The Jews then and the Muslims today in Denmark


October 27, 2017

Eliza Grey, writing in TIME magazine in October 2015 and commenting on the democratic primary debate between Senators Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had this to say. “There is no question about who came out strongest in the debate, Denmark!”

Both candidates, exclaimed how much they and all Democrats love Denmark, the ideal model of so many 

“Progressive Americans,” many of whom would be hard pressed to reveal how little they actually know about the country, and yet still regard it as an iconic model to which the United States should aspire. Hillary’s and Bernie’s ignorance of the country rivaled that of both Oprah and Bill O’Reilly who made far reaching remarks in contrasting the Scandinavia nation with the United States after visits lasting two days.

Lars Gert Lose, Danish ambassador to the United States had to make a modest reply to questions about the debate hurled at him by the editors of TIME. Both Democrat candidates mentioned the many social welfare benefits, maternity leave (parents are entitled to a combined 52 weeks of leave, with 18 weeks of maternity leave for the mother, two weeks of paternity leave for the father, and 32 weeks of parental leave that can be split up between both parents as they choose), student subsidies, free university education, low carbon emissions, you name it—Denmark has it, as compared to the other 33 countries in the OECD, spending more than 30 percent of its GDP on social support whereas, the United States, by contrast, spends less than 20 percent.

Not mentioned at all were the almost astronomical taxes including a sales tax of 22 percent (currently 25 percent) and other issues that many Democrats would have been reluctant to hear, including a continued hard nose Danish policy of severely restricting immigration, particularly from Muslim-majority countries. This anti-refugee sentiment was already apparent even then as Denmark had just closed its border to trains coming in from Germany as well as government ads in Lebanese newspapers to discourage migrants from attempting to enter the country.

What would Democrats say today after an interview that Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen gave to the Danish daily Jyllands Posten that “multiculturalism” had indeed proven to be a failure! He acknowledged that Muslims have taken control of parts of Denmark where the authorities tread with utmost care or ignore, regarding them as parallel societies. Queen Margrethe II has used similar language in warning Muslim immigrants they must obey the law equally with others. This is happening in connection with the ongoing debate on parallel societies, which neither Denmark nor any other Western countries has managed to overcome.

The prime minister specifically mentioned Muslims in connection with the problematic legal situation that has arisen in those parts of the country regarded as “no-go areas” (as in France) and expressed his foreboding that the state is unable to maintain law and order in places controlled by Muslim gangs:

“It’s a matter of being realistic about the situation...there are areas where there already is a different set of rules. Where the gangs are in control and the police cannot work. ...We get the short hand and bounce back and forth. One day we have a burka debate and the next day a debate about Muslim schools. The air is filled with easy solutions, and I think we have to try to rethink this based on an open recognition that we have these parallel societies.”

For more than three centuries, Jews lived a quiet life in Denmark, and while those in Copenhagen preferred to live in close proximity, they scrupulously obeyed the laws and never asked for any special considerations. Unlike today’s Muslim residents, they did not ask for special treatment, observance of their dietary laws or differential treatment of boys and girls in the public schools. 

Whatever their position in society, they took solace from hope in a life to come and believed that they and their children would be treated as equals. Whatever their rabbis might have to say about matters of personal affairs in religious observance, marriage, divorce, and adoption, the most ultra–Orthodox religious Jews as well as growing reform-minded and secular elements were thoroughly committed to the principle expressed by all rabbis dating from the third century A.D. in the Diaspora demanding from all Jews the recognition that “Dina demalkuta dina”—“The law of the kingdom is the law.” 

No Danish Jew would ever seek exceptional treatment before the law that applied to all Danes. Hans Christian Andersen, from an impoverished Christian family, was sent by his mother to the tiny Jewish school in his native Odense. This was the poorest section of town where all Jews in the city lived at the time. Andersen had become the victim of constant bullying in the ordinary public school where he was mocked for his effeminate nature and fondness for storytelling. Many years later when he was acknowledged as one of the most famous writers in Europe, he sent a letter to the headmaster of the school, expressing his gratitude for the refuge it provided him! Upon moving to Copenhagen, he was shocked to find that some of the wealthiest citizens of the capital were Jews contrary to his experience as a young teenager. He was sheltered by several of them who became his patrons.

From the latter part of the latter part of the 18th century until the beginning of the 20th, Jews resided in a dozen provincial towns. Half a dozen of them maintained synagogues until they withered away as Jews and either, intermarried, assimilated, migrated to Copenhagen, or emigrated abroad to England, the U.S., Germany and some of them to the Danish West Indies—the current U.S. Virgin Islands).

Denmark of the mid-nineteenth century set a marvelous example in human relations and brotherhood based on mutual respect. It was possible because a small minority had seen how it was incumbent upon them to win the respect of their neighbors. In today’s topsy-turvy world, Denmark and other nations are struggling to maintain their noble traditions and culture in the face of provocation from a militant minority of Muslim immigrants that is seeking to impose its will and culture/religion on the majority.


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