Proposed tightening of Danish Burqa law meets severe criticism

Minister of Justice, Lars Barfod, has put forward a bill which will increase the penalty from two to four years of imprisonment for people who force other persons to wear the niqab or burqa. In a hearing the bill has been met with severe criticism from the Association of Danish Judges, the Association of Danish Defense Attorneys as well as the Danish Police Union. To date the existing law has not been used to convict anyone of forcing other people to wear the niqab or burqa and in the hearing about the bill the Association of Danish Judges says the bill is of “purely political character”, the Association of Defense Attorneys finds the bill “motivated by a wish to demonstrate distance to foreign cultures” given that “there seem to no unbiased reasons for regulating the jurisdiction by law”. The Danish Police Union has also misgivings about the bill because it will “force the police to focus on a specific section of the population which will probably increase the risk of confrontations” the Police Union says.

Another point of criticism of the bill is that it forbids witnesses in courts to wear clothing that covers the face. The purpose is that the court has to be certain of the identity of a witness but the Association of Danish Judges finds the formulation of the bill problematic: “In today’s courts it is more often sunglasses and caps the judges must ask witnesses not to wear rather than it is burqas or niqabs”. In the hearing about the bill the Association of Danish Judges has sarcastically questioned whether sunglasses can be termed as clothing. The Ministry of Justice has taken this comment into account in the formulation of the bill that has been put forward.

So far the Minister of Justice has not given any argument for the bill other than that it is a follow-up on the government’s burqa-commission which published its report two months ago. The commission found that only three women in Denmark wear burqa.

Public school holds mothers-only meetings in consideration for Muslim mothers

Thursday February 4th a public school in Copenhagen held a parents’ meeting on bullying. Fathers were excluded from the meeting in an attempt to get more Muslim mothers to attend the meeting, who show low participation in parent meetings, according to a school leader.

The mothers-only meeting is dividing politicians across the political spectrum. The right-wing Danish People’s Party demands the leader of the school be fired while MP’s from the left-wing Socialist People’s Party and the center-situated Danish Social-Liberal Party says gender separated meetings can be a good tool sometimes. The well respected integration consultant in Copenhagen, Manu Sareen, who is a member of the Danish Social-Liberal Party, says gender separated meetings and events aren’t anything new in Denmark. In the 1970’s a lot of women participated in women-only camps and meetings and Sareen has with big success arranged male-only meetings on gender equality for men with another ethnic background than Danish.

Religion sociologist at University of Aarhus, René Dybdal, says that Denmark traditionally has been characterized by a very high tolerance towards other religions’ traditions and practices but since the Muhammad cartoon crisis the debate in Denmark has been very sensitive when it comes to Muslim practices and traditions.