A four-week old blog by Marie Krarup, MP and member of the Defence Committee, has caused some consternation in New Zealand, where her comments on a welcome by the New Zealand Navy was described as uncivilised and an obvious burden on non-Maori naval officers.
Apart from derogatory statements about the powhiri, her statements on the hongi – or ceremonial nose-rubbing, and description of a marae – or Maori sacred place – have been widely reported recently in the New Zealand media.
“A right-wing Danish politician has mocked a Maori welcome to New Zealand, dubbing the powhiri an "uncivilised" ritual, and marae a "grotesque" mark of multicultural worship. Marie Krarup, in an opinion piece in Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, was shocked to be welcomed by a dancing, barely-clothed man, instead of a handshake or salute,” The National says.
“She says on arrival at the Devonport Naval Base, her group was greeted by a man shouting and screaming in Maori, and poking his tongue out. Ms Krarup goes on to say she felt like an idiot giving a hongi and the waiata (Ed: song) performed by naval personnel sounded like a Danish children's song about a happy ladybird,” The New Zealand Herald says.
Although claiming to have been mis-translated, Krarup tells Politiken.dk that she indeed found the welcome uncivilised - something she defines as non-western.
“I think it is interesting to see some seemingly Western naval officers stand there in the same white, elegant summer uniforms that our naval officers have, and that they say hello to us by rubbing noses and speak a language they don’t even understand themselves,” Krarup says.
“They use a culture that is obviously not their own to say hello to someone from a foreign country. The Maoris should of course be allowed to to have their religious houses with big penises and dances and raffia skirts. There’s no problem in that. But the interesting thing is when their culture is imposed on others who obviously don’t have it from the start,” she adds.
She says that naval officers could not speak Te Reo and had to have crib sheets to say the words.
Asked whether the New Zealand identity was precisely what was expressed in the powhiri, Krarup said that was ‘a discussion they must have themselves’.
“I just see that there is a large section of Western New Zealanders who have been there for a long time, who have a Western Christian culture and now increasingly have to take over some cultural Maori characteristics due to a political programme that has been in place since the 90s – so it’s something new,” Krarup says.
Unwilling to accept the argument of a new political initiative returning to something old, Krarup says that the Maoris have not been cultural imperialists throughout their history.
“It’s their culture, that they have passed on to their children. Here we have some immigrants who have become a majority, and who have a Western culture and who now have to take over the Maori culture. That is cultural imperialism towards the Westerners. Admittedly they started the cultural imperialism vis a vis the Maoris – they have a long and guilty past… that is not something I want to get involved in. I can just see that there were some Western oriented New Zealanders who have to assimilate some cultural Maori characteristics. I find that peculiar,” Krarup says.
She adds that just as Maoris should be allowed to be Maoris, Western New Zealanders should be allowed to be Westerners – irrespective of their feelings of guilt.
“Danes should be allowed to be Danes, New Zealanders should be allowed to be New Zealanders, Maoris should be allowed to be Maoris and Turks should be allowed to be Turks,” Krarup says.