Open letter to Barack Obama

On Racism in Denmark


The Danish author of 'American Pictures' Jacob Holdt, and Danish author and columnist Rune Engelbreth, have published "An Open Letter to Barack Obama on Racism in Denmark" as a video-message on YouTube and Facebook.

The authors are concerned about the rising influence of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party and hope to get the attention of the American President Elect as well as the American public and media.

A new series of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed are about to be published in Denmark where political discrimination and hate-filled rhetoric directed against ethnic and religious minorities has become a dominating part of mainstream politics.

A critical appraisal of the danger from our neighbours and friends abroad may prove to be a helpful necessity, similar to the criticism directed at the USA in the years when American politicians demonized their own black minority to attract white voters. Many Americans today express gratitude for the international support in those years and in line with the American ambassador to Denmark James P. Cain, hope that Denmark can avoid repeating America's past mistakes.

Jacob Holdt (+0045 20 32 44 12)

Rune Engelbreth (+0045 40 88 52 25)




Dear Mr. President Elect, Barack Obama.


In the spirit of optimism, and the courage to hope for real change which has been kindled throughout the world by the historic election in the United States, we hope to bring to your personal attention, and to the awareness of the American public, the distressing state of affairs in our own highly privileged corner of the world.

We wish to express our deep concern at the incremental rise of racism and the use of racist propaganda in mainstream Danish politics over the past decade.

Ethnic and religious minorities are demonized and marginalized. Discrimination and hate-filled rhetoric reminiscent of anti-Semitic propaganda of the 1930's has become an accepted part of Danish political debate. This especially affects African ethnic minorities, Arabian ethnic minorities and Muslim religious minorities.

The following are quotes from elected members of the Danish and European Parliaments:


Danish member of the European Parliament, Mogens Camre:
»Let me state it clearly: Muslims ought to live in Muslimland - and that's not here.«
»There is no place for Islam in Europe and our first priority must be to repatriate the Muslims.«


Member of the Danish Parliament, Pia Kjaersgaard, on immigrants from developing countries living in Denmark:
»Thousands upon thousands of people who spiritually, culturally and with regard to civilization, are plainly still in the year 1005.«


Member of the Danish Parliament, Jesper Langballe:
»The Old Testament is an altogether Christian book which the Jewish religion has misused, with no actual right to do so.«


Member of the Danish Parliament, Soeren Krarup:
»It is absolutely grotesque that people from Somalia, Sri Lanka and the Far East should be able to call themselves refugees in Denmark.« »Islam is a new totalitarian plague sweeping Europe.«


Member of the Danish Parliament, Martin Henriksen:
»Islam has since its inception been a terrorist movement.«
»Islam is by its very nature an evil, which must and will be combatted.«


Member of the Danish Parliament, Kristian Thulesen Dahl:
»In many ways we are anti-Muslim.«


The quotes above are not simply the usual xenophobic rantings of minor internet based extremists. They are the words of Danish politicians popularly elected to the European and Danish Parliaments with one thing in common - they are all members of the same political party: The Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti).


Sometimes members of this party are even more outspoken:

»All Muslims must be thrown out of Denmark.« (Vagn Eriksen)

»All Muslims must leave Denmark. It's a harsh thing to say, some of them are human beings, but how are we to sort them out?« (Ib Krog Hansen)

(A number of the Danish People's Party's campaigns in Danish newspapers has also stigmatized and demonized Muslims and immigrants – for translations and pictures go to the internet-version of this letter: )


The Danish People's Party is demonizing minorities with the same rhetoric that was once used to demonize Jews and Afro-Americans, distorting their intentions and beliefs. Yet they have been the most influential political party of the past decade, dictating policy on ethnic and religious minorities.


Let us not forget how the Nazis seduced the German people into hating the Jews - by constant claims that Jews were a threat to everybody else:


Julius Streicher, Nazi Propagandist, in 1925:
»Jewish values and rules of conduct permit and even necessitate that which is forbidden for the non-Jew because of his Christian belief. The Jew must reproduce, deceive, bear false witness and when expedient, he may even kill people.«


Compare this to Pia Kjaersgaard, leader of the Danish People's Party, in 2000:
»The Quran teaches Muslims it is acceptable for them to lie and deceive, cheat and swindle as much as they like.«


Hermann Esser, Nazi writer on Jews, in 1939:
»They come as 'foreigners,' as 'beggars', slinking and groveling, with false humility and dishonest respect. Once they have swindled their way to something, they become thieves and bloodsuckers.«


Compare this to Mogens Camre, Member of the European Parliament for the Danish People's Party, in 1999:
»Muslims come with a beggar's staff in their hand, but as soon as they're in from the cold it becomes a stick to beat us with.«


This is how they are stereotyping and stigmatizing people, by demonizing and denouncing a minority in general as a menace to society. We are not accusing the Danish People's Party of Nazi-sympathies, but history has repeatedly showed how quickly this kind of propaganda can take on a critical momentum of its own when used by influential politicians to stigmatize ethnic or religious groups.


And we are not the only ones to criticize the political development in Denmark over the last decade, the international media has been here too:


The Washington Post:
»A wave of anti-Muslim sentiment has bolstered far-right parties (...) The changing mood has found its fullest political expression here in Denmark, where an anti-immigrant party won 12 percent of the vote (...) Its campaign posters featured a picture of a young blond girl and the slogan: 'When she retires, Denmark will have a Muslim majority'.« (March 29, 2002).


Neue Zürcher Zeitung:
»By court order, the head of the DPP, Pia Kjaersgaard, may not be labeled 'racist', but she keeps things humming in her own party's ranks with frequent xenophobic utterances (...) referring to Sweden's relatively open policy toward foreigners, Kjaersgaard remarked that the Stockholm regime was perfectly free to let Swedish cities become Scandinavian Beiruts, replete with mass rapes, revenge killings and clan wars.« (June 19, 2002).


International Herald Tribune:
»Denmark has in the past decade become one of the most anti-immigrant countries in Europe, with Muslims the object of great hostility. It was a Danish newspaper that, in 2005, published the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that flared into an international crisis. A major factor has been the rise of the openly anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party ...« (November 26, 2007).


In November 2008 the American ambassador to Denmark, James P. Cain, suggested that Denmark might learn something from the United States:


»Americans in some point of our history decided that it was more important to have an ordered, integrated, diverse, peaceful, secure, harmonious society – harmonious racially, harmonious from an ethnic perspective and harmonious religiously – than it was to each have the individual right to insult our neighbours, to incite violence, to draw offensive cartoons just for the heck of it.« (Deadline, November 12, 2008).


Mr. President Elect.

We honestly have no idea if this message will reach you - but we have the aucacity of hope. And perhaps the Danish government have learned a lesson or two from the American election in 2008?


Therefore we sincerely hope that you will take the opportunity to raise these pivotal matters with the Danish government and point out the danger of espousing the policies of the Danish People's Party. We believe the government will listen to you if you choose to criticize the influence of the Danish People's Party when the opportunity presents itself. Thank you!


Yours truly,

Jacob Holdt (+0045 20 32 44 12)

Rune Engelbreth (+0045 40 88 52 25)

Other videos in English              Flere videoer på dansk