Seven years after cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, published in a Danish newspaper, triggered world-wide protests leaving more than 100 dead, the country is again at the centre of another controversy, this time involving the actions of its own Muslim immigrants.
The row springs from an unexpected source, a meeting of the Egedalsvaenget Tenants Association in the town of Kokkedal, about 30 kilometres north of Copenhagen. With Christmas approaching the association’s board received a request for funds to set up a Christmas tree and festive lights in one of the housing estate’s public areas.
The request, for the equivalent of $1000, has been routinely approved in past years but on this occasion, the board, which now has a majority of Muslim members, turned it down.
Fuel was added to the flames when local media reported that the board had voted for the equivalent of $10,000 to fund a large communal celebration of the Muslim holiday of Eid earlier in the year.
As the controversy mounted Muslim members of the board attempted to back-pedal, saying the request was refused simply because no-one wanted to take on the responsibility for setting up the tree, but the board’s chair, non-Muslim Karin Leegaard Hansen, rejected this, saying she had been willing to organise the project, but that it had been voted down along racial lines.
The impasse took a sinister turn when a local television crew, sent to Egedalsvaenget to report on the story, were attacked by masked youths and forced to retreat unharmed but with considerable damage to their vehicle. The crew claimed their attackers were Muslims seeking to silence media coverage of the incident.
If so, they made a grave miscalculation. The story has sparked anger throughout the Scandinavian country and is now being covered overseas.
An anonymous donor has offered to cover the cost of the tree and it does look like the Christian residents of the housing complex will be able to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way. However, the incident has left a bad taste and threatens to put the question of Muslim immigration at the top of the Danish, if not the European agenda, as 2013 nears.