On Denmark's National day - June 15th - a major book on the »cartoon crisis« is being published in Copenhagen. The authors are Tøger Seidenfaden, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Politiken and Rune Engelbreth Larsen, a writer and historian of ideas. The book's title is Karikatur-krisen. En undersøgelse af baggrund og ansvar (»The Caricature Crisis: An investigation into background and responsibilities«).
The book is based on all available documents in the case, including not only national and international media coverage, but also hundreds of official documents and international diplomatic correspondence, released by Danish ministries and other authorities. The book aims to approximate the independent and official enquiry into the most serious foreign policy crisis endured by Denmark in decades, an enquiry which the Danish Government has until now prevented from taking place.
The authors do not hide their own opinions, but the book is based on solid documentation and in-depth-analysis. As the authors say, quoting the late American senator, Daniel Patrick Moyniham: »Everyone is entitled to his own opinions. But everyone is not entitled to his own facts.« In the book, the many points of view expressed during the caricature crisis are subjected to a strong test, which consists in confronting them with the many available facts.
Both authors have been active participants in the national Danish debate on the issue, and Tøger Seidenfaden in particular has played a unique and remarkable role. During the climax of the crisis, in February of this year, both critics and proponents described him as the »de facto leader of the opposition« on the issue. In addition, investigatory journalism in his newspaper, Politiken, has played a major role in drawing attention to the Danish Government's highly problematic handling of the diplomatic issues involved.
Among the book's conclusions:
• Muslim preachers and the delegations sent by Danish Muslims to Egypt and Lebanon did not have a significant role in creating global outrage against Denmark. Despite the strong conviction about their responsibility among many Danes, the facts exonerate them
• Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen bears the main responsibility for the eruption and escalation of the crisis
• for nearly four months the prime minister mislead and manipulated Danish public opinion, by giving false information about the demands actually made by the diplomatic representatives of Islamic countries.
• by systematically neglecting to give the Foreign Policy Committee (Det Udenrigspolitiske Nævn) of Parliament any information on the brewing crisis for more than 3 months, the government has broken a constitutional norm, which only it's automatic support from the Danish People's Party has prevented Parliament from condemning
• the Danish Government has engaged in a major cover-up, preventing any form of independent enquiry, thus breaching norms prevalent in the democracies to which we normally compare ourselves.
• it was no accident that this global crisis was ignited in Denmark, where islamophobia is more rampant and politically influential than in most Western countries - mainly because of the influence of the Danish People's Party.
• the violent form the crisis took in some countries, including embassy burnings, riotous demonstrations and terroristic threats, does not reflect a general »clash of civilizations« - but specific local conditions and frustrations.
• the crisis originated in a conflict between the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, and religious Muslim groups in Denmark - but only became a global crisis because of the extraordinarily inept - or provocative - handling of the diplomatic aspects by the government.
• once the crisis was internationalized, the Danish imams did more to defuse the situation than to inflame it.
• at no point has freedom of expression been seriously threatened by Danish Muslims. The idea that "self-censorship" with regard to criticism of Islam was widespread in Denmark before the publication of the caricatures is without foundation in facts.
• freedom of expression was in fact threatened at a late stage of the affair, when the Taleban and Al Qaeda made terrorist threats against cartoonist and editors. Ironically, this was the stage of the affair when the government's and the newspaper's defence of freedom of expression was the least absolute.
• the decision by the prosecutorial authorities not to try the case in a court of law was taken in a manner which reveals double standards, omissions from the record, and selective interpretations.
• the newspaper Jyllands-Posten set out to offend the religious minority of Muslims in Denmark, and did so in a manner which would never have been used vis-s-vis Jews or Christians.
Rune Engelbreth Larsen and Tøger Seidenfaden
Press Release, June 13 2006