Iceland’s Sovereignty Centenary Sparks Controversy: Danish Anti-Immigration Keynote Speaker Takes Centre Stage - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s Sovereignty Centenary Sparks Controversy: Danish Anti-Immigration Keynote Speaker Takes Centre Stage

Published July 25, 2018

Hannah Jane Cohen
Main photo by
Art Bicnick

On the July 18th, Icelanders nationwide celebrated the centenary of Iceland and Denmark signing the Union Treaty, which recognised Iceland as a fully independent and sovereign state.

While the holiday was certainly a happy occasion, it was not without its share of controversy, primarily related to the keynote speaker of the celebration, Pia Kjærsgaard, the founder of the Danish People’s Party and parliamentary president of Denmark.

Pia is a right wing politician widely known for her stance against multiculturalism and immigration as well as her anti-Islamic sentiments. In the past, she referred to Muslims as people who, “lie, cheat, and steal,” and sued other politicians for libel when they called her racist. The choice for her to represent Denmark here was peculiar and provocative.

Standing up

“We are now seeing that fascism, racism, hatred, anti-democratic values come in different forms all over the world.”

In response, the Pirate Party did not attend the special sitting of parliament at Þingvellir where Pia was speaking. Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir, the leader of the Pirate Party and a human rights lawyer, put out a statement explaining that by attending the ceremony, her party would be giving legitimacy to Pia’s nationalist sentiments.

“We are now seeing that fascism, racism, hatred, anti-democratic values come in different forms all over the world,” Þórhildur told Danish newspaper Politiken. “We see it in the United States, we see it in different European countries, and we have seen it develop in our neighbouring countries like in Denmark.”

A dark shadow

Social Democrat MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir walked out once Pia began her speech, an act that Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson called disdainful and rude. Hanna Katrín Friðriksson, a Reform Party MP, attended the event but noted that, “unfortunately the guest in question represents opinions which cast a dark shadow on the occasion.”

While Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir was present, she did send Pia a not-so-subtle message. “We should celebrate the great diversity which makes our society richer,” Katrín said. “We must never let hate speech become legal in our society.”

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