The Danish Debate

A very American debate is underway in Europe where a quickly-expanding Muslim population is testing tolerance on all sides. Nowhere is the discussion more heated than in Denmark. In three short decades, that small country has gone from almost no Muslims to hundreds of thousands — a bigger proportion of the population than other European nations. The resulting culture clash is raising issues of freedom of speech and religion.

Watch the video of this story by clicking the link at the end of this article.

Denmark is known for its love of bicycles free speech traditions and a Muslim population that now surpasses five percent.

Mayor Cecilia Lonning-Skovgaard: We still see slightly higher birth rates for Muslim families than for non-Muslim families.

Cecilia Lonning-Skovgaard is the mayor in charge of integration in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, where the community of Muslims is quickly expanding.

Lonning-Skovgaard: We see a pattern where a lot of Muslim youngsters are required, unfortunately, to marry boys or girls from their home country. So we still see quite a huge number of the young people being flown in from Pakistan, Turkey and so on in order to, to marry Muslims living here.

In Copenhagen— as in many parts of Europe— tensions are growing with the expanding Muslim population bumping up against non-Muslim communities. It’s a dynamic that’s testing the limits of free speech and hate speech on both sides.

Denmark is where the “Cartoon controversy” originated in 2005. A Danish newspaper standing for free speech defied Islam’s ban against depicting its prophet Mohamed. That set off a global wave of deadly attacks by Muslims against Christians and a violent, deadly attack a decade later in France on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Jacob Mchangama: I’m very much a child of the cartoon crisis

Jacob Mchangama is a free speech expert at a Copenhagen think tank.

Sharyl: Was your view that even if minorities or certain people are offended, that free speech should still enjoy special protection?

Mchangama: Oh, very much so. I think in many ways it’s the best form of equality before the law, and a sign of integration, that you can sort of laugh off or at least dismiss, thoughts that you find offensive to you or religion and say “You know what? They have the right to say this, but that right is also what gives me the right to go to my Mosque and practice my faith, to hand out Korans in the street if I want to.”

But Denmark’s strong free speech culture is being seriously tested by the emergence of a Danish politician named Rasmus Paludan. Paludan, an attorney, founded an anti-Muslim hard line party in 2017.

Paludan video: Hello, my name is Rasmus Paludan and I’m the leader of the Danish political party, Hard Line.

Mchangama: And probably the first person since 1939 when the Nazis were running for parliament to have a political program that called for the deportation of people based on their ethnicity. So he wanted non-Western people, even Danish citizens to be deported. And he wanted to ban Islam. It wasn’t quite Nazi-ism, but it was an explicit platform of ethno-nationalism, based on deeply illiberal values.

Paludan video: In Denmark, our party is fighting for the survival of ethnic Danes here in Denmark.

In a matter of months, Paludan gained popular attention through his YouTube channel

Paludan video: There are plenty of countries in the world that were very peaceful and non-Muslim and became Sh*thole nations when Islam arrived.

He burned Islam’s sacred book, the Koran.

Sharyl: What has made him a possible in this society?

Mchangama: Well, for a long time he was mostly a sort of a pathetic phenomenon, online phenomenon. Then he went to this immigrant area of Copenhagen and he was attacked. Police had to protect him. Cars were burned down and he would probably have been killed or seriously injured if the police hadn’t protected him. And that gave him massive popularity and ensured that he was eligible to run for the parliamentary elections.

To Paludan and his supporters, the violent attacks proved his point. Muslims had come to the tolerant Danish society and resorted to violence to stop constitutionally protected free speech.

Sharyl: What’s your goal?

Paludan: Well, the goal is for all the Muslims to leave Denmark

We went to Paludan’s offices in downtown Copenhagen where the government forces him to accept around the clock security, for his own protection.

Paludan: I mean people came from Afghanistan because of the war there. People came here, here from Bosnia when there were strikes there and I’m like, “How can that possibly be Denmark’s problem? Are we really supposed to destroy our own country because other people in other countries have problems?”

Paludan: If you live in a Muslim country and you’re well off and you’re reasonably happy, and you have reasonably high intelligence and good jobs, you have no reason to leave. But the people who are not very intelligent and who are deeply religious, they have every reason to leave because they live sh*tty live where they’re from. And in Denmark they get everything for free

Sharyl: Would your position be that you agree you are racist, but there’s good reason to be — or is your position that you’re not racist?

Paludan: No, My position is that I’m certainly not racist already because I don’t want to, separate people by determining their race. Muslims can be any race. I don’t judge them by whatever perceived race they are. I do judge them by their actions and Islam teaches actions that are completely in conflict with Western democracies.

As much as many oppose what Paludan has to say, Danes, like Tarek Ziat Hussein , defend his right to say it. Hussein is a lawyer, Muslim, and author of a book on “How to be a Danish Muslim.”

We interviewed Rasmus Paludan. And what are some of your general thoughts about his rise in popularity?

Tarek Hussein: He’s had a strategy where he’s gone out to these areas where there is a lot of Muslim people and trying to provoke a reaction. And, unfortunately, a lot of places you’ve got that reaction. There’s definitely, in some Muslim communities, there is problems in regard to accepting free speech. And from my point of view, of course that’s an issue that we have to address. That’s one of the things I’ve said to my own community that if you look at Rasmus Paludan, he’s been doing this for two years and nobody listened to him. And as soon as he got the reaction where people started burning cars and throwing rocks at the police, suddenly he rose in the polls and were able to almost get into parliament.

Sharyl: So would you say Paludan, as an extremist himself, is picking out extremists maybe on the other side— to the extent they exist— and highlighting those?

Tarek: Most definitely. So one of the things that we’ve seen in Denmark, but also in other European countries, is that the extremes in both parties lifts out of each other. If you could say that.

In Denmark’s most recent elections, Paludan’s hard line party ended up falling just short of the 2% needed to win seats in parliament. But he insists his popularity, like Denmark’s Muslim population, will continue to grow.

Sharyl: If your views are not popular among a majority, and if this is perhaps even endangering your way of life, if not your life, what keeps you going?

Paludan: Well, I can tell you many, many people agree with me. As much as I can see with succinct clarity that if I don’t do this, then this country will— we’ll go straight to hell. It will completely be a different country in, in very few years. And, and that will be very, very, very unfortunate for all the Danes who are not Muslim, which means almost all of them.

And so Denmark will continue to wrestle with a very American ideal: the most important speech to protect can be that which is hardest to defend

Mchangama: If you don’t protect the free speech of people like Mr. Paludan, then basically you don’t have strong free speech protections.

Lonning-Skovgaard: He is basically free to go out there and say all the crazy stuff that he wants to do because we deeply, deeply believe that free speech is a universal right.

Paludan recently claimed his free speech rights were being violated.. after police banned several demonstrations he planned and forced his party’s conference to be cancelled over security concerns.

Watch the video of the story by clicking the link below:

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10 thoughts on “The Danish Debate”

    1. George P Chapogas

      Europeans have many more idioms than the US, and always have., Language is not the problem anywhere.. Get over it, Migration has occurred from the beginning of time, it is normal and necessary. Muslims in Denmark are just as liable to speak a North African language..

  1. I am a citizen of Switzerland and believe the Swiss have done and continue to do a very good job with immigration in spite of being criticized often by Brussels for its “restrictive” measures. The key is to insist on integration and above all that immigrants accept and respect the civil laws of the country no matter the ethnique, religious backgrounds. I sense the Danes are going through a process the Swiss went through at the beginning of the century. Some 20 to 25% of the Swiss population is foreign. Perhaps a similar report on Swiss immigration would be enlightening for some of the other EU countries..

    1. George P Chapogas

      How much social welfare exists in Switzerland compared to Denmark? I sense if people are too busy earning a living and working to support their family they find differences less important. I would like to know to what degree I am right or wrong in my perception. In the US it seems social welfare has separated the “achievers” and “users” or “looters and “producers” and much of our divide is less racial and religious and more instigated by jealousy of the achievers by the underachievers. I would like to hear your opinion..

      1. Switzerland has some social welfare, less however than Germany or Sweden, not sure about Denmark. From what I can tell the Swiss government and the people are doing a decent job at integration. Our dual eduction system that combines apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school are quite beneficial in this regard. I believe working, as well as some supporting welfare, are key to successful integration, Unrestricted welfare and abuseable social programs, I fear, will produce the wrong incentives, lead to residential segregation, or worse: no-go zones. Then again, Switzerland is kind of a special case and hard to compare to other European countries.

    2. Wise Swiss. In US that wouldn’t work. Officials are bending over backwards to accommodate immigrants instead of having them assimilate like they used to in 1918 when my grandparents came to US. My grandparents, parents, and me and my immigrant husband have great respect and love for US. Some US politicians want to allow people who entered US illegally to have rights like citizens do—like voting. This is nuts!!!

  2. Any number of people who believe in Islam are peaceful and will integrate into local communities. The problem is that many more will not. We have to be able to discuss their Islamic ideology in order to resolve problems but those willing to do so are often called Islamophobic. Unfortunately, most people don’t know that Islamophobia is a made up word which was created by the Muslim Brotherhood to shut down debate about Islam. Further, this word is being used to further their goal which is:
    “4- Understanding the role of the Muslim Brother in North America:
    The process of settlement is a “Civilization-Jihadist Process” with all the word means. The
    Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and
    destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their
    hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious
    over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and
    have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work
    wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that
    destiny except for those who chose to slack. But, would the slackers and the Mujahedeen be
    This above quote came from stated an Explanatory Memorandum that found in the Virginian home of a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and used in the first Holy Land Foundation trial. That is the real problem that we have to understand and with which we in the U.S. and Europe have to deal.That is also why we have to have a serious understanding and debate about Islam and whether or not its tenets are even compatible with Western Civilization.

    1. You ca find similar statements in every religion ad every political affiliation. Check out communists USA, or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  3. What’s the difference between ethnically identified group setting up “no go zones” in country they immigrated to where laws are what they say you must follow else you will be killed and an armed invasion of a country?

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