Copenhagen shootings: PM says an attack on Jewish community is “an attack on all of Denmark”

Helle Thorning-Schmidt condemned the “cynical act of terror” against Denmark.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Leaders across Europe have spoken out against terrorism after two attacks in Denmark. 

Film director Finn Nørgaard was killed by a gunman at a free speech event in Copenhagen hosted by controversial cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has faced death threats over his caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

The gunman then shot dead 37-year-old Dan Uzan, a long-time member of Copenhagen synagogue, while he was on security duty outside the building during a Bat Mitzvah.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt condemned the “cynical act of terror” against Denmark, stating that the Danish people “will defend our democracy”:

As a nation we will not easily forget the past 24 hours. We have experienced the fear and uncertainty that terrorism seeks to spread. But we have also responded with determination and resolve. Early this morning the situation ended with the death of the presumed perpetrator. 

I commend the courage and professionalism of The Danish Police and other involved authorities. Their efforts have been truly extraordinary.

Denmark is an open, free and peaceful democracy. This will not change. We will defend our society and stand by its fundamental values.

To attack the Jewish minority in Denmark is an attack on all of Denmark. We are all deeply disturbed by the tragedy that unfolded in front of the Jewish Synagogue. The Jewish community is an important part of Denmark, and has our warm sympathy and strong support.

We have known for long that there are forces wishing to harm open and free societies like Denmark. This is not a struggle between Islam and the West, or between Muslims and non-Muslims. This is a struggle between the core values of our society and violent extremists.

Alongside Thorning-Schmidt’s statement, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark said:

It is important that we, in such a serious situation, stand together and uphold the values that Denmark is founded upon.

Speaking to the BBC, Denmark’s foreign minister Martin Lidegaard expressed similar sentiments:

We need to [...] signal that the best weapon we have against terror is to let it affect as little as possible. We need to stand together, not split our societies. We need to live our lives without fear. [...] We need to remember that they [the terrorists] are a very very little minority that should not be allowed to define how we should live our lives.

Meanwhile, following the desecration of over 300 Jewish graves in Sarre-Union, France, the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has also spoken to the Jewish community in his country, calling the vandalism a “despicable act”. He also addressed comments from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday urged European Jews to emigrate to Israel for their safety. Valls said “France is wounded with you and France does not want you to leave”:

France tells you again of its love, support and solidarity. That love is much stronger than the acts of hatred, even if such acts are repeated. I regret that Benjamin Netanyahu uttered those words. When you're in an election campaign it doesn't permit you just any statement. The place for French Jews is France.

François Hollande, the French president also attempted to reassure French Jews, adding, Jews have their place in Europe and in particular in France”.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's deputy culture editor.