Denmark's election a litmus test for Europe's far-right politics
Denmark's election Thursday is the first national poll in northern Europe to gauge appeal for radical politics since the Norway killings carried out by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik.
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“A lot of critics since [the Breivik killings] have asked us to change our political approach or our rhetoric. We don’t feel responsible in any way ... why should we?” says a DPP leader, Soren Espersen ahead of tomorrow's election. “Our party is blamed for everything. It is blamed for 9/11, for the London bombings. The Muhammad cartoon is our fault. But we have broad shoulders, and we can take it.”Skip to next paragraph
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DPP offices are in the basement of the Danish parliament that dominates central Copenhagen. Across the hall from Mr. Espersen, party leader Pia Kjaersgaard, whose folksy charm is a party asset, pops in and out. One is reminded of a quip comparing the DPP with churlish far-right groups: “So clean, you can bring them home.”
Espersen wears jeans and a polo shirt and has the appearance of a man who might coach soccer. An former journalist who became a DPP “spin doctor,” he speaks easily and casually. He disagrees with the “clash of civilizations” theory made popular by Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis that was often cited by Breivik. “That suggests Muslims have a civilization,” he says. “It is maybe a question of civilization and noncivilization. Ataturk said there was only one civilization and that was the Western world.”
Espersen goes on: “We are not against Muslims but against Islam taking political control of our society and canceling our democracy. Islam [represents] the same danger as communism or the Nazis.”
When asked for an example of a Muslim who espouses Islamic law (sharia) and who has made inroads into the Danish government, Espersen concedes that “Islam has made no inroads here.” But, he says, Muslims are beginning to influence Britain. “Why should we make the same mistakes?”
He draws a line between his beliefs and Breivik’s actions: “Breivik may agree with everything we agree with, but when you take the step of killing civilians, you are a terrorist. He is definitely a terrorist. But that has nothing to do with us,” he says.
‘Playing with dangerous forces’
Ida Auken disagrees. A young member of parliament whose Socialist People’s Party is on the other side of Espersen’s party in Thursday's poll, she says the DPP conflates all Muslims into caricatures of the Taliban or terrorists: “I won’t blame the People’s Party for Breivik,” she says, “but when they put a Muslim terrorist and an ordinary Muslim person in the same box, which is what they have been doing ... that is like putting the People’s Party and Breivik in the same box. We need to look at what brings us together. You are playing with dangerous forces when you talk about removing these people. It is a false world when you say Muslims and Christians can’t live together when they have for many years.”