February 16, 2006
Cartoon Riots Spark Sweet Backlash
In the wake of a Danish newspaper's decision to publish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Danish flags and embassies are beset by violent protesters in heavily Muslim countries. But a chocolate store in the windmill-filled, Danish American tourist village of Solvang has enjoyed a small spike in its mail-order business.
And it's not just because of Valentine's Day, though that always helps, said chocolatemaker Bent Pedersen.
"One comment was that they were buying in support of Denmark," said Pedersen, who owns Ingeborg's World Famous Danish Chocolates, which does a brisk business online from its Copenhagen Drive store.
Pedersen said that since anti-Danish rioting began, several people have called in long-distance orders and mentioned their desire to "buy Danish." Consumers in heavily Muslim countries, in contrast, are boycotting Danish products, reportedly costing Danish business up to $1 million a day. In response, European and American free-speech supporters have been advocating a less well-known "Buy Danish" campaign.
Local law enforcement has, in recent days, become more focused on Solvang, which lies about 4 miles west of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, in case it should become a target. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department issued an advisory about the rioting overseas to deputies on patrol.
"We're on a heightened state of awareness, but we're not on tactical alert," said sheriff's Lt. Phil Willis, Solvang station commander.
The only possible local targeting of Danish interests appears to be online. Before the anti-cartoon protests began, Denmark's L.A. consulate, along with Danish embassies and consulates worldwide, received thousands of e-mails about the cartoons, overloading the Danish Foreign Ministry's Internet systems.
"They were of just a magnitude that did create some problems in our e-mails," said a diplomat at Denmark's embassy in Washington, D.C. "We got several thousand of them. They were not hostile necessarily. Some of them, the ones that we could identify as being from the U.S., were sort of 50/50."
A Northridge-based Danish American newspaper has no plans to reprint the cartoons that originally were published last fall. "We don't need all that controversy," said Gert Madsen, editor-in-chief of the national weekly Bien.
Pedersen in Solvang appreciated the handful of pro-Danish chocolate orders, which ran about $50 each, but thought it odd to get phone requests all the way from Maryland.
"It still was strange," Pedersen said of one of the Danish chocolate lovers. "I don't know how he found us."