Home / World

Immigration talk toughens ahead of election

By Agence France-Presse in Copenhagen | China Daily | Updated: 2015-05-30 07:45

"Unwanted" and "uncivilized" - foreigners are sometimes shocked by the blunt tone of Denmark's debate on Muslim immigration, and with a general election around the corner, politicians show no sign of toning it down.

"The last time I watched the Danish news ... they had four main stories and three of them were about how immigrants were ruining everything," said Kelly Draper, a British-born teacher who came to the Scandinavian country seven years ago. "There's no way you can integrate with all this rhetoric because people think you're a criminal or a freeloader."

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called an election on Wednesday for June 18, and a decade after newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the Mohammed cartoons that sparked lethal protests in some Muslim countries, immigration and Islam remain at the top of the agenda.

The opposition right-wing bloc is currently leading the polls, but even if it does well in the election, it would need the support of the anti-immigration Danish People's Party to pass legislation in parliament.

Like its peers in other European countries, the party regularly makes comments that some find offensive and even racist, but the level of vitriol is what takes foreigners by surprise.

"I'm Jewish, so I always tell (Danes), you just take the word 'Muslim', switch it out with 'Jewish' and you've got Germany of the 1930s," said David Miller, a US expatriate living in Copenhagen.

DPP lawmakers have likened the Muslim veil to the swastika, the Quran to Mein Kampf and argued that Islam is "the greatest threat to our civilization".

Echoing that sentiment, Anders Vistisen, a Danish member of the European Parliament, last year described population growth in Muslim countries as "humanity's greatest challenge."

The DPP's role in Danish politics has arguably made it the most influential party of its kind, and with some polls giving it one in five votes amid rising numbers of refugees from Syria, its power shows no sign of waning.

The party was allowed to shape Danish migration policies into some of Europe's toughest in exchange for supporting Danish governments between 2001 and 2011.

In the 2011 election, the ruling Social Democrats campaigned on rolling back some of the immigration policies introduced by the previous government, but after losing voters to the DPP, it too has changed its message.

In the wake of February's twin attacks in Copenhagen by gunman Omar El-Hussein, many Danes asked themselves how a young man born and bred in their country could have felt so alienated from the society in which he lived.

Some people, mostly on the left, argued that the national conversation on Islam had made it harder for Muslims to integrate.

(China Daily 05/30/2015 page12)

Today's Top News

Editor's picks

Most Viewed