Denmark swings right on immigration and Muslims feel besieged
After a burqa ban, hardline rhetoric has entered the mainstream. In one coastal town, attitudes seem increasingly polarised
Its a lovely place, says Jens Kramer, as he gazes across the harbour from his seat outside the wooden shed that serves as Holbk’s boat club. But I think people here are becoming more and more hostile to foreigners and I’m not proud of it. Its not the HolbkI love.
Kramer is not alone in thinking that the tone of Denmark’s immigration debate has changed. In recent years, the rise of the right wing anti-migrant Danish Peoples party has led to previously radical positions becoming mainstream. And the country’s Muslim population in particular feels under siege. Earlier this month Danish MPs passed a law that, in effect, bans the burqa. It imposes a penalty of 10,000 kroner (1,200) for repeat offenders.
In another move greeted with dismay by Denmark’s Muslims, a citizens proposal to ban the circumcision of children got the 50,000 signatures it needed to go to a parliamentary vote.
In Holbk, an attractive small town in Zealand, the latest legislation has had a mixed reception. Kramer says: On the burqa ban there were people who said, if they make it law, then I’m going to leave, and I said OK, then leave. His companion Hanne Madsen chips in: Jens and me, we are those who say: If you have a problem come to me, but if you don’t want to take off your burqa or try to learn Danish she throws up her hands in exasperation.
The ban was backed not only by both the ruling centre-right Liberal party but also by the centre-left Social Democrats, whose rhetoric on Islam has started to rival that of the populist right in the last two years.
The Social Democrat’s leader, Mette Frederiksen, has called Islam a barrier to integration, said some Muslims do not respect the Danish judicial system, that some Muslim women refuse to work for religious reasons, and that Muslim girls are subject to massive social control. She has also called for all Muslim schools in the country to be closed.
Emrah Tuncer, a local politician for the pro-immigration Social Liberal party, worries about where the two main parties rhetorical race to the bottom will lead. They are almost fighting about who has the most extreme ideas, he said. With the burqa ban were talking about 40people who are wearing it. Our government is making laws for just 40 people! And these 40 women will now be trapped in their homes from morning to evening. Does it help them? It does not.