Unlike the UK, Denmark introduces rehabilitation for Syrian Fighters

An innovative rehabilitation programme is offering Danish Muslims in Syria an escape route from the conflict zone and help getting their lives back on track without the threat of prosecution. The scheme offers an alternative approach to the latest tough measures unveiled this week in the UK, where returning Britons already faced likely arrest and the threat of prosecution on terrorism charges.

Steffen Nielsen, a crime prevention advisor and part of a multi-agency task force tackling radicalisation and discrimination in Aarhus, said authorities there have instead adopted a “soft-hands approach” and said, “We are actually embracing them when they come home. Unlike in England, where maybe you’re interned for a week while they figure out who you are, we say ‘Do you need any help?'”

While the UK’s latest package of counter-terrorism measures includes compulsory participation in a de-radicalisation programme for those deemed to hold radical beliefs, Nielsen said Aarhus’ scheme was voluntary and did not address issues of ideology. He states that “We are experiencing more political pressure to do something more like the British stuff.” However they are choosing a different approach, “[n]ot because we are nice people, but because we think that is what works.”

New Report: Danish Regulation of Religion, State of Affairs and Qualitative Reflections

From the Centre for European Islamic Thought, this report is part of the socio-legal research done in the European research project, RELIGARE. The report is based on qualitative interviews among Danish key profiles, religious and secular, and will feed into both Danish debate and into the ongoing work in RELIGARE.

In addition to supplying data from the interviews, the report works well as an introduction to Danish regulation of religion and as a discussion of current affairs.

———————-

1. State, Church and Religion in Denmark
1.1 Introduction to the socio-legal frame
Presenting a status of Danish legislation and the regulation of religion is by
nature a complex task that includes capturing political discourse, reflecting
theological discussions on especially the Folkekirke,1 and formulating a
careful analysis of administrative and legal practice. It would have been a
straightforward task if relations between the Danish State, the Church and
Religion had conformed to the rudimentary models suggested by Silvio
Ferrari (Ferrari & Bradney 2000) or by Roland Minnerath (2001).
However, the Danish regulative model of these matters differs in several
specific ways. Regarding its history and its legal state of affairs, Danish
regulation of religion cannot be said to conform to a single model based on
a civil judicial structure that would allow the churches to act independently,
as is the case in Germany, nor can it be claimed that Denmark has a
concordat or bilateral agreement between state, church and religion as in
the case of many countries with majority Catholic churches. Nor is
Denmark a secular country with a clear separation of religious communities
from the state, as is to some extent the case in France and even more so in
the United States (Christoffersen 2010B).
Rather, Denmark has a history of regulating religion that on the one hand
represents a particular understanding of Lutheranism in a majority context
after the European wars of religion (1524-1648, cujus regio, ejus religio),
and on the other hand presents some tense and difficult compromises in
Danish realpolitik. Since the introduction of the democratic constitution of
1849, Danish regulation of religion has firmly established the Evangelical
Lutheran Church as one of the four pillars of Danish society (§4 of the
constitution, Christoffersen 2010A) coupled with a dual constitutional
promise of autonomy and establishment. On the one hand, a law was
envisaged that would establish the Folkekirke as a self-determining and
autonomous institution independent of, but supported by, the state (§66 and
§4), and on the other hand, a law was to be framed to regulate on equal
terms the status of other religious communities with an expectation of
similar freedoms and responsibilities granted to the Folkekirke (§69).
However, no such laws were ever passed and instead of becoming a
societal institution supported by the state, the Folkekirke still resembles
more a state church than anything imagined by Martin Luther (Andersen
2010, 393). Furthermore, the constitution applied a legal framework for
1 It is common at this stage of a study to discuss how to translate the name of the
majority Evangelical Lutheran church in Denmark, which literally means the national
church or the people’s church (see Christoffersen 2010A). We have chosen to use the
Danish name Folkekirke.
10 Structural and Methodological Reflections
explicit recognition by royal decree of the few religious communities that
were already a reality in 1849. Among these is the Jewish community
(Danish: Mosaisk Trossamfund), which was recognised already in 1685.
This system of administrative recognition was extended after the
introduction of the constitution to include a list of Christian churches, such
as the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Russian church in
Copenhagen, the Norwegian, the Swedish and the English (Anglican)
Churches, the reformed churches, the Baptists, and the Methodists. The
system of recognition was changed just after the Second World War so that
religious communities such as Muslims and Buddhists who arrived after
1960 have only been ‘approved’ by the Minister of Church Affairs. They
are thus relegated to the administrative competences of the ministers and
permanent secretaries of changing ministerial departments and offices
(Christoffersen 2012).
During the 19th and 20th century several attempts were made to re-ignite
both the political and public debates and to re-open the legislative agendas
promised in the 1849 constitution. Three short-lived crises and subsequent
changes managed to put religion on the political agenda, only for it to be
neglected in the dawning reality of the succeeding governments. The first
change came in 1849, when three commissions were set up to clarify and
begin the promised legislative processes. The first two commissions of
1853 and 1868 were marooned in internal disagreement amongst the
different wings of the Folkekirke, while the Church Council of 1883 that
was set up to finally produce a workable political, ecclesiastical, and legal
compromise was disbanded in 1901. By this time the entire political
structure had been reformed with the introduction of the parliamentary
system, the end of any effective political power of the king, and the
formation of governments based on the mandate of the popular vote.
The second change came with the politico-economic arrangement of
1933 that aimed, firstly, to end a general conflict on the reduction of wages
between unions and employers; secondly, to avoid a threatening crisis for
Danish agricultural exports; and thirdly to open up for social reforms that
would build the foundation of the modern welfare state. Although religion
and church affairs had resurfaced in the Church Council that was active
from 1928 to 1939, the religio-political agenda gave way to the social
reformist agenda of the Social Democrat party, which in turn backed away
from a traditional leftist opposition to established religion. This reframed
and re-systematised the entire social welfare system and made it primarily
an issue of state rather than of other actors, including the churches. In
research on the subject (Østergaard 2005, Hansen, Petersen & Petersen
2010 and others) there is widespread disagreement as to whether the
Danish welfare state is built on Lutheran ethics – in their adaptation
following N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783–1872), who stressed individual
Structural and Methodological Reflections 11
engagement and voluntarism – or it is the product of a social democratic
agenda that succeeded to the extent of its own obsoleteness – or it is a
combination of both normative and ideological sources. Whatever the case,
the very nature of the crisis of the 1920s and 1930s paved the way for the
social and economic empowerment instituted in the settlement of 1933.
Danish welfare became a matter for the state, and religious issues
disappeared once again from the political agenda.
A third attempt was made by a commission (strukturkommissionen) set
up in 1964 to establish the nature of the relationship between the state, the
people, and the Folkekirke. The Social Democrat Minister of Church
Affairs, Bodil Koch (1903-72), wanted to know how best to establish
church and religion as the ‘marrow and muscle of the people’.
Unfortunately, the work of the commission ceased with a change of
government and the death of the minister. The result was the reaffirmation
of Danish church law by permanent secretary August Roesen (1909-87) on
the argument that the Folkekirke had become a part of public
administration and in effect had no independent governance. All matters
pertaining to the Folkekirke would be regulated by Parliament and the
Minister of Church Affairs, while the 10 bishops would remain ‘inspectors’
of the Folkekirke and consultants to the Ministry (Roesen 1976; Huulgaard
2004, 29).
The two promised sets of legal norms that would ideally give autonomy
to the Folkekirke and equality of religion at least among other religious
communities (ideally speaking also in relation to the Folkekirke) never
came into being. The political and public debates always ended without
substantial change, the legislative agenda was never revived, and the
administrative handling of religious issues remained the law of the land.
Over time, the best of worlds envisioned by the constitution made way for
the dual reality of regulating religion in Denmark. Firstly, the sociological
reality that the actual number of “other religions” was insignificant, and
secondly, the closely related political reality that there were no problems to
mention, no dissidents, no media attention, and most importantly, no votes
to be gathered in a political engagement with religion, on the contrary.
From the time of the 1849 constitution until very recently, religion
functioned as a modus vivendi that declared Denmark to be Christian by
history and culture on the one hand, and secular in all legal, public, and
administrative matters on the other. This has now been not only challenged,
but is perhaps also being found to be a myth.
This presentation of the state of affairs of Danish regulation of religion
proposes in the following (1.2) a short introduction to the legal and
normative realities of contemporary Denmark, and continues with (1.3) a
brief description of the basic sociological realities. Under (1.4) the more
recent frame from 2001 to 2011 – from 11 September 2001 to the Arab
12 Structural and Methodological Reflections
spring – is presented as the actual frame of the RELIGARE survey. Lastly,
(1.5) there are a few comments on the change of government of October
2011 and how this seems to open up for new waves of discussion on the
roles of religion and secularity in Danish society and also more concretely
on the promises from the constitution.

Jury clears Chicago businessman in Mumbai attacks, convicts him in plot against Danish paper

CHICAGO — A federal jury convicted a Chicago businessman on Thursday of helping plot an attack against a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad but cleared him of the most serious terrorism charge accusing him of cooperating in the deadly 2008 rampage in Mumbai.

The jury reached its split verdict after two days of deliberations, finding Tahawwur Rana guilty of providing material support to terrorism in Denmark and to the Pakistani militant group that had claimed responsibility for the three-day siege in India’s largest city that left more than 160 people dead, including six Americans.

Swedes arrested for planning terrorist crime in Denmark

Three out of four men arrested in Denmark December 29, suspected of planning an attack on the newspaper JyllandsPosten in Copenhagen, came from Sweden. And later a fifth man connected to the plot against the Danish newspaper, which published the Muhammad cartoons five years back, was arrested in Stockholm.

The arrest was preceded by intelligence work by as well the Swedish (SÄPO) and the Danish (PET) Secret Police. According to Jacob Scharf at PET, Several of the suspects could be described “as militant Islamists with connections to international terror networks.” Danish justice minister Lars Barfoed said in a comment that the arrest prevented what could have been the most serious attack to ever occur in Denmark. One suspects that the plan was to try to gain access to JyllandsPosten’s office building and to try to shot as many as possible, and maybe also take hostages.

The arrested men are a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian background, a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, a 30-year-old Swede and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker. The first three were all living in Sweden and travelled to Denmark overnight in a rented car. SÄPO had the men under surveillance and followed them all the way to Copenhagen, where they were arrested as soon as they connected to the man living there.

“We learned that people in Sweden were planning a terror crime in Denmark. We’ve known about it for several months. These people are known to the police in Sweden. We contacted our Danish colleagues. We’ve had people under intense surveillance,” SÄPO head Anders Danielsson said on Wednesday.

One of the men arrested in Denmark, a 29-year-old Swede of Lebanese decent, have been arrested two times earlier. In 2007 he was arrested in Somalia together with several other Swedes, including his then 17-year-old fiancée, on suspicions of having fought on the side of Islamic forces in the ongoing battle in Somalia. He was also arrested once in Pakistan two years later. Also detained were, again, his fiancé and the couple’s toddler son, and Mehdi Ghezali. Ghezali is a former inmate of the US-operated Guantánamo Bay prison, who was released in 2004.

Also the man arrested in Stockholm in connection to the plot against JyllandsPosten in Copenhagen has a previous record. He was arrested in Pakistan last year and spent 10 days in a Pakistani prison for having entered the country illegally. According to Säpo, the man was involved in the planning of the Copenhagen attack, but decided to remain in Stockholm for reasons as yet unknown.

Helena Benaouda, head of Swedens Muslim Council and mother of the former fiancé of one of the now arrested men commented Friday 31 December on the arrests as follows:

“My attitude is and has always been that crime, all kind of extremism and use of violence or undemocratic means are unacceptable. I believe in an open society where individuals have both rights and responsibilities, where everyone – regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and age are equal and where all should participate. Violent criminal activity and terrorism is an attack against such a society, and against everything I believe in, including my religious faith, Islam. Myself, like everyone else, must take the threat of extremism – including Islamic extremism – in earnest to protect what I believe in. The police investigation will show who is to be held accountable, and the guilty will be punished. My daughter and her children are safe with me – and that is what is most important to me.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir encourages armed resistance Against Sscandinavian Soldiers in Afghanistan

The Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir will be encouraging armed resistance against Scandinavian soldiers at a debate meeting about the war in Afghanistan in January.

The invitation to the meeting at the Royal Library in Copenhagen showed photographs of Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian coffins on a map of Afghanistan.

According to the invitation, the debate will “focus on the duty of armed resistance for Muslims in Afghanistan and surrounding nations. We see this form of resistance as entirely legitimate. In this context, the authorities’ attempts to criminalize and intimidate all war opponents will also be highlighted”.

Chadi Freigeh, a spokesperson for the organization’s Scandinavian branches, said he did not consider the message offensive. “If anyone should be blamed for the Danish soldiers that are dying in vain in this war, it’s the Danish politicians who have cold heartedly sent them out on a mission that only serves American strategic interests in the region,” Freigeh told public broadcaster DR.

Several countries have banned Hizb ut-Tahrir and Denmark has attempted to do the same. Representatives from the Danish People’s Party and the Social Democrats said officials should continue to look into whether the group can be considered illegal. “Hizb ut-Tahrir has been embarrassing Denmark for too long for this kind of thing. Now they’re really playing dirty,” Danish People’s Party MP Martin Henriksen said. Social Democrat MP Karen Hækkerup said the group’s message and the pictures on the invitation made her feel “uncomfortable”. “But as long as the organization is not banned, we have to respect that it’s an association that is allowed to exist and meet,” said Hækkerup.

Five arrested for planning imminent terror attack

Danish Intelligence agency PET has arrested four men on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack against the Copenhagen offices of Jyllands-Posten newspaper. The terror attack in Mumbai in 2008 was allegedly their inspiration. According to the agency, the arrests were made in suburban Copenhagen and were made following a long-term surveillance operation in collaboration with the Swedish Security Service SÄPO.

Three of the suspects are Swedish residents and reportedly arrived in Denmark December 28, and PET said the attack was to be carried out “in the following days”. All four suspects have Middle-Eastern or North African backgrounds. In addition to the arrests in Copenhagen, Swedish officials arrested a fifth suspect in Stockholm at the same time. During the arrests, Danish police found an assault rifle and silencer, ammunition, as well as plastic strips, which are often used by police as hand restraints.

According to PET, the group planned to kill as many people as possible in the building that houses Jyllands-Posten. Jakob Scharf, head of PET, described the suspects as “militant Islamists that had connections to international terror networks”. “The arrests underscore the terrorist threat that Denmark faces, and in particular anyone who is connected to the Mohammed drawings,” Scharf said.

Germans less tolerant of Islam than neighbours, study finds

2 December 2010

Germans are more critical of Islam and less tolerant of building mosques than their neighbours in France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal, a new survey has found.
Despite the other European countries’ often fractious relationships with their Muslim communities, people there were relatively positive about Islam and its followers compared to Germany, according to the survey commissioned by a research group based at the University of Münster.
According to weekly Die Zeit, which reported on an advance version of the study on Thursday, four out of 10 Germans in the former west of the country and 50 percent in the former east feel threatened by foreign cultures.
“Compared with the French, Dutch and Danish, a rigid and intolerant grasp of foreign religions predominates in Germany,” said the head of the project, sociologist Detlef Pollack. “The statement that Islam is part of Germany is completely disregarded in the opinions of Germans.”

Danish People’s Party suggests ban on Arabic TV-stations

November 2, 2010

Pia Kjærsgaard, leader of the Danish People’s Party (DF), has proposed a ban on satellite dishes in public housing areas in order to prevent residents from receiving what she labelled “anti-western” channels.

Consevative MP Naser Khader says: “I thought it was an April Fool’s joke”. He proposes that the DF instead come up with a democratic response. He added that labeling Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya as “hateful Arabic TV-stations” shows that the DF does not have a proper understanding of the Arabic media. Conservatives spokesperson Rasmus Jarlov stressed that a ban would “nourish the conspiracy theories that Denmark is attempting to repress Arab views”. Henrik Dam Kristensen of the opposition Social Democrats urged Kjærsgaard to participate in a dialogue about integration, rather than discuss bans. He asserted that she is making a desperate attempt to “keep a debate going”.

Following criticism, Kjærsgaard acknowledged to Politiken newspaper that it would be “difficult, if not impossible” to implement the proposal. Danish People’s Party will now go directly to the Radio and Television Board to get Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya channels banned, but they will need to provide evidence that the two TV-stations are a form of hate speech. In Kjærsgaard’s view, access to the two stations limits the integration capacity of residents who only get their news from these stations.

The Prime Minister, who represents Venstre – the Liberal Party of Denmark, dismissed the idea of a ban on satellite dishes in public housing areas. He said: “A general ban on satellite dishes is not in accordance with the constitution or with Venstre’s ideals about freedom”.

Former minister guilty of slander

October 27, 2010

The Copenhagen City Court has ruled that statements made by former Minister of Welfare Karen Jespersen against the spokesman for The Muslim Association of Denmark were unjustified.
In early 2009, while still minister, Jespersen said Zubair Butt Hussain, spokesman for The Muslim Council of Denmark, advocated the stoning of women. The comments were made in connection with the government’s cooperation with the association on preparing teaching materials about Islamic extremism. Jespersen was ordered by the court to pay Hussain damages of 11,000 kroner. In addition to the comments about stoning, Hussain sued Jespersen for her calling him an ‘extremist’. The court, however, did not believe the second remark warranted any libel payment.
Hussain says he is satisfied with the verdict, saying it demonstrated that despite Denmark’s strong support of freedom of speech, people cannot simply say whatever they want. He added, however, that the court’s failure to consider calling someone an ‘extremist’ as being slander was ‘unfortunate’. Jespersen did not comment on the ruling, but stated on her website that she was not engaged in a battle against Islam: ”On the contrary – we need to stand together with those Muslims who are supporters of the values and freedoms our society is built upon. But we shouldn’t accept that new reactionaries’ beliefs continue to spread and we can’t bow to demands for special treatment of religious considerations in the public sector” Jespersen says.

Danish Minister of Foreign affairs “I did not apologize for the Muhammad Cartoons”

October 14, 2010

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Lene Espersen says that claims in Egypt that she should have apologised for the media printing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, are a misunderstanding.

The English-language Egyptian Gazette has reported under the headline ‘Denmark apologises to Musims for cartoons’ that Espersen apologised for the cartoons during a visit to Cairo recently.

In response Lene Espersen says: “I fully refute having apologised… I am always very careful in explaining exactly what Denmark’s position is on this issue. So I can fully deny having apologised”.