The umbrella organization ‘The Muslim Council of Denmark’ wishes to establish nursing homes for elderly Muslims. The nursing homes will serve food prepared according to Muslim practices and holidays such as Ramadan and Eid will be celebrated. The council hopes to open the first nursing home for Muslims within two to four years. A Jewish nursing home already exists in Denmark. However, several politicians are skeptical towards the plans of Muslim nursing home but the responsible minister, minister for Social Affairs Benedikte Kiær, says there is no hindrance to establish a Muslim nursing: “The law about free nursing homes is created to make it possible to create nursing homes with specific values” she says.
Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
Area of Expertise:
– Muslim interest groups
– Political representation of Muslim minorities
– Muslim civil societies in Scandinavia, Germany and the US
CV available here
Iben Helqvist holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Roskilde University, Denmark. She has pursued her interest in Muslim minorities in Europe and the US by studying German integration politics at Freie Universität in Berlin, as well as ‘Contemporary Islam’ at American University in Washington DC. In DC she also did an internship with Muslim Public Affairs Council and gained valuable insight into national American politics relating to the Muslim-American community.
In her master’s thesis Iben studied Muslim interest groups in Denmark. She analyzed how these groups interact with politicians and the public administration and why it is difficult for Muslim interest groups to establish themselves as credible and reliable partners of the public administration in Denmark.
On Saturday June 5 the Danish singer Median gave a free concert and 15-20 young men threw eggs at her while she was performing at the stage. She stopped the music and said: “Someone has been very badly raised. I think it’s disrespectful to the people who have come here to enjoy themselves and have a good time. It’s okay that you don’t like my music, but your parents should be ashamed of you. Don’t spoil this for us who are happy and feeling good”. After the scolding Medina continued the concert and the audience applauded her consistent handling of the episode.
Apparently the young men are offended that Medina uses the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s final resting place because she is lightly dressed and sings songs with erotic undertones. Medina is not the pop star’s real name. She took it after visiting a numerologist and it has nothing to do with Islam. The Islamic Society in Denmark condemns the attack and doesn’t understand why someone would be offended by a singer who uses Medina as a stage name.
The president of “the group of fathers”, Khalid Alsubeihi, is sure that the young men are just ill-mannered brats and that the religious arguments are just an excuse for making trouble. The spokesperson from the Islamic Society in Denmark, Kraman Shah, supports this view and says that the young men are welcome to come by the mosque if they want to know what Islam is really about.
On Thursday April 15th 2010 a large majority of the members of the city council of Copenhagen voted yes to a district plan which will allow a traditional Shia mosque to be built in Copenhagen. It will be the first purpose build mosque in Denmark. Only the members of Danish People’s Party voted no, while the members of the Liberals and one Iranian born member of the Red-Green Alliance didn’t vote. The question about allowing the mosque to be built has created a heated debate and Iranians living in exile in Denmark have demonstrated against the passing of the district plan because they suspect the Iranian government of funding the mosque. Ahlul Bait, which is the organization behind the mosque, says the funding comes from private donors in Iran and fund raising in Denmark.
The site where the mosque will be erected already houses a mosque. However the current mosque is established in an old warehouse and the new mosque will be constructed as a traditional mosque with two minarets and a blue cupola. The purpose of the minarets will only be decoration and they will not be used for calling for prayer.
Leading experts on terrorism think Denmark is developing into a nesting box for Islamic extremists. On a Danish conference on terrorism Ghaffar Hussain, leader of the Quilliam Outreach and Training Unit, said that the feeling of being an outsider and not being part of the society is extensive among young Muslims in Denmark. This makes it easy to recruit young Danish Muslims to terrorism. The Israeli terror expert Jonathan Fine and Stephen Tankel from the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College said that the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis has placed Denmark high on the terrorists list of targets. Also the Swedish terror expert Magnus Ranstorp points out that Denmark is an attractive target among terrorist groups. “An attack on Denmark would mean money and prestige for a terrorist group” Ranstorp says.
The head of the secret service, Jakob Scharf, says there is a need for understanding the motivational factors that leads to radicalizing. He says the feeling of being marginalized is a very important motivational factor towards radicalization and that Denmark therefore has to focus on including young Muslims to a greater extent.
Just a few days after the government and Danish People’s Party presented a new law for foreigners in Denmark – a much debated system of obtaining points in order to get a permanent permit of residence – the bill seems to run into problems.
According to the bill a foreigner will need to obtain a score of 100 points in order to obtain a permanent permit of residence. Points can be obtained by having a job, speaking Danish, knowing Danish history and culture, engaging in voluntary organizations etc. Organizations in which one can volunteer and thereby obtain 15 points were supposed to be selected from the tax authorities’ list of charities. However, The Islamic Society in Denmark is on that list and several MPs of the government parties as well as MPs from Danish People’s Party will not allow Muslims to obtain points by volunteering in the Islamic Society in Denmark. During the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis the Islamic Society in Denmark played a facilitating role in the riots and several politicians say they suspect the Islamic Society in Denmark of being fundamentalists.
This creates difficulties in choosing which organizations should be approved as part of the new system of obtaining points. A solution could be that no religious organization should be part of the system but MP Naser Khader refuses this and says that many Muslim organizations are promoting integration of foreign Muslims into Danish society. The bill hasn’t been formally presented to the parliament yet and a heated debate on whether the bill can pass is expected.
In January 2010 Christian H. Hansen left Danish People’s Party after 12 years as MP for the party. He was dissatisfied that the party kept the heavy focus on immigrants and used a lot of time discussing a burqa ban in times of financial crisis and while Denmark was facing big trouble with securing a global deal on climate change at COP 15. In 2002 Denmark implemented one of Europe’s strictest laws of immigration in order to limit the possibilities for immigrants to settle in Denmark. Christian H. Hansen thinks the goal is achieved and that it is now time to turn to other challenges. He has therefore founded the new political party ‘Fokus’ (which means focus). The party’s key issues are health care, energy and climate change issues, and animal well-being.
In the radical Islamic milieu in Denmark being charged with or convicted for terrorism means high status. Two researchers from the Danish Institute for International Studies, PhD fellow Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen and senior researcher Manni Crone have investigated the Danish radical Islamic milieu and their conclusion is that persons who have been charged with terrorism typically follow two paths after they have been in the limelight of the police and the intelligence service. Some try to build a new life outside the radical circles and some enjoy the prestige they gained by being charged or convicted of terrorism. The latter stay in the radical circles and it becomes their identity that they are militant or the ‘vanguards’ of radical Islam in Denmark. Hemmingsen and Crone deem this as worrying because the idolization could motivate some to plan terrorist activities. On the other hand the Swedish researcher Magnus Ranstorp, who is a leading researcher on Islamic radicalization, doesn’t think the possibility of gaining prestige by being radical appeals to people outside the radical milieu but he agrees that the idolization of radical Muslims is worrying.
More and more Danes choose to convert to Islam. Researchers have previously estimated the number of Danish converts to Islam as 2,800. This number is now increasing.
The Danish imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen who leads ‘The Danish Centre for Islam’ confirms the tendency. He says he talked to about 70 Danes last year who wanted to convert to Islam. Representatives from the organization ‘The Islamic Society in Denmark’ say they talk to many Danes each week who want to learn more about Islam because they are considering converting.
Abdul Wahid Pedersen estimates that one third are converting because they are marrying a Muslim, some are converting because of spiritual quests or because they grew up with Muslim friends. “A few are converting as a reaction to the very harsh public debate on Muslims in Denmark” Wahid Pedersen says. This is being confirmed by PhD Kate Østergaard who has done a survey of Danish converts. The survey shows that many converts have Muslim friends and grew up with Muslims. Another explanation could be that Islam is being seen as having a set of values which is also to be found among left wing sympathizers. “In some left wing settings Islam is seen as a religion of justice, which emphasizes equality and accept all races” Østergaard says. Like Wahid Pedersen Østergaard thinks that the polarized Danish debate on Muslims and Islam are attracting some people who want to learn more about Islam to find out whether the religion is as bad as it often seems in the public debate. “The bigger the focus is on Islam in the media the bigger the tendency is of Danes converting to Islam” Kate Østergaard says.