Not so long ago, Denmark prided itself on its humanism, generous foreign aid budget and welcoming attitude toward foreigners.
“Today the 50th restriction was passed on immigration. This must be celebrated!” Ms. Stojberg wrote in a post on Facebook on Tuesday that showed her smiling proudly holding the cake, adorned with fruits, the number 50 and a Danish flag. She linked to a list of ministry regulations, including one of her signature laws requiring newly arrived asylum seekers to hand over valuables like jewelry and gold to help pay for their stay in Denmark.
The post immediately spurred a loud outcry on social media and dominated Danish news bulletins. Analysts said the minister’s decision to post it reflected a populist backlash against migration across Europe so robust that it is now considered a badge of honor, even among mainstream politicians, to boast about making life harder for refugees.
“Many in Denmark may agree with the immigration measures she has taken. But there is a feeling that ordering a cake to celebrate it was a step too far,” said Jakob Nielsen, the online editor of Politiken, a leading newspaper. “It shows how far the pendulum has swung against immigration.”
Dr. Haifaa Awad, a Danish physician who volunteers in Syria, wrote on Facebook under the minister’s post that she planned to forward the photograph of the cake to “the few Syrian doctors still fighting to save human lives from chlorine bombs in Syria.” They were “people who can’t flee or are now stranded far away from your layered cake buffet,” she wrote.
A Danish cartoonist posted a cartoon on Twitter of a refugee girl with no arms standing in front of Ms. Stojberg, holding a cake. “No arms, no cake,” the cartoon says.
The Danish Red Cross urged people to donate 1 Danish krone for every rule curbing refugees, or 50 Danish kroner, the equivalent of about $7.15.
Others commended Ms. Stojberg for her determination. “Well done, Inger, you’re so cool, and in spite of everybody else’s opinions, it’s of course something to celebrate. Not many dare do what you’re doing. Keep up the good work,” Michael Aldenborg, a primary schoolteacher, wrote on Facebook.
As in other European countries like the Netherlands and France, Denmark has been embroiled in a simmering culture war over national identity. The clash has been partly fed by the far-right anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, which has played on fears of immigration and warned that migrants and Muslims in particular are challenging the Danish way of life.
It is not the first time Ms. Stojberg, a member of the center-right coalition government, has courted controversy.
In January of last year, she came under criticism after warning in a speech that a public day care center in the Danish town of Aalborg had banned children from eating pork, suggesting that the ban was a result of multiculturalism. When local news media revealed that no such ban existed, she said she regretted telling the tale, which she had believed to be correct.
Ms. Stojberg was also involved in a decision two years ago to take out advertisements in the Lebanese news media that appeared aimed at discouraging migrants from coming.
Ms. Stojberg defended her cake celebration, saying that the 50 rules or laws tightening immigration were a milestone. “It’s not unseen to celebrate political victories,” she told BT, a Danish newspaper, noting that she had ordered and paid for the cake hersel