Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has called on the country “to show our opposition to Islam”, regardless of the opprobium such a stance provokes abroad.
Her comments further undermined the image of Denmark as a liberal haven for those seeking a new life in northern Europe.
The Danish government has already been accused of fuelling xenophobia by introducing measures which effectively closed the country to asylum seekers.
But in overtly political passages from an official biography published yesterday Queen Margrethe makes comments certain to complicate her nation’s relationship with Muslims.
She said: “We are being challenged by Islam these years – globally as well as locally. It is a challenge we have to take seriously. We have let this issue float about for too long because we are tolerant and lazy.
“We have to show our opposition to Islam and we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance.”
“And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction.”
The Queen, who turns 65 tomorrow and has reigned since 1972, wields no political power but does occasionally comment on political issues.
Denmark has seriously limited immigration in the past three years and the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, an ally of the centre-Right government, has pushed through laws making it harder to bring in foreign spouses or qualify for asylum.
The queen told her biographer, Annelise Bistrup, apparently referring to Muslim fundamentalists: “There is something impressive about people for whom religion imbues their existence, from dusk to dawn, from cradle to grave.”
She said she understood how disaffected young Muslims might find refuge in religion. This tendency should be fought by encouraging Muslims to learn Danish so they could integrate better, she said.
“We should not be content with living next to each other. We should rather live together.”