Immigration and Racism Concerns in Denmark

By ANNA ROSSI

While Denmark has always been a rather homogenous society, it has slowly become more diverse over the past few decades. Starting in the early 1960’s, there was an influx of Muslim workers to Denmark, mainly from Turkey, Yugoslavia and Pakistan. Initially, it was mainly men who came to work in the Northern European countries and sent money back home to their families. In the 1970’s, their wives, children, and extended families followed suit. The jobs offered used to only be available to men, yet with the increasing number of women interested in joining the workforce, certain jobs were allocated to them. Given the chance for both spouses of a family to hold down steady jobs, there was less motivation to return to their country of origin. Denmark has continued to allow immigration in the wake of increased political turmoil in the Middle East: the country is currently accepting five hundred refugees per year.

While many would agree that a heterogeneous society can lead to cultural understanding and openness, one cannot forget the prejudice, discrimination, and racism that is associated with immigration and an increase in diversity. In 2009, immigrants made up nearly 10% of Denmark’s population—while the remainder is mostly composed of White Danes, the country is today more diverse than it ever has been.

Danish Muslims, a prominent immigrant group, are by now mainly second and third generation, thus born and raised in Denmark. This does not mean, however, that they have overcome the obvious, persistent socioeconomic disparities. Over half of immigrants from non-western countries live in public housing, compared to just 14% of native Danes, and a quarter of immigrants have experienced discrimination within housing policies. In addition to prejudice within housing, many have reported to authorities being discriminated against in the labor sector and education system. While Denmark does have an Anti-Discrimination Law, this has unfortunately not contributed very much to alleviating the racial, cultural, and religious tension present.

Although racism was hardly a non-issue before 9/11, since then there has been a noticeable increase in violence towards Muslims. The act of terror occurred in the US, and provoked a largely US-led response, but this did not stop the Islamophobic sentiment from spreading all around the world. The US did not for a second think of mitigating the effects its actions would have on global anti-Islamic sentiment, allowing the fear and hatred of Muslims of all forms to grow unabatedly. In the past few years, Denmark has made its immigration laws much stricter in attempts to reduce the steady inflow of immigrants. Today, Denmark stands as one of the most anti-Muslim countries in the Western world.
Despite its myriad of positive effects on the globe, many associate the US with intolerance and oppression, especially of the Muslim world. But this reputation is not completely fair: problems dealing with cultural differences are not isolated to the United States; while countries may have culturally specific problems, combatting oppression is a vividly global issue.

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