New Zealanders offended by MP’s “appalling ignorance”
Dansk Folkeparti (DF) is a party which has built its success largely on the position that outsiders who come to Denmark should accept and adopt Danish customs and norms.
But for Marie Krarup, a DF MP and the daughter of long-time DF MP Søren Krarup, that same philosophy apparently does not extend to Danes who visit another country.
A month-old blog entry for Berlingske, in which Krarup recalls in unflattering terms the Maori ritual known as a powhiri that greeted her upon arrival at a naval base in New Zealand, has created headlines and hard feelings on the island country.
In the blog entry, Krarup characterises the Maori ceremony as uncivilised and bemoans the fact that rather than being "met with handshakes or salutes by uniformed men", the Danish delegation was instead "greeted by a Maori dance ritual with a half-naked man in a grass skirt that yelled and screamed in Maori".
"He carried out weird rituals and stuck out his tongue, while we watched and were instructed by a local that we shouldn't laugh," Krarup wrote.
She then went on to complain about having to witness a "long ritual" and expressed her disbelief that a "European-looking" man spoke in Maori and sang a traditional Maori song. She was also miffed that rather than shaking the hands of naval officers, she was forced to give a hongi – a traditional Maori greeting in which two people press their noses and foreheads together – despite the fact the officers were "European-looking".
It also rubbed Krarup the wrong way to observe that the Maori temple "was decorated with God-figures with angry faces and large erect penises".
Krarup's comments have created an uproar in New Zealand, even working their way to the front page of today's Sunday Star Times.
Ranginui Walker, a expert on the Maori culture, told New Zealand radio station NewstalkZB that Krarup's comments were the result of ignorance.
"She has a totally monocultural view of the world and doesn't understand that the welcome she received is the highest honour," Walker said, adding that Krarup was clearly not aware of the customs beforehand. "Very often politicians are not as well educated as they ought to be, perhaps haven't studied history."
Tod Waight, a New Zealander living in Denmark, wrote in a comment to Krarup's blog that her remarks amounted to "the most culturally insensitive and ignorant rant I have read."
"Marie Krarup's comments epitomise the madness that is Dansk Folkeparti and I am continually disappointed that such a large proportion of Danes support them," he continued.
New Zealanders have also contacted The Copenhagen Post to express their disapproval of Krarup's comments.
"Politician Marie Krarup displayed all the ethnic finesse and sensitivity [of] the Waffen SS as they made their European Tour [from] 1939 to 1945," wrote James Gravatt Bowden. "I refer of course to her enlightened comments about the great honour bestowed upon her by some very fine young men from the Royal New Zealand Navy. That she failed to realise [the honour it] was to receive such a heartfelt welcome only goes to illustrate her appalling ignorance. [That is] something of which the whole of Denmark should be deeply ashamed."
Auckland resident Bruce Hodgson wrote that Krarup was "one of the most ungracious visitors to our country".
"If your nation aspires to improve on welcoming visitors to your own country, please learn to be respectful and exercise manners when you visit others," Hodgson continued. "Krarup's lack of manners and respect has blighted the character of the Danes."
Hodgson's point about visitors to Denmark is not lost on those familiar with some of the stated standpoints of DF.
In 2007, DF's Pia Kjærsgaard said that she often refused meetings with foreign ambassadors who won't shake hands with women.
"I always say yes to meeting them in my office when they ask for it," Kjærsgaard told Information newspaper. "But typically, there will be a phone call from the embassy a few days prior pointing out that the ambassador will not shake my hand, and then I say no. It is degrading – I am a female party leader, period."
For her part, Krarup told Berlingske Nyhedsbureau that she has received hate mail from New Zealanders and insisted that she doesn't look down upon the Maori. She did, however, question why the "European New Zealanders" weren't able to "defend their culture".
CORRECTION: This article originally stated that Marie Krarup's father, Søren Krarup, was a founding member of DF. That is incorrect. Søren Krarup was a DF MP from 2001-2011. DF was founded in 1995. We regret the error.
The video below shows a powhiri being peformed at the UN. Towards of the end of the video former New Zealand PM Helen Clark gives the traditional hongi to UN officials and other dignitaries.