Culture minister receives death threats over Christmas tree controversy

Uffe Elbæk ‘uncomfortable’ over Facebook attacks received after saying traditions are “negotiable”

The culture minister, Uffe Elbæk (Radikale), has received vicious personal attacks and even death threats after wading into the heated dispute surrounding the decision by the resident’s association of a housing complex in the northern Zealand town of Kokkedal not to fund an annual Christmas tree this year.

Elbæk said during a debate surrounding the issue that he believed that Christmas was a “wonderful tradition” but that it was not parliament’s place to interfere in a democratic decision reached by a smaller electoral body.

“No wonder you received threats after saying our traditions are open for discussion,” wrote one angry poster on Elbæk’s Facebook page. “In my eyes, you are a national traitor with the spine of a slug. Being Radikale is not a political point of view, it is a character flaw.”

Elbæk said that the emotional pitch of the attacks have left him uncomfortable and that he is sorry that what he called “extremists” are driving the debate surrounding the Christmas tree.

“If I could turn back the clock, I would hope that this had not become such an emotional issue,” Elbæk told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

The Christmas tree issue has worked some political leaders into a lather.

“Some might say that it is merely a banal disagreement in a little case on a board,” MP Karen Jespersen (Venstre), wrote in an opinion piece on Berlingske’s website. “But the case shows how radical Muslims react when they get power.”

Soon after the tree saga began, Ekstra Bladet tabloid ran a story about how the Salvation Army noticed that around 90 percent of those asking for support over Christmas in a small town in Jutland had names that were not traditionally Danish.

MP Pia Kjærsgaard of the right-wing Dansk Folkeparti used Facebook to go on the attack herself.

“In a time when a Muslim-dominated housing association uses all of its resources to fight the Danish traditions of Christmas cheer and Christmas trees, Muslims also stand in line to ask for Christmas help,” Kjærsgaard wrote.

Elbæk stood by his contention that the case should not be an issue for Christiansborg, but said that the resident’s board had made a “bad decision”.

“I think the majority must always take into account the rights of the minority,” he said.

Karin Leegaard Hansen, the chairman of the resident's board, said she also feels threatened and has decided to move out of the area.

Hansen was a member of the minority that voted for the Christmas tree and publically took the board to task for trying to stop the tradition. Her apartment windows have been smashed during the controversy.

"I cannot work," she told Berlingske newspaper. "We have terminated our lease and found a place in Jutland. I hope to get out as soon as possible."

Tensions in the neighbourhood continue to run high before a special general resident's meeting that was scheduled for 6pm this evening.

Elbæk was hopeful that those in attendance would elect a new board that will sort out the Christmas tree problem.

“I truly hope that those running the meeting will help create a different and more nuanced majority on the board,” he said.