"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Anders Fogh Rasmussen - Statesman or Sellout?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark and current NATO Secretary General, is a controversial figure to some.

He was the leader of Denmark during the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. From his Wikipedia entry:

A major period of conflict in Rasmussen's political career concerned a set of cartoons printed in Jyllands-Posten, a major Danish newspaper. In September 2005 the newspaper printed a full page with 12 cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, including one in which Muhammad appeared with a bomb in his turban. Some of the schools of the Islamic religion do not allow depiction of the figure of Mohammed. Many Muslims found the cartoons offensive. Rasmussen has described the controversy as Denmark's worst international crisis since World War II.

Well, some say that Wikipedia editors are the masters of understatement. This crisis became the flagship of the West's debate about freedom of speech, legitimate criticism of religion and the limits of self-censorship in the name of respect and tolerance.

However, Muslims insisted the depictions were offensive, and a orgy of violence ensued around the Muslim and Western worlds. At least three Danish embassies and one Norwegian embassy were burned, 139 people (mainly Muslim protesters) died and over 800 were injured.

As a response to the violence, many groups in the West began a 'support Denmark' campaign, trying to reverse the effects of the boycott of Danish products and generally show respect for their stand.

At the centre of all this stood Rasmussen - whatever happened, he insisted that he could not apologise on behalf of a newspaper which was free to publish what it wished; he saw that free speech is sacred to us.

Now, all that seems to have changed. Rasmussen wants to play the European statesman as NATO Secretary General - but, as always, there is a price.

The Turkish government insisted that they would only back him for the role if he apologised for his handling of the crisis; it seemed certain that he was going to grovel to Islamic values in order to climb the greasy pole of European politics, betraying all free people and those who wish to be free in the process, not to mention his own birthright.

Here is his speech (thanks to Vlad Tepes):

No one can quite decide if he apologised or not. He issued a very, very carefully worded statement that seemed to say 'I'm sorry if you were offended' rather than 'I'm sorry this occurred'.

However, he is in effect still grovelling to the Muslim world in order to get a job. Baron Bodissey has a list of how the speech was covered in various newspapers here.

It seems the Danish newspapers sought to put a brave face on his backing down from what has become one of the enduring images of their nation:

The Copenhagen Post had a somewhat different take on these events, and was at pains to point out that the former prime minister most definitely did not apologize:

Anders Fogh Rasmussen sought to smooth Muslim reservations during first international appearance after being nominated to become Nato’s next leader. Former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated today that he condemns the demonising of cultural groups, but did not fulfil expectations that he might issue an apology for the 2005 publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.

And Politiken was even more vehement:

“Listen. In Denmark we do not apologise for having freedom of speech,” Fogh Rasmussen is quoted by Ritzau as saying.“You all know that a Danish Prime Minister cannot apologise on behalf of a newspaper,” he continues.

However, he came far too close to out and out grovelling for my liking.

According to Reuters:

“I was deeply distressed that the cartoons were seen by many Muslims as an attempt by Denmark to mark and insult or behave disrespectfully toward Islam or the Prophet Mohammad. Nothing could be further from my mind,” he said.

“I respect Islam as one of the world’s major religions as well as its religious symbols,” he said during a panel discussion at the conference aimed at building bridges between the Muslim world and the West.

Turkey was definitely applying the pressure, as was the rest of the Muslim world. Here's a report from the official Jordanian news service:

NATO leaders’ appointment of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO’s new secretary-general Saturday would spark more hostility against Islam and Muslims, members of the “Messenger of Allah Unites Us” campaign said.

“It is a provocative step and reveals the western leaders’ insistence to reward those who instigate and nurture clash of civilization and religious feuds,” said a statement by campaigners on Sunday.With the coming of the US democrats to power, world nations particularly the Arab and Muslim world have anticipated drastic changes in the western politics that could reflect positively on peoples’ lives across the world, said the statement.It was just the opposite. The appointment of the extremist and racist Danish Prime Minister as NATO Secretary General came in defiance and provocation of feeling of millions of Muslims at the people and formal level.

So, if Rasmussen gives in to such forces, is his new job really worth having?

A better question might be is NATO actually fit for purpose if it spends most of its time sucking up to the world's leading illiberal, unenlightened forces rather than fighting them?

It seems we really are a long way from the Cold War - because now the goal is to appease and accommodate evil and ignorance, not resist it and fight it at all costs. In fact, those forces may have already won if a man has to show he's an acceptable face to Islam in order to lead NATO.

Nothing symbolises that more than the engineered grovelling of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, formerly one of the leading lights of the West's desire to preserve its ancient values, liberties and freedoms.


Dr.D said...

Does Europe want Turkey, or does Turkey want the EU? I was under the impression that it was Turkey seeking admission to the EU, not the EU begging Turkey to join. Since when does the one seeking admission get to call the tune?

Time to tell the Turks and the rest of the muzlim world where to get off!

WAKE UP said...

It's also time the words "respect" and "religion" were no longer used in the same sentence.