BBC cross-examines Danes on integration policy

Denmark’s immigration policies have been under scrutiny worldwide in recent years.  Sunday, the BBC broadcast a programme where a Copenhagen audience questioned four Danish politicians and social commentators on immigration, integration and Danishness.

The BBC had invited around 300 Danes to question a panel of MP for the Danish People’s Party Martin Henriksen, MP for the Red-Green Alliance Pernille Skipper, author Knud Romer and Integration Advisor Uzma Ahmed on matters such as immigration, the Danish burqa ban, and the concept of Danishness.

The programme was held at the National Museum of Denmark and is part of the BBC World Questions series. Here Jonathan Dimbleby invites a local audience to choose and discuss matters of local importance with local politicians and opinion formers. Last month Zimbabweans had discussed election fraud.

Repression or resistance
One of the questions from the audience was whether banning burqas and niqabs made for better integration.

“Only if you want to turn a symbol of oppression it into a symbol of resistance”, said author Knud Romer. He believed that the burqa was a non-existing problem and that the new Danish burqa ban (that bans Burqas, Niqabs and other clothing covering the face), was directed towards a small minority.

MP for the Red-Green Alliance (RGA) Pernille Skipper said that while she agreed that the burqa was a symbol of oppression, she would never criminalise it.

“I value our liberty to make our own choices of how we dress. Women have been told how to dress for way too long”, she said to loud applause.

MP for the Danish People’s Party (DPP) Martin Henriksen and Integration Advisor Uzma Ahmed, on the other hand, supported the ban.

Henriksen because he said he believed that when immigrants come to Denmark they should adapt to Danish values and culture. Ahmed, who is a Muslim herself, believed that there is a need to stop what she called “this kind of radical thinking”.

Being Danish
Another member of the audience wanted to know what the panel believed it meant to be “Danish”.

Martin Henriksen defined Danes as a people with a common language and culture, a monarchy, a democracy and a long Christian history.

“If you want to be a Dane you have to take as much as possible from this package”, he said.

Pernille Skipper on the other hand believed that anyone who feels Danish in effect is Danish.

“Martin and the DPP have become the largest threat against Danish values. The DPP are implementing racist policies. What you are implementing is against fundamental Danish values”, Skipper said.

Martin Henriksen protested, asking if Skipper believed that he was a racist, to which she replied that she believed that the policies of his party were.

From liberalism to xenophobia
This isn’t the first time that the BBC has focused on Denmark’s immigration policies. This year the BBC has covered Danish Minister for Immigration, Integration and Housing Inger Støjberg’s criticism of the Ramadan and the Burqa-law.

And in 2016, Søren Espersen from the Danish People’s Party was a guest on the BBC’s Hardtalk, where Stephen Sackur put it to him that Danish Liberalism had seemingly been “overtaken by xenophobia”.

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