Thursday, January 7, 2010

Denmark's Clash of Satire, Parody and Cultural Sensitivity

Danes Study Immigrants After Cartoonist Attack

Published: January 6, 2010
"New details about the suspect in the attack on the cartoonist, 74-year-old Kurt Westergaard, have increased complaints that the security service has been lax in monitoring people suspected of being terrorist sympathizers.

The attack took place late last Friday when Mr. Westergaard was threatened in his townhouse in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, by a man carrying a knife and an ax. Mr. Westergaard has been a focus of Muslim ire since drawing perhaps the most provocative of ... 12 cartoons, showing Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. He fled into a locked safe room and summoned the police with a panic button.

The suspected assailant, 28-year-old Muhudiin Mohamed Geele, was charged with two counts of attempted homicide, on Mr. Westergaard and on a police officer, and has pleaded not guilty...

Mr. Geele arrived in Denmark in 1995, a refugee from the civil war in Somalia, the authorities said, and the next year was granted indefinite leave to remain. He lived in the city of Aalborg and, as a boy, was a role model for others in a youth club there, said Nuuradiin Hussein, who worked at the club...

Mr. Geele married and had three children, and at some point, according to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, known as PET, developed ties to the Shabab, a Somali terrorism organization, and to Al Qaeda in East Africa.

He also began making frequent trips abroad. Last summer, he was detained by the authorities in Nairobi, Kenya. The proximate cause was that he had lost his passport, but intelligence officials said he also was believed to have connections to suspects in a plot to blow up several buildings, including a hotel where Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was staying.

Nicholas Kamwende, head of Kenya’s antiterrorism police, said that the Kenyan authorities verbally shared 'intelligence information' about him with the Danish Embassy.

'We told them...He is a dangerous man...but their reaction was negative,' Mr. Kamwende said in an interview.

In an interview with the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Mr. Geele’s now ex-wife said that PET had tried to recruit him in 2006.

'The police wanted him as an informant' she told the newspaper, 'and he became sad and more and more introverted. The police thought that he had participated in combat actions in Somalia against Ethiopian forces, and that he traveled back and forth to take part in war. But he had only been in Somalia in 2005 to visit the family.'...

What the attack on Mr. Westergaard shows perhaps more than anything is how the publication of the cartoons has irrevocably changed Denmark’s place in world affairs. The damage was compounded in 2008, when in response to a separate plot to kill Mr. Westergaard, all of Denmark’s major newspapers reprinted the cartoons.

It was then that Osama bin Laden denounced the cartoons as part of  'a crusade' against Islam, and other Qaeda officials called on Muslims to make Denmark a target of their fury. That June, a suicide bomber in Islamabad, Pakistan, killed eight people at the Danish Embassy.

In the latest manifestation of Denmark’s troubles, the Sudanese government on Tuesday publicly denounced 'The Revenge,' a movie about the Sudanese war by the Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. The government compared the film — which has not yet been screened, and which is due to be released this summer — to the cartoons."

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