Friday, March 17, 2006

Denmark: Historian's augury: R Plat blogs historical sleuthing of Danish govt's failures toward Muslim community and aftermath

Earlier, I blogged under the headline Ex-Muslims ally with anti-Christian Humanism to end pluralism," and the ex-Muslim secularist manifesto to seal the doom of the West still troubles. But I prefaced the matter responding to the aforesaid, with a strait-up link-filled note on the emergence on the Net of historians beginning to systematize and narrate the unfolding of events around the notorious slap at Muslim religious sensiblities under the cover of "freedom of speech." Altho I was still somewhat leery of R Plat's first 6 installments of his history (then 4 parts + 2 digressions), I was impressed with the good work of each installment which make for fascinating reading, but still didn't satisfy me because they didn't attend to the tripartite clash of ultimate values in the situation. Those major configurations (ultimate values, value systems, and clusters of worldviews), in historical order, are: Christian, Englightenment, and Islamic.

They represent religious groundmotives (Herman Dooyeweerd, Dutch philosopher) that set the tone of value-contestations in Danish culture and all that society's differentiated spheres of life (from state to church to mass media to family to art, for instance). How the state handles this multi-sphere diversity by which contesting configurations of ultimate values criss-cross each sphere in the overall societal reality it serves is of utmost importance. But historian R Plat seems to have another view (I don't fawlt him for that) which is never made explicit historiographically against its conceivable alternative (and on that, I'm after him to come to grips with at least some salient features of this Danish difference regarding the starting point of history-writing).

In my all-too-brief earlier post, I even deployed without nuance a perhaps-contentious metaphor, "Sometime soon I hope to dissect this 'Whig Interpretation of History.' I was thinking, of course, of Herbert Butterfield, the British historian's famous book of that title, which his intellectual biographer Thomas McIntire has suggested never entirely frees itself of its own 'whiggism' - in the Brit's case, his own formative Christian Methodism.

We can't truly become sterile "neutralists' in our history-writing because we need our own ultimate values to function as our depth-motivation in our various callings, including our sense of historicity and our historical discourse. So with R Plat, his excellent blog Random Platitudes, and his first major blogged histriography project, I am still hoping to get a few scraps thrown to the floor for the beggars like myseelf, so that we can understand just how much the self-consciously Christian community in Denmark (with its own variant tendencies) has acceded regressively to the ethnocentrist Conservatives in the government (think LePen, Fortuyn, etc), or to the free-market Conservatives leading the government (thinks the Austrian School of Economics, Ayn Rand, etc). But, once one can get some grip on that assumedly widespread historographical failure, are there any cultured Christian voices standing against the religious failure of the Danish government to truly and warmly welcome the neighbour, in this case especially the Muslim immigrants (of course, among whom as among Christians and Enlightenment-secularists there are shady characters and hate-mongers). Have any Christians had the courage to challenge the Englightenment ideology of an absolute "free speech," which from its origins then over the centuries hooked itself up to a further idea born in rankly apostate absolute individualism, now mythologized as the core value of a later society of media-consumers manipulated by ideologues and advertizers driving massive institutional vehicles like Jyllands-Posten.Is there no robust lay Christianity, politically informed and aware of the unhindered deployment of power by self-anointed gate-keepers and promulgators of public discourse?

There's no hint of this depth-historical problematic (yet) in the online work of Plat. However, all is not lost, by any means, as the 8 posts to the Plat history (now grown to 6 parts + 2 digressions) fully indicate (see below). For what he has published online, according to his own ulitmate values and consequent historographical presuppositions, I do indeed congratulate and thank Dr Plat. Sir, please keep these blog-entries coming!

Yet, there's the yawning gap I've been feeling. I thnk Ulf Hedetoft got it correct in Denmark cartoon blowback in the online Open Democracy (Feb1,2k6). Hedetoft speaks of the motivation of the assault of the cartoons publisher on Denmark's Muslims, reversing the Danish stand against Hitler's antiSemitism and antiJudaism:

There was no other substantive context, no thematic or analytic justification, no other narrative, slant, or interpretative framework that might have made them palatable or just somehow reasonable. The message was simple, unadorned, and childishly, defiantly provocative: we publish these because we have a right to do so; the liberty of free speech allows us to offend whoever we like, and the religious sensibility of Danish Muslims has to come to terms with this basic fact of Danish life and values if they want to be accepted and to integrate.

This defence of free speech – testing the limits of Muslim tolerance rather than observing the limits of civility – was portrayed as necessary because this democratic value is allegedly under threat from Islamic communities wanting to curtail democracy, to impose a different culture on Denmark, and eventually to introduce sharia law. Provocation was called for and offence justified in order to teach the "immigrant other" a serious lesson, and at the same time wage a battle for what "we all" believe in, before it is too late.

Thus, the paper itself depicted this act of deliberate provocation and insult – the perversity of deliberately offending because one is allowed to – as almost an example of civic disobedience: as if Jyllands-Posten and not the Danish Muslims were a minority voice in a public landscape dominated by non-Danish values, and as if the aliens were winning the domestic "clash of civilisations".

This picture of a hysterical Englightenment dominant culture rings true but exposes so unfocused a situation in the country that it constitutes a denial of Danish reality to such an extent the ideologically-dominant picture is its own verbal cartoon. In his article Hedetoft mentions the fact of Denmark as somehow today still "a Lutheran society" in some sense. Clicking up Hedetoft's live-link of the word "Lutheran" we arrive at a government site, all neatly organized under a state ministry.
The Constitution and Religion
Ecclesiastical and religious matters in Denmark are subject to the Constitution, the main principles being established by the stipulation that the Evangelical Lutheran Church – as the established Church of Denmark – shall be supported by the State, and also by provisions on freedom of religion, speech and assembly.

State support is partly moral and political (Sunday observance legislation and legislation on church matters), partly financial and administrative (contributions to clergy salaries and pensions, the collection of church taxes, the maintenance of the national church governance by means of a Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and diocesan administration, supervision, advisory services, etc.).

. And ...
Of religious communities, the established church is by far the largest (84.1% of the population in 2002). Alongside the established church various other Christian churches are represented in Denmark and have been accorded the status of officially recognised religious communities. ... During the last decades of the 20th century, the largest of the non-Christian communities has been dominated by Muslim immigrants; on the basis of the number of immigrants from Muslim countries now resident in Denmark, the number is estimated to be c. 150,000 (2002), made up of a number of mutually independent Islamic communities."
So this brings us full circle thru the Lutheran clergy as minions of the Danish state to their widely-scattered flock dispersend into their Humanist secularist political parties subject to the dominant ideology of each in turn, and not having accessiblity to a stable Christian policy on immigration and re-education of newcomers with all due hospitality. Yet, I suspect the Danish clergy - half-secularist themselves (the updated politics of the Lutheran two-realms doctrine) - have been at least consulting with their Muslim neighbours, while still unable to critique the secularism of the establishment and its Islamophobia in the name of the Enlightenment and its version of freedom of speech. Hedetoft helps us, especially if we fathom his source on a bureaucratic Lutheranism in all its slumber.

Another voice joins in ruffly the same critique as Hedetoft, this one from Belgium, Paul Belien, editor of Brussels Journal in the context of an ex-Muslim Englightenment-secularist manifesto that he subjects to critique. Says Bielen:

There is no doubt that Islamism is a threat to freedom and human dignity. However, as we have warned before, some [non-Muslim] people – undoubtedly brave, but nevertheless mistaken – are prepared to destroy certain basic freedoms, such as freedom of education, in their fight against Islam and religion in general. The question has already been put here: Is Islam dangerous because it is a religion? Do Muslim values differ from European values because the latter are rooted in Christianity or because [European values] are secular[ist]? These questions are at the heart of the debate in Europe today.

In our opinion, man is a religious being. Secularism destroyed the Christian roots of Europe and, in doing so, created the religious vacuum that is now being filled by Islam. The manifesto warns against “battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. […] We must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.”

History in the past century, however, has clearly indicated that those fighting for an “egalitarian” world were the most “liberticidal” of all. Freedom is the right to live “unegalitarianly.” This is why Brussels Journal defends the right of individuals – though not of the state – to “discriminate” (which, by the way, contrary to what the manifesto implies, is not the same as “oppress”). Indeed, it is no coincidence that the manifesto avoids referring to “Socialism” (and even “Communism”) among the scourges of the past century and prefers to speak of “Nazism” and Stalinism” instead. Half the manifesto’s signatories are probably Socialists, which explains why the manifesto obfuscates the secular[ist], Socialist roots of these scourges.

In this fine-pointed critique of secularist ideology the sad reality is that here Bielen and his Dutch colleague, Dr Jos Verhulst, altho they also bring out the historical problematic I find lacking in Plat's Enlightenment 'whig' interpretation of the present Danish experience, at the same time godify individualism, like secularist Humanists of the Enlightenment - because the Enlightenment always was conflicted on which human reality to absolutize, either the collectivity (race, state, etc.) or the individual (one's rights against everyone else and every sphere-grouping, the free market, etc.). Some Christians add a vanilla-chocolate cover to socialist ideology, others add the covering to libertarian ideology; but both are merely modes of a baptism of the Englightenment with a sugar-coating.

Here Prof Plat has a most important moment of truth, while not dealing with the priority problematic I have concern for, he at the same time does not inflate the niceties of the details into specious ideologizing - such as do the ex-Muzzies, their two "French philosophers," and the opponents of the latter two - Belien and Verhulst with their slightly-Christian individualism. Christian philosophy can do better; it is no more dependent on individualism than it is on socialism. But there's no room here to enter into that theme. In the interim, I recommend that all readers have a go at Ulf Hedetoft's piece, and a good read of the uptodated list of historian Plat's blog-entries on "The Cartoon Row dissected." Please, don't miss Part Six! - Politicarp

The Cartoon Row dissected - Part 1 (Feb16,2k6)
A Digression [#1]: Origins of xenophobia in Denmark (Feb17,2k6)
The Cartoon Row dissected - Part 2 (Feb18,2k6)
Another Digression [#2]: Freedom of speech, and discrimination laws in Denmark (Feb20,2k6)
The Cartoon Row dissected - Part 3 (Feb23,2k6)
The Cartoon Row dissected - Part 4 (Feb27,2k6)
The Cartoon Row dissected - Part 5 (Mar9,2k6)
The Cartoon Row dissected - Part 6 (Mar14,2k6)


Here's refWrite's own earlier tracing of the Danish cartoons story Before joining the Buy Danish campaign (mentioned at the end of that previous post), I want to have knowledge that some Danish Christians are grouped politically to speak out normatively against the Anders Fogh Rasmussen Free-Marketeers and their ethnocentric collaborators in the government on the matter of the cartoons. I'm not calling for censorship of the press, but for the responsibles pro-active censure of Jyllands-Posten and the ex-Muslims fanatical dismissal of value-pluralism for unitary secualrism; all that would be a good move. I want to see some Christian element in Denmark that I can identify with because of its own-faith based neighborliness to Danes and newcomers of the Muslim religion. Then I can freeely join in the Buy Danish campaign, but not until then. I have another certifying reason for joining in, if and when the time comes. And that's the excellent socially-responsible Danish business enterprise, Leggo, that testifies to what an ethical capitalism can accomplish. I want to get to the place where I can sincerely "Buy Danish" and recommend that others do so as well. - P

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