The “Ghetto Package” law targeting the Muslim minority in Denmark has now been amended to accommodate the Ukrainian refugees.

The problem

In 2019, the Danish government introduced the ‘Ghetto Package’ – blatantly harsh in intent, substance and implementation. It was acted in the name of ‘better social integration’ and avoiding ‘parallel societies’, aiming for ‘no ghettos by 2030’.

The ‘Ghettos’ were not-for-profit community-homes dwelled by poor ‘non-Westerners’ (‘Westerner’ meant exclusive ethnicity of only 7 European and 5 English-speaking countries, including Australia and New Zealand).

Clearly the Ghetto was a euphemism for ‘Muslim homes’ who were perceived to lack the ‘Danish values’, which remained undefined. These poor citizens (largely from Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, etc) were soon called ‘Ghetto parent’ and ‘Ghetto child’. Impervious to the fact that 20th-century Nazis next door used the Ghettos for nefarious ends.

The punishment was equally harsh: the community-homes will be capped at 30-40% in a suburb – bulldozing some 10,000 homes, police could define the geographic area and doubly punish its zoned citizens, children aged more than one year had to attend daycare for more than 25 hours per week for families to receive benefit payments so that they can learn ‘Danish values’.

My understanding

To my Muslim mind, the 2019-Danish government lacked courage of introspection. The lashing out on poor Danish Muslims was a diversion and a lost learning opportunity.

Denmark is a nation of about 6 million citizens, blessed to possess a large land mass in the form of Greenland. German-influenced Danish monarchs converted to Catholicism in the 10th century, and then to Protestantism in the 14th century. In the early 19th century, the radical French influence got rid of imposed Lutheran exclusivism.

The monarchy adapted; the Lutheran Church became the “People’s Church”. Other religions were welcome but the state religion, with privileges, remains Lutheranism – managed by 11 bishops and lorded over by the monarch and the Danish Parliament. 10% of citizens are foreign, and 60% of these are ‘non-Western’ – meaning different hues of Muslims.

A person baptised in Denmark automatically becomes a member of its People’s Church, with an option of relinquishing it later on; ~75% thus are members. The Church is deeply embedded in the homes: 70% kids gets confirmed, 30% couples swear their marriage vows and 80% gets last rites by the People’s Church.

However, only 2.5% attend the Church weekly, 30% attend on the Christmas Day; 25% believe Jesus is the Son of God, 18% believe he is Saviour of the World. In these 200 years, the radical French influencers have won their cultural war.

The reason for hate: 3-front attack

More than a thousand years ago The Song of Roland was unleashed on the uninformed, to misguide and terrify the population against Islam; popular culture was weaponised to fuel the Crusading wars.

Post 9/11, the US Islamophobes (enthusiastic proponents of “War on Terror”, a euphemism for War on Islam) are playing a similar role by launching a near simultaneous 3-front attack on Muslims:

  1. Christians are led to fear the imminent Islamisation of Europe and English-speaking world.
  2. The atheist and the far-left are reminded that Islam remains the most conservative and unreformed religion of the world.
  3. Racists are riled up that the brown immigrants will over-run their much developed world.

No wonder we see Quran gets burned in the midst of large crowd attendance, reminding us of the barbaric persecutions of the past. The current Danish fringe is directly influenced by Islamophobic fringe in the US; we live in a global village.

Lack of courage

If the 2019-Danish government were well-meaning part of world community, they would have embarked on a policy of reforming their Muslims. But that would have forced an internal introspection; the People’s Church would have to answer its own difficult questions.

As the co-head of Danish People’s Church, 2019-government choose discrimination and racism, and hypocrisy and Islamophobia at the same time.

Nakedly exposed, and may be ashamed

In 2022 the hyper-paranoid Russians rolled in, forcing the Ukrainians to flee west. These innocent civilians – all “non-Westerners” – were channeled to the Ghettos, needing the amendment of the “Ghetto Package” law for their safety. Now, the Ghettos will no longer be bulldozed; no child will be electronically wired; no mother be forced to chose a daycare for her family’s needs.

The Europeans, the UN, the humanitarians were correct all along. The law was dishonest, and unproductive. The fringe had held the country to cultural ransom; the 2019-Danish government obliged by risking the nation’s moral fibre.

How do I make sense of all these

I am just one of 1.6 billion Muslims: educated, inclusive and humanitarian. There are many millions like me, and we want Islam to play a positive role in our lives, in human discourse and progress of humanity in the coming decades to come.

People like me have come to realise the importance of science, individual freedoms, dignity of human race, and caring of our planet as our village. We also realise the stubborn entrenchment of old religions, however great role they may have played in lives in past humanity. We are playing our roles in lessening the gap between two epochs, to safeguard our collective heritage and innovate a better future.

If Danish government wants to play a similar constructive role, it needs to live the reality. And not be worried about Islam – which has a wide scope of change and reciprocation.