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2006-03-02

Queen Margrethe II as a belly-dancer
A little mistranslation goes a long way - especially if the mistake can add fuel to the fire. The Egypt newspaper, Almultaka, recently featured the Danish Queen Margrethe II with her head photoshopped upon the body of a belly-dancer. This may partly be as "revenge" for the Mohammed cartoons. but also because of an old translation error in an article by Telegraph:

She said: "We are being challenged by Islam these years. Globally as well as locally. There is something impressive about people for whom religion imbues their existence, from dusk to dawn, from cradle to grave. There are also Christians who feel this way.

"There is something endearing about people who give themselves up completely to their faith. But there is likewise something frightening about such a totality, which also is a feature of Islam.

"A counterbalance has to be found, and one has to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on you. For there are some things for which one should display no tolerance. And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction."


In the first version, the Queen was quoted as saying, "We must show our opposition to Islam", but the word Margrethe used, "modspil", doesn't mean "opposition". The word (literally: "counter-play") would be better translated as "sparring". The Telegraph has since then corrected the article:

In the original version of this story, relying on a translation provided by an international news agency, the Telegraph quoted Queen Margrethe as saying "We have to show our opposition to Islam". But the correct translation should be "counter-balance". The story was re-published on Feb 16, 2006 to reflect that.


However, the wrong translation still pops up - even at the Brussels Journal who should know better. The Brussels Journal has received a Letter from a Muslim who has a very long quote from an anonymous "Danish Lutheran theologian". I find it very hard to believe that this "Lutheran theologian" exists - since "he" argues from a translation error. Nevertheless, the article ends with quoting "the Dane":

"Those, like yourself, who speak out in favour of freedom of speech and press should also speak out against the raising tide in Denmark of racial and religious intolerance. The Danish cartoon affair is NOT just a test of basic freedoms, it is a concerted attack on a visible minority and that attack is being waged not only by incendiary cartoonists but also by government officials included the Queen of Denmark herself."


Hey, honestly! I'm not a Royalist, I'm an Atheist. But translation error or not: Margrethe's mother was a foreigner, Margrethe and her siblings all married foreigners and Margrethe's children both married foreigners. Painting Queen Margrethe as a xenophobe is plain stupid

Comments:
I totally agree with your point of view here.

What is the lesson we should all learn from this little anecdote? In my opinion it is that facts are the best (and maybe only) way in which a constructive dialogue can be made. In this case a mistake in the translation distorted the facts and were used to spread false rumours (like the one feather ending up being five hens)and enraging people who had nothing to be mad about in the first place. Unfortunately the damage was already done.

Therefore the mass media must also learn from this and think twice (to check their sources) before they blow up a story to the frontpage or the primetime news.
 
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