Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Danish Left Continues to Break Ranks

Zonka has translated an article from today’s Jyllands-Posten about the latest intramural arguments on the Left in Denmark, brought on by the fallout from the Mohammed Cartoon Crisis:

Soul-searching on the left wing about Mohammed Case

By Axel Pihl-Andersen - Jyllands-Posten, July 5, 2006

From a correct focus on freedom of speech, it became the enemy of my enemy is my friend states the criticism of the political left wing, by one of their own.

Me go BOOM!The Danish left wing had put the telescope to the blind eye and seriously failed the progressive and moderate Muslims, because they in the Mohammed case let themselves be used by the Islamist cause.

Thus states the criticism from SF’s[1] housing and tax spokesman, Morten Homann. In an interview in Politiken yesterday he called for political courage on the part of the left wing, who according to Homann have acted like an “elephant in a china shop” in the Mohammed case.

It happened by one-sidedly focusing on and criticised prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (V) and Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons as responsible for the conflict instead of defending the freedom of speech against the onslaught from Middle Eastern dictatorships and Islamist forces.

“Unfortunately we have committed the old mistake about making the enemy of my enemy to my friend, but as a left-winger and socialist one cannot be friends with Islamists and reactionary fundamentalist countries in the Middle East. The left wing commits a complete short-circuit when we believe that we are showing consideration to refugees and immigrants in the Danish society by protecting their religion. Our job has always been to question all religions and put ourselves on the side of humans against the religions that oppress them,” says the young SF-politician.

“We must protect humans, not religions. Why should we protect reactionary and oppressive religions against criticism? Everything should be up for discussion, and if we suddenly believe that something is more sacred than anything else, it doesn’t make sense to speak about freedom of speech anymore,” says Morten Homann.

He believes that Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons have “started a good debate about Islam, terror and fundamentalist Islamists, who wish to destroy our democracy.”

An inalienable Right

Homann’s criticism about the left wing is an indirect criticism of his own party chairman, Villy Søvndal, who in the beginning unconditionally supported Jyllands-Posten’s right to publicize the cartoons, but ended up calling them “stupid” and “vicious”.

Søvndal himself denies doing a 180° turn.

“I have spoken in different situations and have criticised the government’s handling of the crisis. But I want to emphasize that freedom of speech is an unalienable right, which has had a great impact on both the left wing and the development of our society as a whole, but that does not contradict what I have said. Seen in isolation there was nothing wrong with publicizing the cartoons; however Jyllands-Posten have been inconsistent when they earlier refused to publish cartoons about Christians,” says Søvndal, who denies that SF have problems distancing themselves from the Islamists.

“They are our absolute opposite and enemies. In reality they are spiritually closer to fundamentalist Christians such as Søren Krarup (Danish People’s Party) and company,” says Søvndal.

Other left wing politicians agree with Homann’s criticism and encourages some soul-searching after the Mohammed case.

Karsten Hønge (SF) who is chairman for the union “Træ-Industri-Byg” in Odense and elected into city and county council:

“The left wing have stood for challenging the taboos and expanding borders. I’m surprised as to how the new found sensitivity has entered parts of the left wing, who in the Mohammed case have avoided looking at the facts but on auto-pilot started to disagree with Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Jyllands-Posten,” says Karsten Hønge.

He believes that the left wing should unambiguously and clearly choose side and declare themselves opponents to Islamism.

Total Naivety

“Many on the left-wing foolishly convince themselves that they can be friends with the Islamists. They do that from the assumption that since the weak and oppressed have Islam as a religion, we must protect Islam. That is totally naive,” says the 47 year old Hønge, who joined SF when he was 14.

According to Hønge, it is not only the national enemy-image which makes the left wing assume a wrong position in the Mohammed case, but also the international contrasts.

“The logic seems to be that when many of the Muslim countries are opposed to Bush and USA, then there must be something right in their way of thinking. The same erroneous conclusion was arrived at back in 1979, when the left wing in particular had great sympathy for Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Islamist Revolution, because it was directed against a reactionary Shah and American interests. But not many weeks passed before it was the left-wingers who were arrested, tortured and executed. That is the lesson we should remember.” says Hønge.

Lost Focus

Also in Enhedslisten[2] people are questioning the lack of criticism of Islam on the left wing.

Jakob Lindblom, who has been on the central board of Enhedslisten, had in February a byline in the Daily Information where he asked “whether the left wing is blind to the fact that oppressed minorities in themselves can be oppressors?”.

“In the beginning the left wing - including Villy Søvndal - had the right focus in the Mohammed case, namely the freedom of speech and rejection of outside interference. But later we lost the focus on what it was all about: namely that we are being threatened in the public space. It seems to end up that the left wing is fighting for the right of businesses to have profits in trading with despotic regimes like Saudi-Arabia and Iran, which boycotts Denmark because of some satirical cartoons. Instead the left wing ought to have put themselves in the lead of boycotts of Arla and Grundfos. Where is the solidarity with the victims of the Saudi regime?” says Jakob Lindblom, and adds, “We should not ally ourselves with people who have a judicial sense that predates the feudal state.”

The chairman of Enhedslisten Line Barfod, states that her party is critical of both Islamists and Nazis.

“We protest when Hizb-ut-Tahrir have meetings and when Nazis have meetings. We agree with Fogh that Jyllands-Posten had the right to publish the cartoons, but we also believe that the debate has become intolerant towards the immigrants and refugees,” states Line Barfod.

However, she agrees with the critics, in that the statements such as “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” aren’t useful.

“It is OK that Homann brings up the discussions. Freedom of speech is a precondition for us and society, and violence and threats are a primitive and unacceptable answer, which we reject,” says Line Barfod.

[1] Socialistic People’s Party (SF)
[2] Enhedslisten is a conglomerate of former communists and other far-left politicians.


In Russet Shadows said...

Strange how the Danes figure out something that the most intelligent American liberals (of course that is a double-positive according to the practitioners of that faith) cannot -- that one is a member of a nation first, and a politician second. Chic treason is still in fashion over here. Congrats to Denmark, where even the leftists think!

FluffResponse said...

Some who were sanguine about relations between Islam and the West are sounding more realistic. Here's another case:

Jason Pappas said...

After 9/11, I had hoped for a competition between left and right over who can better vilify the Islamist enemy. In January I wrote about it how the left was AWOL on this important issue. Of course there were exceptions: Paul Berman and Chris Hitchens. But the typical anti-anti-Islam stance of the average leftist was just another way of taking the enemy’s side.

It’s great to see the Danish left waking-up. A good competitive debate over who understands the threat best is healthy … and long overdue. Denmark impresses me more everyday. Keep the news coming.

Mr. Spog said...

Russet: I see no indication in the post that the Danish left is recognizing that its first loyalty is to Denmark. "We must protect humans", it says--not Danish nationals. They worry about "solidarity with the victims of the Saudi regime", not about a threat to their own culture. Islamists are equated to Danish Christians. Probably the first loyalty of Danish and other leftists is to the United Nations, not to the Danish state.

X said...

Well it's as Scott said, even when they're seeing the light the ingrained behaviour patterns they've imposed on themselves limit how far they can go in acknowledging this. This part is relatively easy to do, but the next part, acknowleding the specific national threat - which requires acknolwedging the superiority of the nation state over the internationalist agenda - and breaking out of the international socialist mindset will be much harder. Giving up long-held and deep-seated beliefs is always painful, and I suspect more than a few will stumble at thart hurdle and retreat back to the familiar territory of their old ways. The ones that pass that point will likely be the strongest defenders of the nation you can imagine

Zonka said...

I think in cases like this one should follow the advice of Aristoteles -- Never discourage progress, however slow it might be! If the left waking up to the fact that they are making a mistake by aligning themselves with the Islamic cause, then that should be encouraged, irregardless of all the other disagreements that we might have with them.

Zonka said...


I doubt that they can continue to delude themselves for 10 years, the muslims will see to that... They can't help themselves, you know!

In Russet Shadows said...

Spog, you and I must not have read the same article, then. The UN is no friend of freedom of speech, yet the Danish left is becoming increasingly interested in championing that right. Could they have got that from their own culture? If so, are they interested in protecting it? If so, are they lying? Why do they talk about the Danish society if they are simply uninterested in it? It was plain to me where this comes from and where it goes, but I'm afraid that was because I read a different article than you did. :)

Mr. Spog said...

By all means let's welcome any recognition by the Left that Islam is not its natural ally. Such a recognition may well be crucial to the survival of a Europe which has a Left/Muslim majority. But we should not kid ourselves that this means that the Left have suddenly become our buddies. The Left is under no such illusion: "[Islamists] are our absolute opposite and enemies. In reality they are spiritually closer to fundamentalist Christians such as Soren Krarup (Danish People's Party) and company..." The DPP and non-liberal Christians evidently also remain "enemies". European leftists might well, for example, take the opportunity of a wave of European anti-Islamic feeling to crack down on Christianity as well—say, by closing Christian private schools along with the madrassas.

Russet—"Why do they talk about the Danish society if they are simply uninterested in it?" Well, they'd probably call this "thinking globally, acting locally." Danish leftists find themselves with the opportunity to influence Danish politics, not the politics of other countries, and so they are obliged to take some interest in Danish conditions; but they would seek to use this power for global purposes, not for the benefit of Danes in particular. Maybe this is unfair to Danish leftists, but it is how they would behave if they were "pure" leftists, and it seems to be borne out by the quotes I gave from the article.

The very idea of "treason", the flip side of loyalty to a motherland rather than to abstract universal principles, is fundamentally alien to leftist thinking.

Yes, it would be welcome if leftists were rediscovering a belief in free speech. Though there does seem to be something awry, and typically leftist, with a belief in free speech which is explicitly linked with the view that nothing "is more sacred than anything else". (And in Denmark they still seem to be talking about being "intolerant", which one suspects would continue to dampen their free speech somewhat.)