It’s no secret that, within Muslim countries, Denmark has an image problem. The September 2005 publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper generated shocking uproar, with angry masses torching the Danish consulate in Beirut, the Danish embassy in Damascus, and Danish flags just about everywhere. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared the furor the worst Danish international relations incident since World War II, as his effigy burnt worldwide.
One can hardly blame Denmark for wanting to resuscitate its image. After all, the cartoons debacle erupted from an independent newspaper’s publication choices, and not Danish foreign policy. Yet the public diplomacy tactic it will employ tonight in Cairo reeks of hypocrisy. In a bid to shift the negative attention away from Denmark, the Danish Embassy will be hosting the band Outlandish, whose lyrics prominently emphasize anti-Israel themes.
In “Look Into My Eyes,” for example, Outlandish refers to Israel’s existence as “terror . . . 57 years so cruel,” and ultimately blames the United States: “Americans do ya realize/That the taxes that u pay/Feed the forces that traumatize/My every living day.” The music video is particularly noteworthy, depicting an elementary school class play in which a Palestinian Little Red Riding Hood overcomes an Israeli Big Bad Wolf. In “Try Not to Cry,” meanwhile, Outlandish compares Israel to “the Crusaders and Mongols,” declaring “I throw stones like David before me.” On YouTube, one of their fan-made music videos heavily demonizing Israel has been viewed over a million times.
When asked why the Danish Embassy would host such an event, Cultural Relations Officer Dorte Zaalouk called Outlandish—whose members are of Moroccan, Pakistani, and Honduran backgrounds—a “good example of integration in Denmark,” emphasizing that showcasing Danish-Muslim talent was essential after the cartoons public relations debacle. Perhaps, but wasn’t the Embassy concerned about showcasing a band that merely incites disdain for another country through its politically charged lyrics? “We don’t see it that way,” she said.
Well, maybe Denmark should see it “that way.” After all, at the height of the cartoon controversy, Denmark was hardly the only country whose national symbols were desecrated: American, Israeli, French, and Norwegian flags, among others, were also incinerated, while the Norwegian embassy in Damascus was torched. That the Danish Embassy in Cairo has sought to improve its own lot by hosting the defamation of another country demonstrates both poor character and political short-sightedness.