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18.3.06

Is Denmark Really Rotten?

I've been following the Danish cartoon debate very closely. For me it's very close to home. I'm a Danish Canadian, working in media, who believes strongly in freedom of speech. As a child I was taken to places like East Germany to show how people live under governnments who have taken away basic rights to information. I'm still moved by these expereinces today. I also live in Toronto and love learning about new cultures and do believe cultural sensitivity is important. But do I believe a whole country and its people should be punished because it believes in freedom of the press? No, it just seems so backward. Boycotts are something the US applies to countries with a record of repression, not something repressed nations do to fight western freedoms.

I was downtown the day Muslims were peacefully protesting in Toronto and asked some of them questions like "Will you be boycotting Denmark and its products?" No one was sure. "That's what I'm here to decide", one person told me. Strange place to decide I thought. Where's the balance in an anti-Dane protest taking place outside Toronto's Danish embassy? I should've asked "What happens now?"

I think it's the same question everyone's been thinking and it's the same one George Stroumboulopoulos asks on The Hour, which you can catch by quicktime on The Hour's site. You'll need to scroll down the video clips in their right column and find one dated 07/02 called "Why the protests over cartoons?"

The The Hour's 8 minute piece I watched via web delved into the political culture of Denmark and showed the context of what was happening. No news I had seen had covered it like this, and I learned from The Hour a few things about Denmark I previously hadn't known. I did know that Denmark is a country that prides itself on building world peace, and has shown the world by example how that can be done, but also know that immigration in Denmark is a touchy thing. George's well researched piece showed the reality of the situation there and, with expert Jeffrey Kopstein, at least somwhat answered "What happens next?"

One thing certain to change is that Salman Rushie, who when in hiding was frequenting my aunt's "local" in Copenhagen, and others like him (Neils Bohr) won't be seeking peaceful refuge in the protective bosom of mother Denmark. I feel like we all must go out into the world now a little more fearsome, a little less protected, but hopefully we can continue to watch and learn from media like that of The Hour which didn't sensationalize the story but delivered a way to understand the world a little better. Understanding is key.

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