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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Prof and Cabinet member, both Danes, discuss Europe and Islam

Published: October 22, 2010
Section: News

Jytte Klausen of the politics department spoke at in Rapaporte Treasure Hall Monday, but for the first time she delivered remarks as a Dane, on the success of Danish and European integration of Islam, opposite Berter Haarder, a member her home country’s Cabinet in charge of interior affairs and once immigration chief. The debate-like forum in Rapaporte Treasure Hall centered on Europe’s modern relations with its Muslim immigrants and new citizens, especially after the 2005 Danish cartoon incident of a newspaper’s publishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet and critical of Islam.

Klausen, who wrote a book on the subject, “The Cartoons that Shook the World,” told the audience that while extremists get the most attention and spur anti-immigrant political action, most Muslims in Europe are peacefully integrating.

Since the cartoons’ publication, which was followed later that year by demonstrations and concurrent other deadly riots in Muslim communities around the world, European relations with those communities have been mixed.

Klausen’s presentation included slides and testimony of European Muslims in uniquely European situations, like extended paternity leave, to showcase the levels of successful integration into the nations of the continent.

“Political acrimony obscures the actually cordial relations between Muslim organizations and people at the local level,” she said.

“We need immigration, but uneducated people are unable to help the economy,” he said, “and people see immigrants as a burden on society.”

At the time of the incident, Haarder said, the Danish government only made clear to angry Muslims in other nations that in their democratic country, the government could only allow the newspaper to continue publishing freely, an issue Klausen also addressed when her slide compared the status of Holocaust denial, a crime in several European countries, to anti-Islamic statements that were free from government intervention.

Haarder, who as immigration and integration minister ordered tough measures limiting the number of immigrants to Denmark, argued that actions by his and other governments were justified by real and deeply held concerns held by natural-born Danes.

He cited negative effects on a country’s society if certain immigrants are allowed to settle into the country, including their children’s struggle in school and the whole family’s struggle to find jobs despite the language barrier.

He also said that in general, Europe has been welcome to Muslims when they integrate, learn the home language and keep to the “extremely secular” culture.

Klausen said that the offense taken by immigrant Muslims was not strictly about a clash of religion and secularism, but the double standard between protected speech against them opposed to the treatment of other groups.

“Most Muslims are not angry at the taboos being broken—everywhere you go taboos are broken,” she said.