping, and since Islam is absolutist and therefore cannot possibly have anything to do with that situation, they need to look somewhere else for an explanation. The Arabs must be the most paranoid people in the world. "An Israely nuclear bomb test caused the tsunami in 2004.." I mean come on!

War. On Tv. said...

Yeah...One complaint from reformists is that the Moslem world will not progress as long as they are playing the blame game. It's interesting to see how often this pattern repeats itself, usually fingering the Jews as the culprits for all of their misery. I noticed this in Feb when the mosque in Samara was blown up and many Moslems, even in the west, said it was Mossad or the CIA.

It's strange to see how this pattern works in reverse...It was weird to think that all of Iraq thought Saddam won the first gulf war. Apparently, most Egyptians think they won the Yom Kippur war...

Apparently the idea is contagious...I read a leader in the Guardian today that said Hamas was an Israeli invention used to thwart peace. And apparently, they wanted their soldiers to get kidnapped so they would have a reason to go to war...This doesn't seem so strange when you find out that many in France blamed America for the riots they've had the past few years.

We live in ironic times.

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