Juletræet i Kokkedal – i den store verden

Sagen dækkes nu på hjemmesiden opendemocracy.net. Det er ikke ligefrem gavnligt for Danmarks i forvejen flossede omdømme:

The rich repertoire of exclusionist politics, cultural homogeneity, anti-immigration and anti-Islam stances [in Denmark] are only temporarily silenced under the effects of the crisis.

Unsurprisingly the story was soon co-opted and amplified by most of the populist right wing voices in the country. The Muslim members of the housing association board became the living evidence of what they, the ignored whistle-blowers, had predicted a long time ago. This version of events duly legitimized a new round of debate on value politics and cultural differences, the incompatibility of Islam with western, Christian values and Muslims’ undemocratic and intolerant ‘nature’. The story was also used as proof of how Muslims in the west misuse democratic rules when they finally get involved in democratic organs – and operate to replace Christian traditions with Islamic ones.

This logic was clearly and immediately underscored by the Danish People’s Party (DPP), whose spokesman on immigration and integration, MP Martin Henriksen, declared that ’this is the sign of a cultural clash between the Danish and the Muslim culture that has been there a long time – and if we do not fight back, we will lose even more of our own culture’, warning that this is what happens when ‘they [Muslims] get the majority’. To tackle the case itself, the DPP suggested passing a law regulating how housing associations decide on matters of Danish values and traditions. The party also bought the residents a free Christmas tree and organized a public meeting with Danish Christmas cookies and gløgg.

On his blog, another DPP MP, Søren Espersen, criticised the people who were ‘trying to minimize the event’ – the same who denied the worrying ‘problems’ of ‘the Ramadan dinner, the Muslim veil […] and the halal meat debate’. For Espersen, the build-up of these situations must be an indication of the gravity of the situation – a problem of which, of course, only the DPP had grasped the full importance.


Revealing in this respect was an article published by the tabloid Ekstra Bladet only a few days after the Christmas tree incident. The story reported the follow finding: ‘90 percent of those applying for Christmas help are Muslims’. The piece reported that 20 out of 22 applications for Christmas help in a Church Salvation Army district in Northern Jutland came from persons with clear Muslim names. The link with the Christmas tree story was explicit and the underlying assumptions very clear: why should these people get our Christmas help, when they refuse to celebrate the holiday and attempt to abolish it? Shouldn’t we rather help our Danish Christians?

Why doesn’t anybody stand up to these discourses?

The most worrying aspect of this controversy was the total lack of response from the other side. This national debate, triggered by a minor local decision, shows how difficult it is for voices that oppose culturalist logics to generate any significant counter-debate on these issues. Concerned about the negative reactions that this would produce among the public opinion and their potential voters, the people’s representatives prefer to silence these concerns, hoping to contain the echo and keep away from discussing value politics for as long as possible. Those who violently oppose non-western immigration could make their point – extensively. And the voices that should have contradicted them were nowhere to be heard.

Suk, og hvor har de ret.