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Speech by Pia Olsen Dyhr at the Ramadan dinner at Christiansborg, 17th of August 2012

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Denmark is a cultural and historical community. But this community is not and should never be a private party.

Our strength is to be an open community, which is inclusive and embraces different cultures and religions. A country of tolerance inspired by currents from around the world and by the people who come to this place. We have to be a country reaching out to the world!

Our community has to be strong enough to accommodate what is new and different. We have to be proud of the values, such as equality, tolerance, social justice and democracy, that this society is based on while at the same time meeting new cultures with an open mind insisting to inspire the rest of the world with our values and social model.

Instead of automatically meeting the unfamiliar with fear and scepticism, let us make use of the immense resources among for example the large group of highly educated non-ethnic Danes. It is absurd that we in Denmark have thousands of highly educated non-ethnic Danes that are not making use of their education. Many highly educated non-ethnic Danes also have, through distinctive language skills and knowledge about countries far away from Denmark, some very distinctive competencies. This is why we need to establish a far better match-making model, so as to install all these competent people to for instance the export departments of companies!

Only by constantly being on the lookout for the latest foreign ideas and trends, by pro-actively seeking to meet other cultures and only by mixing inspiration from outside with all we have learnt at home, will we be able to renew and advance Denmark.
This goes both for the mental and the material. It also to a large extent goes for Muslim traditions and Muslim culture. If we take a short glance at Danish history, it is striking to how large an extent exactly ideas and the inspiration from outside have given life and nourishment to the development of Denmark.

Take the Great Arab Expedition in the 18th century. Take a Hans Christian Andersen, who travelled across Europe and used his many impressions from abroad to write his world famous fairy tales. Take Grundtvig’ travels to Britain, Kierkegaard’s study visit in Berlin, and Thorvaldsen, who spent 40 entire years in Rome. Or Troels Kløvedal, who with his many travels on the ship “Nordkaperen” has carried far-away regions right into our living rooms, showing us other ways to live. The list of “great Danes” that have enriched Denmark, among other things by virtue of their encounter with foreign countries is very long.

This is the Denmark I believe in and work for every day. I can assure you that it is something that lies very close to my heart.

I hope you have a great Ramadan-celebration.