Copenhagen - Two dozen leading Danish personalities including a former prime minister, former foreign minister and former central bank governor Thursday signed a protest against a recent ad campaign sponsored by the populist Danish People's Party.
The party, which provides parliamentary backing for Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's centre-right minority government, has run newspaper ads with a picture of a woman wearing a burka and wielding a judge's gavel. The poster's title is "Give us Denmark back."
The campaign was run to protest a recent decision that suggested Danish judges could in principle be allowed to wear a Muslim head scarf or hejab in their courtroom, angering the populist party.
Known for its anti-immigrant stance, the party last month suffered a setback when the speakers conference of parliament agreed that female politicians may be allowed to address the Danish parliament wearing a hejab.
A debate has since raged over whether officials in public office, including judges, police officers and soldiers should be allowed to wear hejab or not.
Economic and Business Affairs Minister Bendt Bendtsen of the Conservatives, junior partner in Rasmussen's government, Thursday said in his view police officers and soldiers should not wear hejab since that was not part of their uniform.
"What is key is that people in public functions are seen as impartial," the Conservative party leader said according to Danish news agency Ritzau, adding he could accept nurses in hejab.
The open letter said that the "burka ads run by the Danish People's Party mark a new peak in the party's attempts to throw suspicions on a minority," noting that such sentiments had not been experienced in Denmark since the 1930s.
The 26 signatories included former foreign minister Uffe Ellemann- Jensen, former prime minister Anker Jorgensen, author Benny Andersen and former central bank governor Erik Hoffmeyer.
Danish People's Party leader Pia Kjaersgaard shrugged off the criticism. (dpa)