Muslim immigrants in a town near Copenhagen have forced the cancellation of traditional Christmas displays this year even while spending lavishly on the Islamic Eid celebration marking the end of Ramadan.
The controversy has escalated into an angry nationwide debate over the role of Islam in post-Christian Denmark, where a burgeoning Muslim population is becoming increasingly assertive in imposing its will on a wide range of social and civic issues.
The latest dust-up involves the Egedalsvænget housing complex in Kokkedal, a town situated some 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Copenhagen where Arab and Turkish immigrants now comprise more than half the total population.
At a recent meeting of the Egedalsvænget tenants' association, the Muslim majority on the Board of Directors refused to authorize spending 7,000 Danish kroner ($1,200) for the community's annual Christmas event.
The vote came shortly after the same Board of Directors authorized spending 60,000 kroner ($10,000) on a large communal celebration of the Muslim holiday Eid. Five out of nine of the board members are Muslims.
A Muslim member of the board, Ismail Mestasi, defended the decision to cancel the Christmas tree and party, arguing that no one had offered to organize the celebration. "No one wanted to take on the responsibility. A vote was taken and it ended as it ended. I don't celebrate Christmas, but I was asked to get the tree. And I didn't want to." But a non-Muslim board member, Karin Leegaard Hansen, refuted him, saying that she herself had offered to take on the responsibility, but that she was overruled by the Muslim board members.
The dispute, which is the latest in an ever-growing list of Muslim-related controversies in Denmark, was first reported by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) on November 7. Since then, the issue has snowballed into a national scandal and has become a key topic for public debate in the Danish media as well as in political circles.
A spokesman for the Danish Conservative Party, Tom Behnke, says he fears there are people who want to convert Denmark into a Muslim country. In an interview with DR News, Behnke said: "I think it is deeply alarming that our integration efforts are so ineffective that the moment there is a Muslim majority, we do away with good-old Danish traditions and introduce Muslim traditions instead. We are living in Denmark, and people have to adapt to the situation that applies here."
When asked whether housing associations with a Muslim minority should sponsor an Eid party, Behnke replied: "We have to remember that in the past, an Eid festival was the Muslims' victory celebration after they had slaughtered the Christians, so I don't know how much there is to celebrate in Denmark. Still, people should be allowed to celebrate whatever festivals they want to, but they also must respect the festivals in the country they have come to."
Behnke added: "There is no point in wanting to convert Denmark into a Muslim country because you yourself have a Muslim background. That must never happen. On the contrary, we must have mutual respect for one another. This is a lack of respect for Danish traditions and culture. We must not have a Denmark where Danish traditions disappear as soon as there is a Muslim majority."
Danish police are now investigating an accusation of racism made against the Muslim board members. In an interview with the Copenhagen Post, police spokesperson Karsten Egtved said: "It needs to be determined to what extent the decision by the Muslim members of the board to first vote 'yes' to a 60,000 kroner Eid party, then 'no' to a 7,000 kroner Christmas tree to celebrate Christian traditions, violates laws by discriminating against Christians and their traditions."
The Christmas tree controversy took an ominous new twist on November 12, when a van carrying two journalists from TV2 News was attacked by 25 masked hoodlums. The journalists had gone to the Egedalsvænget housing complex to film a report about the story, but immediately upon their arrival their van was bombarded with bricks and cobblestones. The attackers destroyed the van and chased the hapless journalists out of the area.
According to TV2, the perpetrators were Muslim youths who were seeking to silence media coverage of the Christmas tree dispute.
Local police have sided with the Muslim attackers by blaming the journalists for sending a television truck into the area in the first place. Dan Houtved of the North Zealand Police told BT News that he would not have gone there had he been a journalist with TV2. "You choose to enter a tense area. One can argue about whether it is wise. I probably would not have done it."
Houtved is referring to the growing number of no-go zones in suburbs of Copenhagen and other Danish cities that are increasingly becoming autonomous enclaves ruled by Muslim youth gangs. They are areas where Danish police fear to tread. (See news video here about how the Danish government is bribing native Danes to get them to live in immigrant neighborhoods.)
In March, for example, more than 140 Muslim gang members raided a courthouse where two fellow Muslims were being tried for attempted murder.
The Muslims -- all members of criminal street gangs that have taken over large parts of Danish towns and cities -- were wearing masks and bullet-proof vests and throwing rocks and bottles as they tried to force their way into the district courthouse in Glostrup, a heavily Islamized suburb of Copenhagen, on March 6.
Police used batons and pepper spray to fend off the gang members, who were armed with an arsenal of 20 different types of weapons, including crowbars, darts, hammers, knives, screwdrivers and wooden clubs.
The trial in Glostrup involved two Pakistani immigrants accused of shooting and attempting to murder two fellow Muslims who belong to a rival gang. The shooting was related to an escalating turf war between rival Muslim gangs from the Værebroparken housing estate in Bagsværd, a suburb of Copenhagen, and Nivå and Kokkedal in northern Zealand. Immigrant gangs are believed to be responsible for at least 50 shootings in and around Copenhagen during 2012.
The immigrant gangs are involved in countless criminal activities, including drug trafficking, illegal weapons smuggling, extortion, human trafficking, robbery, prostitution, automobile theft, racketeering and murder.
Many of the gang members are ethnic Arabs, Bosnians, Turks and Somalians. They also include Iraqis, Moroccans, Palestinians and Pakistanis.
Over the past several years, the immigrant gangs have proliferated geographically across all of Denmark. The gangs have spread south from Copenhagen to the rest of Zealand, from inner Nørrebro, to the suburbs Ishøj, Greve, and on to Køge. The gangs are also active in Albertslund, Herlev, Hillerød, Høje Gladsaxe, Hundige, Roskilde and Skovlunde, among many Danish localities.
Danish authorities estimate that each year more than 700 immigrants between the ages of 18 and 25 are choosing crime as a permanent career by joining gangs such as Black Cobra, the Black Scorpions, the Bandidos, the Bloodz, the International Club, or any other of the more than 100 gangs that are now operating in Denmark.
In August, more than 80 Muslim gang members raided a hospital in Odense, the third-largest city in Denmark, in a failed attempt to kidnap a 26-year-old rival gang member who had previously been shot and stabbed at a shopping center in the Vollsmose district. Hospital police had to use weapons to prevent the angry mob from getting their hands on the shooting victim. An ambulance and four police cars were destroyed in the violence.
More recently, Muslim gangs have been extorting shops and bars in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, threatening local business owners with violence if they refuse to pay protection money for operating in "Muslim territory."
But some non-Muslims have refused to give in to the threats. Consider 67-year-old Jane Pedersen, the courageous owner of the Café Viking, a bar that has been the focus of repeated attacks by Muslim gangs because of her refusal to pay. Pedersen has set up a Facebook page called "No to Bullies, Yes to Beer," which has drawn national and international attention to her plight. (See here for a video produced by the politically correct BBC, which manages to report on Pedersen and Copenhagen's gang problem without once using the word "Muslim".)
In an interview with the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, Pedersen said: "Some guys came in here and told me that I have to pay to be in their area. I refused. I could be their grandmother, and it simply cannot be justified."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.