Sunday, July 05, 2009

There is something rotten in Denmark

Since my readership is generally non-Danish, I tend to write little about Danish issues, but I feel that I've been too silent on the issue of Danish politics.

Denmark is lead by a two-party (Venstre and Konservative) right-of-center government which is dependent on the support by the populist, anti-immigrant Dansk Folkeparti.

Politically, I am not far from Venstre, but ever since Anders Fogh Rasmussen became the leader of the party, I've not voted for them, for the simple reason that I'm an anti-racist, and cannot support any party which works together with racist ideologues like the people in Dansk Folkeparti.

Unsurprisingly the support from Dansk Folkeparti comes with a price, and given their anti-humanitarian views, this price is paid by immigrants. Not only in the form of more and more draconian laws, but also in the form of widespread anti-immigrant rhetoric in the Danish society. Every time there is an issue involving immigrants (or descendants of immigrants) in one form or another, Dansk Folkeparti gets in front of the camera to demonize immigrants.

This has of course lead to a stigmatization of the immigrants in Denmark. In Denmark, children of immigrants are routinely referred to as "second generation immigrants" by politicians, the press, and the public, ignoring the fact that these people have lived their entire life in Denmark.

Of course, this doesn't happen to all immigrants. Even though my mother's not Danish, I don't get referred to as a second generation immigrant - as my picture shows, I look part of the homogeneous Danish population. Instead, it's people who comes from, or descents from people coming from, countries like Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, etc.

These people are also referred to as Muslim. When a Dane talks about someone being a Muslim, the Dane is not talking about someone belonging to a belief system, but instead uses it as an ethnic designation. It doesn't matter if the person in question is a Christian Lebanese, an atheist Dane, or something completely different - in the eyes of the Danish society, he or she is a Muslim.

This is perhaps related to the Danish perception of themselves being culturally Christian, no matter what their actual religions beliefs are.

All of this stigmatization has led to immigrants, and children of immigrants, becoming socially marginalized at a higher rate than others. Add to this the fact that people with a "Muslim" name have a harder time getting jobs, and you'll find people with a immigrant background are overrepresented in the criminal system, though nowhere as much as Geert Wilders claims. When he visited Denmark recently, he claimed that 70% of all prisoners in Denmark were Muslims; the true number is 20%, and in real numbers it's 800 people (out of 4000 prison inmates).

Currently there is a gang war going on between the biker gang Hells Angels and immigrant street gangs. This fight is about control of the illegal narcotic trade in Copenhagen, and has claimed lives of people in both camps as well as lives of innocent bystanders. Hells Angels are of course no strangers to such gang wars, having fought with Bullshit in the eighties and Bandidos in the nineties - the later gang war made headlines around the world when they started using rocket launchers.

Even though there are two sides to this conflict, and that one of the parts have been involved in several such conflicts in the past, the general public in Denmark apparently seems to think that the Hells Angels is the good part, fighting against the evil immigrants. Something which Hells Angels spokesman, and convicted murdered, Jønke has milked for everything it is worth.

Recently, Hells Angels published an manifest in which they talked about a group of people, called Jackals, that were dangerous to society, and which they fought against. These Jackals were of course a description of the stereotypical "Muslim" gang member. Most people could see through this obviously self-serving piece of propaganda, but some took it seriously. Among these, a member of Parliament for Venstre, Søren Pind, who wrote a blog post Hvad nu hvis Jønke har ret? ("What if Jønke is right?") where he looks at the manifest, ignoring the sender, and decides that the main message is correct, thus legitimizing further the public view of Hells Angels as the righteous side.

This is the current political state of Denmark.

At the same time, Denmark has recently elected a convicted racist, Morten Messerschmidt, to the EU parliament. Giving him the 2nd highest number of personal votes ever given to a candidate for the EU parliament. He is a member of Dansk Folkeparti.

Some times I despair.

What does it take for people to wake up, and see that Denmark is heading down the drain? Not because of the Islamification of the country, as the right-winged racists claim, but because of the continuous stigmatization of entire parts of the population. That the tolerance that Danes think Denmark represents, is not there anymore (if it ever was there)?

Denmark closed the borders for immigrants in 1972, and while people from the EU can move to Denmark if they want, all other immigrants either have to be refugees or have to have close family already living in Denmark. As per April 2009, there were 405,861 immigrants and 125,232 decedents of immigrants in Denmark, which makes them approximate 10% of the population. Of these, 247,672 and 108,651 were from "non-Western countries" (which includes Bosnia-Herzegovina). The source for the numbers can be found here (.pdf and in Danish)

Given the Danish population were 5,515,287 at the end of the first quarter 2009 (source), we're talking about approximately 6.5% of the Danish population who are "Muslim". Listening to the media and the right-winged, racist propagandists, you'd thought the number was at least 3 times as high.

There is obviously always challenges to integrating people in a new country, especially if they comes from a conflict-ridden area, but as many countries demonstrates, this can be done in much larger numbers than we are talking about here. It is, however, not done by stigmatization.

Denmark should do better - most of us are better than this.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Christian said...

Kristjan, try not to generalize people, Danes or any other culture. It's true that there is a xenophobia among many Danes towards people from other countries. As an example you hear the bricklayers complaining that workers from Poland are "stealing" the available work, because they work for a lesser paycheck.
The manifest made by Hells Angels in Denmark specifically states that it is not targeting all immigrants, or even all Muslims, but tries to make a more specific description of the people.
Don't get me wrong, you know me and should know that I encourage culturally different people to come together.
Whether or not Hells Angels (HA) is manipulating with people who have this xenophobia or not I can't say, but to me it's pretty clear that the ordeal between HA and certain immigrant-gangs in Copenhagen, is about the drug-market and maybe dishonor, and not about racism.
I'm no expert in politics, so I'd rather not comment on this, except that I'd agree with your statement that the political party Det Danske Folkeparti seem to have a rather racist program.

July 05, 2009 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Mark Bialkowski said...

That's an interesting observation on the use of "Muslim" as a generalized term for "immigrant" in Denmark. I suspect the xenophobes here in North America picked up on that generalization from the European sources of information they rely upon (generally right-wing, of course) and took it literally, leading to casual, offhand remarks about how "Muslims are taking over Europe" and references to numbers that look suspiciously like overall immigration totals. I've heard of people here using the word in a similar fashion, though it's much less common in the parts of Canada I regularly interact with. It even happens among leftist groups, using "Muslim" to casually refer to certain people facing discriminatory and oppressive behaviour when other words would be more appropriate.

The resurgence of tribalist/nationalist ideology, and the conflation of religious and ethnic identification that comes along with it, creeps me out. It probably doesn't help that I'm reading a book on the Holocaust at the moment; the use of language now looks distressingly like the use of language then in several respects.

July 05, 2009 11:24 PM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Christian, I don't feel that I am generalizing about Danes. My post is about the consequences of the current Danish policies, which apparently is supported by more than half of the voting population (those who vote for the government and Dansk Folkeparti).

Regarding the HA manifest, one has to be aware that the Danish law has a paragraph regarding racism, so no one could come out and make such a manifest about all immigrants without facing legal trouble.

Of course, HA doesn't really believe this about immigrants (some of the members of AK81 are immigrants), but I think it's a well-made piece of propaganda, taking advantage of the current political currents.

July 06, 2009 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Winston Smith said...

At the same time, Denmark has recently elected a convicted racist, Morten Messerschmidt, to the EU parliament. Giving him the 2nd highest number of personal votes ever given to a candidate for the EU parliament.


What the fuck is a "convicted racist"? Is thought crime prosecuted in Denmark?

The people obviously don't want immigrants. Why do you think democracy should be overruled and enlightened people such as yourself should be making such a permanent society changing decision?

As a proponent of science, don't you think it's possible that third world immigrants evolved differently than Europeans? Just as it's always an east African winning the marathon at the Olympics, maybe third worlders are less intelligent and more prone to crime. You sound like a liberal creationist.

July 13, 2009 12:23 AM  
Blogger Kristjan said...

There are no such things as thought crimes. What people can be convicted for are actions. That's what happened in the case of Morten Messerschmidt. There is a paragraph in the Danish criminal law which prohibits demonizing people because of their race (think of it as a generalized slander or libel law), and he broke that.

People might argue that such a law shouldn't be on the books, but it was, and it's a well known law, so Messerschmidt has no excuse for ignoring.

July 13, 2009 8:35 AM  
Blogger Kristjan said...

"The people obviously don't want immigrants. Why do you think democracy should be overruled and enlightened people such as yourself should be making such a permanent society changing decision?"

Who are the people? A certain group of the people don't want immigrants. I am opposed to that group. Who are you, a well-known racist, to come and tell me that I can't? I have never said that democracy should be overturned (I leave that sort of stuff to right-winged extremists like you), what I've done is to argue that the Danish population should move away from the current path.

"As a proponent of science, don't you think it's possible that third world immigrants evolved differently than Europeans? Just as it's always an east African winning the marathon at the Olympics, maybe third worlders are less intelligent and more prone to crime. You sound like a liberal creationist."

No.

Given the fact that the US has more people in jail than the rest of the Western world, should I believe that the US population has evolved differently?

That sort of stuff doesn't make sense.

The whole concept of race is a sociological construct. The difference between individuals in a given "race" is greater than the differences between the "races".

And even granting the concept of race (which I won't), so-called third world citizens are very diversified groups of people. Immigrants to Denmark count Somali, Turkish Kurds, Iraqi, people from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Palestinians etc.

July 13, 2009 8:46 AM  
Blogger Donn said...

Might I start by saying that I look upon our species as Earthling..complex bipedal primates carrying a lot of baggage from our journey to the 21st Century...most have refused to accept our scientific discoveries which, unlike their religious mythology, are open to scrutiny and experimentation.

The dissolution of archaic religious beliefs through empirical education is the most logical resolution...but that takes too long.

Canada has finally beefed up their guide to immigrants by stating that misogynistic traditions are not tolerated here.

This religio-cultural clash was further aggravated by the muslim major who massacred other soldiers in the USA last week. The Ann Coulters just got a nice fat pitch thrown over the plate.

Her remarks about bombing Syria into the Stone Age and forcing the Middle Easterners to convert to Christianity strike a favourable chord in many Americans.

Political correctness prevented other enlisted men from complaining about the insane? Major's pro-terrorist rantings because they knew it would be career suicide and make them look like "racists".

This incident just unfairly opened a sh*tstorm for moderate American Muslims...especially those in the Armed Forces!

The clash between the reigning Monotheisms is going to escalate because moderates in both camps fail to distance themselves from the extremists. Indonesia, Pakistan and many other places in the world are headed for a full scale confrontation that will make the Cold War look inviting.

Religious fanatics have no fear of their ridiculous notions of the hereafter and that is what makes them so dangerous to rational people.

November 14, 2009 2:25 PM  

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