How Denmark is working to marginalize Muslims and strip them of the right of citizenship?

How Denmark is working to marginalize Muslims and strip them of the right of citizenship? A bizarre new list to categorize Muslims based on their countries of origin is at the heart of what critics call an attempt to further discriminate against society.  Two years ago, former Danish Immigration and Integration Minister Matthias Tesfaye wanted to know if there was a link between the origins of the citizens they came from and their appearance in the ministry's crime and employment statistics.  This led Tesfaye to oversee the creation of a new and not without curiosity of statistical scale called MENAPT which is the initials of the Latin names for the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey, which differ from the classification of non-Western countries already used by the Danish Statistics Authority (the central authority that operates to compile and publish statistics on Danish society).  MENAPT is an extension of the current controversial term MENA (Middle East and North Africa), a term of European derivation that brings together countries with tens of millions of population into groups to meet their foreign policy needs.  The term "Middle East and North Africa" ​​is also seen as a colonial legacy. The term "Middle East" was first coined by the British India Office in the 1850s, and later popularized by Alfred Thayer Mahan, a famous theorist of US naval power.  Dr. Eti Bahadur, faculty member at Jamia Millia Islamia in OpIndia said that the label "Middle East" is somewhat reminiscent of Europeanism. “After all, the region (the Middle East) can only be called when viewed from Europe.”  If viewed geographically, the area in the "Middle East" region would actually be along the western periphery of Asia.  So, what's new about the Danish list is that it targets only a few select countries that are predominantly Muslim countries that have not been classified on this principle before. For example, Israel did not find a place in the Danish list, as did Eritrea and Ethiopia, despite their geographical location between Egypt, Somalia and Djibouti.  Although the list was first introduced in 2020, it has since become an important part of the country's political discourse. Moreover, new citizenship regulations that took effect last year indicated that applicants from MENAPT countries will be judged separately from their non-Western list counterparts.  MENAPT critics see this as an attempt that could lead to further discrimination against Muslims living in Denmark, especially those from countries on the list. Dr. Amani Hassani, a sociologist who writes on racism and spatial discrimination against Muslims, says the concern is that the MENAPT category will become part of the assessment of citizenship applications.  "Some politicians who are part of the citizenship approval committee have admitted in recent years that they vote against applicants who hail from Muslim-majority countries," she told TRT World.  "If politicians get a clear statistical tool to distinguish Muslim applicants from other non-Western applicants, they will be able to reject any Muslim citizenship applications with little oversight."  Hassani says this category has already been used by Statistics Denmark to distinguish non-Western immigrants from immigrants and grandchildren in terms of employment rates and poverty levels. "It is not difficult to imagine how the government will be able to interpret these numbers as a way to target legislation and policies towards immigrants and Muslim children," she added.  The European Islamophobia 2021 Report, released late last month, in which Hassani co-authored a chapter on Denmark, highlighted (referring to the MENAPT list) how structural barriers to Muslims are increasing through new policies and legislation in Denmark. "This category may enable the government to specifically target Muslim citizens with Muslim conclusions based on their countries of origin, and allow politicians to explicitly discriminate against Muslim citizenship applicants with little public oversight," she said.  In 2021, a report published by the Danish Institute for Human Rights revealed that 35% of all children of immigrants do not hold Danish citizenship, many of whom are Muslims and born in Denmark, hindering their opportunities to participate on an equal footing as their Danish peers.  Muslims as "the other"  Hassani is Danish, born and raised after her grandparents moved to the country as migrant workers in the late 1960s.  Hasani, who came of age in the years after 9/11, says she was old enough to experience the shift in political and media discourse about Muslims in Denmark in the early 2000s, and how things have gradually worsened since then. With the increase in anti-Muslim, xenophobic, and immigration policies in Denmark, Hassani has been interested in examining the tension between Denmark, which is itself a progressive "post-ethnic" society, and the actual experiences of Muslims in everyday life.  “Denmark is similar to many other countries in Europe in terms of the growth of Islamophobia. It is important to understand how Islamophobia, like other types of racism, is a way to support the dynamics of racial superiority within society,” she says. "There is a vested interest in representing Muslims as the primary [other] in relation to the Danish population in general, which is presumed to be white and non-Muslim. This kind of political discourse flows into daily interactions among the population."  This is reflected in Abad Pasha's study on the lived experiences of second-generation Pakistanis in Denmark, which shows how increasing anti-Muslim racism has affected their sense of belonging. Pasha is a political scientist, who spent two years in Denmark from 2018 to 2020, exploring the impact of rising racism, and the various effects it has on feelings of belonging and existential security among second-generation Pakistanis in the country.  One of his areas of focus was to consider how these people handled the situation and its impact on their future plans. “People I spoke to were increasingly being reminded of (the other) through the media, political narratives and structural personal patterns of racism to which they did not belong in Denmark, especially in the past two decades,” says Pasha. "This happens even to those who thought they belonged in Danish society but are now learning that this may not necessarily be the case," he added.  Speaking to TRT World, Pasha says he finds this disturbing because if the prevailing and rising racism has an impact on the existential security and belonging of people who can be considered "well-integrated into society", things may be "much worse" for the newcomers.  He asserts: "The media and politicians have a major role to play in this scenario, and that it is the more organized and structural forms of racism that exacerbate the process of non-belonging among minorities."  The question of Danish values  When Tesfaye, who is now Denmark's minister of justice, went ahead with his plans to put the MENAPT list into practice, he argued that the new figures, or the statistics released, would "provide a more honest political discussion about immigrants who have caused so many challenges to our society."  As of January 1, 2020, people belonging to the MENAPT list made up more than 54% of all non-Western residents residing in Denmark. Al-Hassani says that while anti-Muslim attitudes are represented across the political spectrum in Denmark, there is a difference between politicians in the way they classify Muslims.  "While some politicians on the political right tend to view all Muslims in Denmark as essentially problematic, there are political liberals who differentiate between 'good Muslims' and 'bad Muslims'," she says.  What Al-Hassani means is that Muslims who go to school, work, adopt Danish values ​​and do not ask for much religious accommodation are considered "good".  “But at the same time, Muslims, who are not financially independent (from social welfare), who cannot afford to move out of social housing, who struggle to speak Danish or whose Islam is visible to the eye, are often discredited. In other words, if they are not If you are a successful, productive Muslim, you are a problem because of your Islam.”  Tesfaye's reference to a minority of immigrants as a challenge to Danish society is part of a political discourse that claims: to preserve and protect Danish values.  Meanwhile, Hassani says that's the trend across Europe. "It turns into an ethnic approach to understanding national culture and values."  "Western countries have historically turned themselves against Islam and Muslims to define their 'liberal values.' It is not only a way of intrinsicizing Danish values ​​to the exclusion of alternative expressions of Danish, but it is also often a highly racist process, (our liberal values ​​versus their illiberal values)" as you say.  "It is not surprising, then, that Danish values ​​are presented in opposition to Muslims. Islamic values ​​are represented as anti-democratic, backward and unequal, while Danish values ​​are democratic, progressive and egalitarian. Islamic values ​​are thus represented as anti-Danish in nature."

A bizarre new list to categorize Muslims based on their countries of origin is at the heart of what critics call an attempt to further discriminate against society.

Two years ago, former Danish Immigration and Integration Minister Matthias Tesfaye wanted to know if there was a link between the origins of the citizens they came from and their appearance in the ministry's crime and employment statistics.

This led Tesfaye to oversee the creation of a new and not without curiosity of statistical scale called MENAPT which is the initials of the Latin names for the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey, which differ from the classification of non-Western countries already used by the Danish Statistics Authority (the central authority that operates to compile and publish statistics on Danish society).

MENAPT is an extension of the current controversial term MENA (Middle East and North Africa), a term of European derivation that brings together countries with tens of millions of population into groups to meet their foreign policy needs.

The term "Middle East and North Africa" ​​is also seen as a colonial legacy. The term "Middle East" was first coined by the British India Office in the 1850s, and later popularized by Alfred Thayer Mahan, a famous theorist of US naval power.

Dr. Eti Bahadur, faculty member at Jamia Millia Islamia in OpIndia said that the label "Middle East" is somewhat reminiscent of Europeanism. “After all, the region (the Middle East) can only be called when viewed from Europe.”

If viewed geographically, the area in the "Middle East" region would actually be along the western periphery of Asia.

So, what's new about the Danish list is that it targets only a few select countries that are predominantly Muslim countries that have not been classified on this principle before. For example, Israel did not find a place in the Danish list, as did Eritrea and Ethiopia, despite their geographical location between Egypt, Somalia and Djibouti.

Although the list was first introduced in 2020, it has since become an important part of the country's political discourse. Moreover, new citizenship regulations that took effect last year indicated that applicants from MENAPT countries will be judged separately from their non-Western list counterparts.

MENAPT critics see this as an attempt that could lead to further discrimination against Muslims living in Denmark, especially those from countries on the list. Dr. Amani Hassani, a sociologist who writes on racism and spatial discrimination against Muslims, says the concern is that the MENAPT category will become part of the assessment of citizenship applications.

"Some politicians who are part of the citizenship approval committee have admitted in recent years that they vote against applicants who hail from Muslim-majority countries," she told TRT World.

"If politicians get a clear statistical tool to distinguish Muslim applicants from other non-Western applicants, they will be able to reject any Muslim citizenship applications with little oversight."

Hassani says this category has already been used by Statistics Denmark to distinguish non-Western immigrants from immigrants and grandchildren in terms of employment rates and poverty levels. "It is not difficult to imagine how the government will be able to interpret these numbers as a way to target legislation and policies towards immigrants and Muslim children," she added.

The European Islamophobia 2021 Report, released late last month, in which Hassani co-authored a chapter on Denmark, highlighted (referring to the MENAPT list) how structural barriers to Muslims are increasing through new policies and legislation in Denmark. "This category may enable the government to specifically target Muslim citizens with Muslim conclusions based on their countries of origin, and allow politicians to explicitly discriminate against Muslim citizenship applicants with little public oversight," she said.

In 2021, a report published by the Danish Institute for Human Rights revealed that 35% of all children of immigrants do not hold Danish citizenship, many of whom are Muslims and born in Denmark, hindering their opportunities to participate on an equal footing as their Danish peers.

Muslims as "the other"

Hassani is Danish, born and raised after her grandparents moved to the country as migrant workers in the late 1960s.

Hasani, who came of age in the years after 9/11, says she was old enough to experience the shift in political and media discourse about Muslims in Denmark in the early 2000s, and how things have gradually worsened since then. With the increase in anti-Muslim, xenophobic, and immigration policies in Denmark, Hassani has been interested in examining the tension between Denmark, which is itself a progressive "post-ethnic" society, and the actual experiences of Muslims in everyday life.

“Denmark is similar to many other countries in Europe in terms of the growth of Islamophobia. It is important to understand how Islamophobia, like other types of racism, is a way to support the dynamics of racial superiority within society,” she says. "There is a vested interest in representing Muslims as the primary [other] in relation to the Danish population in general, which is presumed to be white and non-Muslim. This kind of political discourse flows into daily interactions among the population."

This is reflected in Abad Pasha's study on the lived experiences of second-generation Pakistanis in Denmark, which shows how increasing anti-Muslim racism has affected their sense of belonging. Pasha is a political scientist, who spent two years in Denmark from 2018 to 2020, exploring the impact of rising racism, and the various effects it has on feelings of belonging and existential security among second-generation Pakistanis in the country.

One of his areas of focus was to consider how these people handled the situation and its impact on their future plans. “People I spoke to were increasingly being reminded of (the other) through the media, political narratives and structural personal patterns of racism to which they did not belong in Denmark, especially in the past two decades,” says Pasha. "This happens even to those who thought they belonged in Danish society but are now learning that this may not necessarily be the case," he added.

Speaking to TRT World, Pasha says he finds this disturbing because if the prevailing and rising racism has an impact on the existential security and belonging of people who can be considered "well-integrated into society", things may be "much worse" for the newcomers.

He asserts: "The media and politicians have a major role to play in this scenario, and that it is the more organized and structural forms of racism that exacerbate the process of non-belonging among minorities."

The question of Danish values

When Tesfaye, who is now Denmark's minister of justice, went ahead with his plans to put the MENAPT list into practice, he argued that the new figures, or the statistics released, would "provide a more honest political discussion about immigrants who have caused so many challenges to our society."

As of January 1, 2020, people belonging to the MENAPT list made up more than 54% of all non-Western residents residing in Denmark. Al-Hassani says that while anti-Muslim attitudes are represented across the political spectrum in Denmark, there is a difference between politicians in the way they classify Muslims.

"While some politicians on the political right tend to view all Muslims in Denmark as essentially problematic, there are political liberals who differentiate between 'good Muslims' and 'bad Muslims'," she says.

What Al-Hassani means is that Muslims who go to school, work, adopt Danish values ​​and do not ask for much religious accommodation are considered "good".

“But at the same time, Muslims, who are not financially independent (from social welfare), who cannot afford to move out of social housing, who struggle to speak Danish or whose Islam is visible to the eye, are often discredited. In other words, if they are not If you are a successful, productive Muslim, you are a problem because of your Islam.”

Tesfaye's reference to a minority of immigrants as a challenge to Danish society is part of a political discourse that claims: to preserve and protect Danish values.

Meanwhile, Hassani says that's the trend across Europe. "It turns into an ethnic approach to understanding national culture and values."

"Western countries have historically turned themselves against Islam and Muslims to define their 'liberal values.' It is not only a way of intrinsicizing Danish values ​​to the exclusion of alternative expressions of Danish, but it is also often a highly racist process, (our liberal values ​​versus their illiberal values)" as you say.

"It is not surprising, then, that Danish values ​​are presented in opposition to Muslims. Islamic values ​​are represented as anti-democratic, backward and unequal, while Danish values ​​are democratic, progressive and egalitarian. Islamic values ​​are thus represented as anti-Danish in nature."
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