Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 31 May 2020

Nativistic identity merchants look fortified as Denmark plans 'ghetto' laws

From the age of one, 'ghetto children' are to be 'educated' in 'Danish values'. The lack of push-back should worry us all, writes HA Hellyer

Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen at a European Union leaders' summit focused on migration, Brexit and eurozone reforms on last month. Ben Stansall / AFP
Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen at a European Union leaders' summit focused on migration, Brexit and eurozone reforms on last month. Ben Stansall / AFP

It is seldom a good idea for analysts and academics to be needlessly alarmist. But to raise the alarm about the news of Danish authorities looking to engage in Orwellian social engineering when it comes to mainly Muslim residents isn’t needless.

On the contrary – to not express vivid concerns would be deeply irresponsible.

A decade ago, I wrote a book entitled, The ‘Other’ Europeans: Muslims of Europe. My point in the title was to express concern that there were subtle – and in many cases not so subtle – moves in different European countries to promote the notion that Muslims on the continent were fundamentally the "other".

That, in essence, we, as "Europeans" were different from "those Muslims".

It is important to place such labels in quotation marks, because they are essentially mythical constructs. Europeans include among them many Muslims – as descendants of immigrants, of course, but also converts and their descendants, which make up a substantial proportion of Europeans today. Moreover, European history is essentially obsolete without the contribution of Muslim Europeans to the continent over the course of more than 1,000 years.

Those shades and colours of historical reality are irrelevant to the merchants of nativistic identity politics in Europe today.

As far as they are concerned, "Europe" (again, they are very selective as to what they consider "Europe" to be) is under attack. The fundamental fear is that Europe will become a wasteland dominated by foreign Muslim migration, or destroyed by Muslim-Europeans from within: in other words, will become "Euro-Arabia".

It’s a fanciful, nonsensical proposition. The demographics show very clearly that the level of migration to Europe is incredibly tiny as compared to the continent's total population. And yet, they invigorate these identity merchants, who sell a myth of an impending invasion to frightened and sometimes ignorant purchasers, who then feel empowered and inspired.

On a small scale, the trend would be bizarre or even mildly entertaining, seeing as it based wholly in fantasy. But today it is not amusing in the slightest – because such demonisation of Muslims in Europe is now mainstreamed and finds expression across the political spectrum.

This is where recent moves in Denmark become so plainly terrifying. They were not instituted by the equivalent of the American Ku Klux Klan in Europe. Rather, they were proposed by wholly mainstream politicians.

Politicians that only a few years ago would have spoken the language of "integration" now openly declare and demand "assimilation". And language informs policies – policies that set a terrible precedent on the European continent.


Read more from HA Hellyer:

The strikes sent one message to Assad: continue killing Syrians but don't use chemical weapons

Why we should be angry at France for persecuting a Muslim for her beliefs

Gaza: the choice of life in an open-air prison or being shot is no choice


Due to this phenomenon, there is a new category of person in Danish law. The name: "ghetto child", born of "ghetto parents".

It is sinister in its sub-labelling, Orwellian in its outlook, and notorious in its nomenclature. The government in Copenhagen is now introducing a new package of laws that will affect residents in no less than 25 poor – and predominantly Muslim – neighbourhoods. The clear intention: if families in those neighbourhoods do not assimilate into the "Danish mainstream" – a rather arbitrarily defined entity – they will be forced to do so, according to a deeply essentialist set of markers.

From the age of one, these "ghetto children" are to be "educated" and "instructed" in "Danish values". If the "ghetto" families do not comply, then welfare payments might be halted. The very notion of forced instruction of this nature – which include teaching about Christmas and Easter, as though all Danes celebrate these two holidays in the first place – can only be described as indoctrination.

What is more, it is on the back of a deeply troubling history surrounding the word "ghetto" itself – something that seems to be utterly lost on those politicians that use it. Or, perhaps, not so lost after all.

There are other measures being discussed that would even allow courts to punish individuals more harshly for crimes if they were from a "non-Western background". But it is the family-related measures that are truly insidious – a type of open and blatant social engineering, the likes of which appear unmatched on the continent today.

Again, the most disturbing part of this is that the attractiveness of it is not lost on the "left-liberal" portion of the population. In a recent article in The New York Times, Rune Lykkeberg, the editor in chief of Dagbladet Information, a left-liberal daily newspaper, is quoted as saying: “You could say, of course, parents have the right to bring up their own kids,” before going on to say: “We would say they do not have the right to destroy the future freedom of their children.”

The irony of the whole discourse is that it does not deny the gravity of what is happening – for the editor follows his statement by saying, “There is always a strong sense of authoritarian risk.”

Well, quite. Except, we seem to have plausibly gone beyond the line of "risk" when it comes to indulging this type of phenomenon. Perhaps the editor was trying to convey the point that others were trying to make – perhaps not. But the fact that alarm bells are not going off across the continent is in itself deeply alarming – because there is history of less than edifying treatment of minorities in Europe.

What is taking place in Denmark is a disgrace – and indulging this type of trend must be considered incredibly dangerous for us all.

Dr HA Hellyer is a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute

Updated: July 4, 2018 12:54 PM



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