A few weeks ago, Peter Skaarup had a novel idea for how to keep violent Muslim extremists out of Demark: greet them at the border with topless ladies. Skaarup, the foreign policy spokesman for the right-wing Danish People's Party, wants to include shots of sunbathing women in a video that will be screened as part of an immigration test for potential citizens. According to Skaarup, footage of topless women would help emphasize the point that Denmark is an open, free, liberal-minded society, and that hard-line Muslims may want to reconsider their decision to move there. Skaarup's proposal recently drew fire from a columnist at The Daily Telegraph, who argued that Skaarup is misreading the very nature of religious extremism. Have a look at this bizarre debate:
This Is Just What We Do Here Al Arabiya quotes Skaarup as saying: "Topless bathing probably isn't a common sight on Pakistani beaches, but in Denmark it is still considered quite normal. I honestly believe that by including a couple of bare breasts in the movie, extremists may have to think twice before deciding to come to Denmark." Skaarup also said that "if you're coming from a strict, religious society that might make you stop and think, oh no, I don't want to be a part of that."
This Wouldn't Actually Work, says Naser Khader, a member of the Danish parliament and founder of the Moderate Muslims movement. "A pair of naked breasts is no protection against extremism," Khader wrote on his Facebook page. "It's quite the opposite, fundamentalists are so obsessed with sex that they will be pouring in over the borders. Maybe we should try with naked pigs."
Skaarup Doesn't Quite Get Religious Fundamentalism, agrees Praveen Swami at The Daily Telegraph, though he's a bit more diplomatic about it. "Mr Skaarup has made the mistake of reading through puritanical Islamist literature, and concluding that it constitutes a guide to the mindset of the movement's adherents," writes Swami. "Few Islamists, in fact, have any serious grasp of Islamic theology or heritage; their religiosity is for the most part gestural ... There's a difference between Islamic conservatism and Islamist radicalism, which Mr Skaarup needs to get. Both the evidence and my instincts lead me to believe that the young men who make up the Islamist rank-and-file will, most likely, react to bare breasts in much the same manner as other young men." Swami goes on to say:
Part of the problem, I believe, is that we see jihadists through a kind of inverse prism that robs us of the ability to see the parts that make up the whole. Individual terrorists might indeed be ideologically-obsessive murderous maniacs, but at the same time also be for example, football fans, loving parents or Eskimo ear-wrestling enthusiasts.
Like those of all human beings, their motivations are complex.