LEADER: Even people with stupid ideas should get citizenship

The November issue os now on the streets. In our November leader we argue that denying an Islamist Danish citizenship is fascinating, scary and disappointing.

Watch out! if you plan on applying for Danish citizenship, make sure you keep your bad ideas to yourself. Belal El-Khatib didn’t and was removed from a list of over 6,500 Danes who were set to receive citizenship this October. His error was being a Muslim who openly admitted that he would have no problem replacing democracy with a caliphate, if a majority of Danes agreed to it.

El-Khatib, 25, has permanent residency in Denmark. He turned his back on his Muslim background as a teenager, but returned to the faith in his 20s, and now follows a rather strict interpretation of Islam.

Immigration minister Inger Støjberg was pleased that a majority of right wing parties agreed to remove him from the list of new citizens, and stated that “anti-democratic Islamists who work against Danish values should not be rewarded with Danish citizenship.”

It’s fascinating, scary and disappointing that the government is playing thought police and denying individuals their right to free expression, simply because their ideas are bad – a global caliphate is obviously the last thing our world needs.

The Danish government’s worry, of course, is that Islamists not only want to practice their religion, but also want to force everyone else to follow it too. They fear a slow watering-down of Western liberal values and an eventual democratic overthrow of democracy.

At one point dismissed outright as paranoid, it is now relatively mainstream to believe that Islam is once again at the Gates of Vienna. Many believe that immigration from Muslim countries is a ploy to create a global caliphate. In an interview with Politiken in September, blogger Mikael Jalving argued that Europe is heading towards civil war, with Muslims on one side and Westerners on the other.

So what do Muslims really think? Jyllands-Posten set out to answer that by asking pollsters Wilke to conduct interviews within Denmark’s Muslim community in October.

They found that 11.3% percent of Muslims think that Danish laws should be entirely based on the Koran, 26.5% percent that laws should at least consider sharia, while 53.9% think the Danish constitution is the best foundation for creating laws.

For perspective, a November 2012 YouGov poll found that 25% of Danes are in favour of capital punishment. A Megafon poll for Politiken in October found that 14% of Danes believe in supernatural beings, such as ghosts and spirits.

Danish society is full of weird, unscientific and bad ideas but, on the whole, we don’t deny people their rights because of them. Unless, of course, you’re a Muslim. The El-Khatib case demonstrates a continuing stereotyping of Muslims by the political class, which is implicitly supported by the media. Jyllands-Posten’s survey ignorantly lumps all Muslims in one category, as though they were a homogenous mass.

While Støjberg and Jalving worry that Muslims will create a “them and us”, it turns out that they’re the ones forcing a dividing line, and making enemies of their fellow citizens.

The best way to overcome difference is through dialogue. This strengthens democratic values such as respect and tolerance, even when respective parties have fundamentally different world views. This is why we chose Rushy Rashid Højbjerg for our cover this month. Her radio show is a lonely platform in Danish media, unique for facilitating a nuanced debate on immigration – good and bad.

The mutual understanding that her debates facilitate is far more effective at protecting democracy and maintaining its legitimacy, than selectively denying citizenship to people with undemocratic beliefs. Because by excluding El-Khatib, we only reinforce his suspicion that our prized democratic system is a bit of a sham. M


By The Murmur

Facebook comments