Friday, February 03, 2006

From The Horse's Mouth

This is a letter sent by an outraged Kuwaiti who used to live in Denmark, to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who is a regular commentator for The Independent. Ms. Brown was thoroughly impressed and has passed the letter onto TIME magazine.

But you can read it here first!

Dear Ms Brown

I am not sure if you're planning to comment on the extremely fiery subject of the cartoons in the Danish press but I would like to add some points that I believe are valuable to the debate. I apologize if I sound angry but that's because I sort of am. Most of the commentary, letters to editors and blogs fail to realize one important point. These pictures are not just blasphemous, they are RACIST. The defenders of the newspaper and the right to free speech fail to realize what a racist society Denmark really is. I am a liberal Kuwaiti woman who tends to crack the odd joke about Muslims but I was so offended by these cartoons because I know what kind of society produced them. I lived and worked in Denmark for 2 years and left last month, I had a high paying corporate job and I still didn't escape from the derogatory comments and the odd looks I get from my neighbours because I look Middle Eastern. I know how that society thinks. This is not multi-ethnic Britain, this is small farmer mentality, xenophobic Denmark. That image I had of chilled-out free society is so far from the truth. The reality is it resembles England in the 50's or Alabama in the 60's. Believe me I have had many conversations and heated debates about this with my more liberal minded Danish colleagues and we have come to the conclusion that we in the Arab world, while we don't agree with their way of life we respect them.. but they don't respect us AT ALL. It's as simple as that. I have lived and studied in Britain and I haven't met one member of any ethnic minority that wanted to get the hell out ( well maybe to escape the grey weather) as opposed to every single second generation Dane I met. The reason and I quote "we grew up here but we feel unwelcome. We can't get jobs etc..." When you ask the original Danes the answer is "they're not Danish enough", note that there's no denial.

I was the most educated person in my department if not the company but I didn't escape from the stereotyping. I get asked regularly how come you're not married off to your cousin? One time I had enough and I all I said was do you swing and watch porn every night? That's a Scandinavian stereotype. I found myself defending my ancient culture over and over again until I flipped one day and said pick up a damn book and read. What gets to me is the sweeping commentary on 1 billion people based on a few uneducated economic and political migrants that live amongst them, As if we're all the same, from Morocco to Indonesia.

Here are some examples, myself and a couple of friends from Kuwait decide to go to this average restaurant where everyone was white Danish except us. I can understand Danish and I hear this girl sitting next to us telling her friends to hide their bags from us, failing to realize that my friend's bag was probably more expensive than her entire wardrobe. The number of times my flashy colleagues who are used to the South of France are refused service because they are foreign. A doctor friend of mine, a Dane originally from Afghanistan was working the late shift and she wanted to treat a patient in ER but the woman freaked when she saw that she wasn't white. This is Denmark.

I actually read this headline in one of the papers: Muslim drivers are a risk to public safety during Ramadan. Copenhagen is the only city that is refusing to give permission for a mosque to be built, where as every other faith has its place of worship. I attempted to mix better by learning their useless language and because my accent is not quite right no one would give me the time of day. Imagine being in east London and having to speak cockney to get attention. The advice I got from friends was it's better to speak English if you're foreign then they think you're a tourist and not an immigrant. And then the queen declares last summer that immigrants must learn Danish if they wish to integrate. Would you?

There are clubs that officially declared they're not allowing people from "Norrebro" in. That's the multi ethnic boho area in Copenhagen. One of the few places that actually bothers opening on a Sunday and feed hungry drunk Danes on the weekends.

They have a serious problem with integration and racism, much like France with similar high rates of unemployment and crime. It's a very sensitive and heated debate over there. People are worried that right-wing parties are gaining ground. Even the current Danish prime minister won on an anti immigration card.

So I wonder why would a newspaper, at a time of heightened ethnic tension, serious integration issues, with right wing radios calling for the destruction of Muslims print such garbage?

Oh and I dare anyone try to criticize anything Danish in Denmark. I have never met such patriotic cry babies in my life. Why didn't anyone try to take a harder look at the society before going out of their way to defend the right of free speech? This is racist. How would the image of Martin Luther king in shackles on a slave ship go down with African Americans? Or the entire continent? I actually dared some people over there to do it. No one was up for it. Just like slavery is a painful episode in African American history so is the current state of affairs in the Muslim world. None of us like to be depicted as terrorists because the majority of us aren't. It's not funny.

It is a sensitive time for any moderate Muslim trying to live normally in the West. I could have accepted this in Britain which despite what many people think is an extremely tolerant society but bigoted, narrow minded Denmark? Every society is racist to a certain degree but I remember comparing notes with my Asian British friends about Denmark and they were truly shocked. It is an unwelcoming, extremely racist society that still refers to second and third generation Danes as immigrants in the press, including the Jylland-Posten.

When I put this to Scandinavians in general the answer would be to ask me to look at our societies, but we never bragged about being tolerant and respectful of human rights. We are not the self-proclaimed bastions of free speech. It's truly horrible in the Middle East but at least it's in your face and not hypocritical.

After all this Denmark bashing I have one question for the thousands of outraged Muslims? America killed hundred of thousands of Muslims and you lose your head and withdraw ambassadors over a bunch of cartoons printed in a second rate paper in a small Nordic country with a population of 5 million?

That's the true outrage!

35 comments:

  1. Zaydoun! you or writer said

    After all this Denmark bashing I have one question for the thousands of outraged Muslims? America killed hundred of thousands of Muslims and you lose your head and withdraw ambassadors over a bunch of cartoons printed in a second rate paper in a small Nordic country with a population of 5 million?

    That's the true outrage!
    ==========================

    Well USA bully does not "officially" hate the muslim faith. It does not "officially" like racism, in fact it hates it "officially".

    They respect faith. Even the muslims that we abandoned held prisoners at Guananomo get better treatment than in muslim or arab jails.

    Denmark is the second largest European country, by area. They have the largest container-ship company in the world "Maersk". That company has long term contract with US military. Such racist mentality close to USA is too dangerous for Muslims to leave un-checked.

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  2. Moody... its part of the letter, not my words. I dont know why those 2 lines won't go away.

    Anyway... Denmark is only huge if you include Greenland. Otherwise it's small

    In my opinion, a suicide bomber who blows up a wedding in a Muslim city (Amman in case everybody forgot) did 1000 times more harm to Islam than these stupid cartoons!

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  3. "a bunch of cartoons " ?!

    wish if it was as simple as those words seems !

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  4. mother courage... why isn't it that simple?

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. Arab papers print anti-semitic and anti-western cartoons all the time, I don't see flag burning and riots in the streets of middle America, the west, or Israel. The paper that printed these cartoon is independant, and free to publish anything it wants. All these people who are angry need to realize that the whole world isn't moslem where anyone who is blaspehmous is flogged, stoned, or decapitated with a sword. Most of these people probably haven't even seen the cartoons (because of heavily regulated media), and are probably just looking for another reason to be angry at the west.

    I don't see the west coming into the middle East and telling us what to broadcast or print, and I commend the Danish authorities for not giving in to pressure to squelch free speech.

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  7. you guys can boycott denmark all you want, i'm sticking with my KDD.

    if anyone should be flogged, its this naughty boy, Nazem al-Masbah, the kuwaiti alqaeda bullshit mulla:

    A senior imam in Kuwait, Nazem al-Masbah, said that those who have published cartoons of Muhammad should be murdered. He also threatened all citizens of the countries where the twelve Danish cartoons have been published with death.

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  8. Zaydoun
    I understand you do not agree and that is fine. We are Muslim they are stupid arrogant Norsemen who lost a lot of oil to Norway through border demarcation, so they do not like any oil country, especially if it were Muslim.
    BTW, too bad two lines went to waste since you could not delete them :P

    poiwer
    Are you with us or against us?? You should respect but not necessarily agree with the opinion of Nathim Al-Misbah. Do not link him to the hated terrorists that he does not support based on hearsay without proof.

    There has been cases during the life of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allah 3alaihi wa Aalihi Wa Sallam) where people were killed for similar Blasphemy. However, the Danish newspaper did write that they were sorry. Many, unlike me initially, feel that is not an enough apology. However, the best opinion is that we should concentrate on Danes and try to remedy the situation from two fronts: those who support all legal actions against Danes, and those who can have more empathy for the Danes and try to solve the issue.

    During the same time this is happening. AS Roma Serie A football club got hit with a punishment for what a very few of its fans did in expressing their opinion. I mean according to you it would be OK to show hate like these AS Romans did. Let?s have respect for our people and religion, even though some of us do not deserve it. (See: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11100078/)

    And, please SEE that the west has asked us to reconsider/change some of the Islamic curriculum we have. This is a two-way street.

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  9. Moody.. I meant the straight lines bordering the letter, not the actual words

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  10. logic & class artical ...she should be honerd .... am with her points all the way

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  11. Is there a direct link to the Time letter section/article?

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  12. Sorry for the confusion... TIME has received the letter but hasn't published it yet. I suspect it will be massively edited if they do decide to publish

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  13. I don?t think any one disagrees on the tackiness and insulting nature of these cartoons, the problem is with our reaction as a Muslim world, we repeatedly succeed in publicizing those who tick us off and vastly introduce them to the world such as Indian Salman Rushdi and Afgani Nisreen. I think the conspiracy here is one for free advertisement, tick off these edgy Muslims and they will publicize your stuff all over the world and move you to the top of the list of whatever field you?re in..
    A much better reaction, a more legal and elegant one can be maintained to introduce us and the religion properly to the world..

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  14. I am sure it will be and I am sure the letter itself was toned down.

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  15. Thanks for the support. The letter wasn't toned down. As for the last point, I wanted to emphasize that the Muslim world has its priorities skewed, maybe America is not a good example to use but I think you get the point. Anyway, it?s the independent, they love bashing the yanks. With regards to the size of Denmark, yes it?s big but it doesn?t have much influence on world politics or American policy, despite the illusions of grandeur that many Danes have. Trust me, I know. But in yesterday?s edition of Jylland Posten, one of the Danish politicians declared that maybe it?s time to allow the Muslim community to build a mosque in Copenhagen. How patronizing is that?
    As for boycotting Danish goods it?s a matter of personal choice. I love the fashion over there and the new collections are out so sorry folks. I got my priorities mixed up too.

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  16. It is toned down, there is more you could have said.

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  17. Nicely writter, Garga

    It's not about freedom of speech nor respecting religions anymore.. At this point, it's plain racism from both sides.

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  18. Looks like I missed all the fun ..

    I have a question that might be stupid. Why are we Muslims angry over this? Okay, we have to be angry because it's so insulting. Ever heard the Jesus-Mary joke? 'Joe, I'm pregnent but I'm a vigrin, God did it', says Mary. Joseph says 'Okay, just make sure you tell him you have a headache next time he asks'. Making fun of Prophets and even of God himself is an OK issue with 'them', so it's not about *our* Prophet, really.

    Even if it was, look at the typical Muslim image that Westerns have. What do they know about Islam? A bunch of sick bastards that chop innocent peoples' heads, and shout 'Allahu Akbar' as they do it, or recite Quran, etc. Westerns do not know about us as much as we know about them, since they're more advanced and all. Just like we don't know much about, say, Zimbabwi or however you spell it. All they know is that Muslims chop heads, oppress women (thanks to the latest bestselling books that mostly talk about women 'striving' and 'fighting' to wear high-heels) Oh, and speaking of which.. there's a pretty popular book that was a bestseller for a while in the US. It's called 'Lamb' by Christopher Moore, and do you know what the book talks about? Jesus Christ coming back to life and learning about life nowadays, rap music, 'hot chicks' and such stuff.

    We should try to fix things in our 'Utopic' nation before getting pissed off and burning embassies and doing such arsed things to show our love to our prophet. Was just watching the news, syrian kids chanting something like 'rasool allah qodwatna' and the next thing you see is the flaming building of the danish embassy there. Khosh qodwa, el rasool (3alaih o alah el 9alat wil salam) madri meta sawwa shay chethi. Maskeen hal rasool elli kel yom we make his image even worse than it already is.

    To all religious people, elli lawwi3aw chboodna bil boycotting wil wain-`3eeratkom-3ala-nabeekom bullshit, sakro 7loojkom welli y3afeekom, 3adlo eb roo7kum oo san3o nafskom, ba3dain ba6lo 7loojkom o 3a9bo kethir ma taboon

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  19. >The reality is it resembles England in the 50's or Alabama in the 60's

    Yep, we like it - good old society

    >I have lived and studied in Britain
    Why not in Damascus or Medina?

    >I found myself defending my ancient culture over and over again
    Use your old culture freely at home

    >Copenhagen is the only city that is refusing to give permission for a mosque to be built
    What about Catholic church in Saudi Arabia?

    You want tolerance, etc, but your own society is too rigid, hostile and xenophobic.

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  20. i love the debate stirred up here.A lot of you are the missing the main point about it being racist more than being anti muslim and I totally agree.An interesting point of view can also be found here: www.slate.com/id/2135499/

    its a little harsh but basically makes complete sense.

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  21. rus_girl

    You practically confirmed everything in the letter.

    Thank you

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  22. Very interesting letter and gives a whole new perspective to the present crisis.

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  23. She said He Said... "and talk about making a mountain out of a molehill, eh?!"

    To my mind, there's definitely a blurring of focus here : shouldn't we be more upset, in this country, with BNP setting up shop in Dar Al Awadhi(hope you are listenin' Nick Griffens) than with some abstractionism in friggin Denmark?
    :)
    Sorry, my Danish imprudence spake not I!

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  24. Reading the, Outraged Kuwaiti who used to live in Denmark, letter I could not help imagining my self being a foreigner in Kuwait, and the equality and respect a foreigner has on our land especially the low income ones.
    She mentioned that they don?t give permission to build mosques, ?in Copenhagen? not everywhere in Denmark, when we, in Kuwait, not Saudi Arabia, do not allow any practice or temple other than Christianity and Christian Churches, even in Salwa and Fahaheel not the capital.
    I guess she has been abroad for along time that she forgot that only few of us accept foreigners? assessment of our politics and system. Most of us get aggressive when faced by a remark, opinion or criticism of Kuwait from a foreigner even if it is true.
    The fact is that we do not treat other the way we expect them to treat us if we were foreigners in their country. We fail to see our faults but we are good at picking out others?. I think the writer did not live or experience Kuwait and the Arab world long enough to realize that we are not very different from Denmark, the racist whites. We do not tolerate others but we expect them to tolerate us. We do not take the time to listen and understand them but we assume that they should understand us. She was lucky that she made the choice to leave, when at home we ask them to leave if they showed any signs of dislike to our country or system or in some cases, we deport them if we thought so.

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  25. Calimoon

    If you read the letter carefully, you will see that the writer makes no claims that we are any better. She just points out that the image of "tolerance" that the Danes boast about is apparently far from the truth.

    I'll repeat the quote here

    "When I put this to Scandinavians in general the answer would be to ask me to look at our societies, but we never bragged about being tolerant and respectful of human rights. We are not the self-proclaimed bastions of free speech. It's truly horrible in the Middle East but at least it's in your face and not hypocritical"

    Otherwise, you're right... we have a lot to answer for

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  26. دعوة الى المحاولة الى اطفاء الازمة وانشاء أو تفعيل جمعية اصدقاء الدنمارك المسلمين

    ياجماعة اتمنى ان يهرب الدنماركيون وغيرهم من غضب المسلمين الذي له معاذيره ويتجهوا الى اصدقاءهم المسلمون المحبين للرسول

    هذه الفرصة للانتفاع من الازمة بدلا ان ينتفع منها اليهود. والملاحظ ان اليهود متضايقين من قوة ردة فعل المسلمين

    شرايكم ننشئ الجمعية حتى نغنم الفرصة وينتفع المسلمين بدل ان تزيد دائرة اعداءهم

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  27. moody

    نيتك صافية لكن حرق السفارات قد سبب جرحاً كبيراً من صعب أن يلتئم

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  28. all the people protesting are just beggars, peasants, and uneducated masses. who cares.

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  29. poiwer.. I'll tell you who cares. The whole world who watched the burnings on TV and "concluded" that Muslims are bloodthirsty lunatics!

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  30. as the writer of the letter, I would like to emphasize another major point in the ongoing debate. the attempt to compare the middle east and its garbage with Europe. the reference to anti Semitic cartoons etc...in the Arab media. the points made previously by comparing how foreigners are treated in the Arab world. rus-girl you're comparing Denmark to Saudi Arabia? are you serious here?
    the only place I compare Saudi to is medieval Spain. once again, why is the Arab world being used as an example? when did Kuwait appear on the top ten list of foreigner friendly, tolerant society. people live here for decades and they still don't have any rights. no one ever claimed that's things are just fine and dandy here. right now in the scale of rosiness around the world, we are just above sub Saharan Africa. but we look up to the west as an example but in the case of this tiny country that normally has a reputation of tolerance it turned out to be a huge disappointment. keep in mind that the countries that defended the right to publish are the same countries that are seriously struggling to integrate their ethnic minorities, whereas the ones that didn't are the ones that have found a model that works for them. I personally don't carer about publishing the cartoons. I saw them in an Arabic magazine last October. al kawakib. the luckiest bastards in the world because hardly anyone noticed. what I do care about is that if you lived in Denmark you would know that it not just about free speech, its inflammatory. jylland posten is a right wing anti immigration paper and that the current government is in coalition with a neo nazi party. so put things in context
    oh and I didn't study in Damascus or medina because they didn't offer my major.

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  31. Good post. Hope you don't mind I took the letter and reposted it on somewhere else.

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  32. And so finally, Ms Samia D. is out of the bag, eh?

    Previously, I didn't have the balls to ask but now that I think I do, I should like to ask someone anyone if they would please care to explain to me (in a nut-shell) the difference between that freedom of expression denied radical Muslim clerics in the West and the one being peppered on white European cartoonists; living in a same society as them?

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  33. This article is so much on the spot that it hurts! I?ve lived in Denmark for 19 years ? I?m not a Muslim, I come from another EU country (now how much ?closer to them? can you get) and I thought and spoke every word in this article myself. Mind you, it?s not just Muslims who are ?less developed than the Danes?, it?s more or less everyone. I have NEVER heard the Danes express any interest about other nationalities but themselves ? that kind of curiosity you encounter when you chat to people from other countries ? banalities perhaps, but that?s what you do, you ask questions, because you?re curious about how other people live their everyday lives. Not the Danes, they truly have enough in themselves. The only thing that is ever being said about other countries is negative, or at best sarcastic.
    Now obviously there is a number of people who are extremely sweet and polite in this country (as everywhere), but this silent group is getting more and more invisible. And I truly don?t understand that statements from members of the Danish parliament such as :?Muslims are like cancer cells? can go unnoticed by the ordinary people ? shouldn?t they be chocked one might ask.

    Doudou Di?ne from the UN group on Human rights and racism has just produced a report on Denmark that pointed out their attitude towards minorities ? and do you know what the Danish response was? ?Someone from Senegal is not going to tell us what to do?. I guess this sums it all up.

    Thanks for this excellent article, we need more of this kind.

    Best regards,
    Martina

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Keep it clean, people!