A poster that appeared in the window of Copenhagen’s Palads theatre Saturday night warned patrons that due to Eid, the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, more Muslims would be in the theatres than normal and they could get loud and become annoying to other cinema guests.
The sign even offered advice as to which of the films on offer could be the noisiest: "Movies like the Batman 3 [Dark Knight Rises], the Bourne Legacy, Total Recall, Abraham Lincoln and Prometheus, but one can never be sure in advance," read the warning.
Guests were advised to contact security guards if they experienced noisy Muslims.
"G4S guards will be available all day, so if you experience unacceptable behaviour, please contact them,” read the notice.
The notice went on to apologise “in advance” to cinema guests for any “bother” that may occur.
Following a firestorm of criticism on Facebook and Twitter, the head of Nordisk Film cinemas, John Tønnes, has apologised for the sign.
"I understand that the notice was misunderstood, and I am sorry,” Tønnes said, according to Jyllands-Posten. "It was taken down immediately.”
“Immediately” was apparently not quick enough to prevent a photo being taken of the sign and posted to several different social media sites, igniting both protest and debate.
Tønnes said that the Palads employee that posted the sign only wanted to warn patrons that there may be more noise than usual in the cinemas due to Eid.
"It was the type of thing that could be misunderstood and perceived as offensive, and that has certainly been the case for five or six people,” said Tønnes.
Tønnes said that the cinema has generally had few problems during Eid in previous years, but that it has experienced isolated cases of unrest in the theatres during holidays, so the cinema has opted to have security guards on hand when special celebrations are on the calendar.
"Whether it's Blue Monday, or Eid, you can have a group of 2,000-3,000 young people partying, and there are always a few that go over the line,” said Tønnes. ”The noise level gets above what other cinema guests find acceptable.”
At least one Muslim group seemed to agree with Palads posting the sign.
A spokesperson for the Muslim association Muslimer i Dialog took fellow Muslims to task for being so noisy at the movies.
“It is embarrassing that a cinema has to hang a poster up because there is so much noise,” Nihad Hodzic told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “If you can not be quiet in a cinema, then you should not come and ruin the experience for others.”
Hodzic called the Palads poster “clumsily worded” but said it was not intended to offend Muslims.
The chairperson of the New Danish Youth Council, Natasha al-Hariri, disagreed vehemently with Hodzic’s interpretation.
“That a theatre would announce that Muslims might be a nuisance to other moviegoers is really beneath contempt,” al-Hariri told Politiken newspaper. “They have put themselves in such a poor light, I can imagine that some simply will stop going to the movies.”
Copenhagen’s CinemaxX cinema has in recent years dropped its late showings in response to unruly guests during Eid.
“We take a pragmatic approach,” the theatre’s director Kim Brochdorf told Jyllands-Posten. “During the day, we have plenty of guests celebrating Eid, and it is a good day, but in the evening there are too many partiers and those who are not part of the party do not enjoy a good cinematic experience.”
Martin Henriksen, integration spokesperson for Dansk Folkeparti (DF), said that Palads was simply offering good customer service by posting a warning to its customers.
"It is well known that some Muslims behave differently when they are in a group and it can make other people uncomfortable," Henriksen told Jyllands-Posten, adding that he saw no reason for the theatre to apologise.
"If anyone asks Muslims to quiet down, their behaviour can suddenly become threatening,” he said. “It was wise to point out that it can happen.”
Henriksen said that not all Muslims change their behaviour during Ramadan, but there was what he called “a tendency of unpleasant situations occurring when many Muslims are gathered in one place".
Henriksen said that problems during Ramadan show that some people find it difficult to integrate themselves into Danish culture and that he saw no racist overtones in the sign posted by the theatre.
“Palads put up the sign because there was a need for it,” he said.