Muslim communities in Denmark are bracing themselves for a backlash of discrimination and hate crime in the aftermath of last weekend’s deadly attacks on a free speech debate and a synagogue in Copenhagen.Community leaders also warned the country faced a “road into darkness” if politicians allowed anti-Muslim rhetoric stoked by a resurgent far right to undermine fundamental values of tolerance and openness amid a scramble for votes ahead of national elections in September.
Northern Jutland, Denmark – On the whole, Denmark is pretty deserving of its reputation as a neat, orderly place.
So it’s a surprise to discover a sand dune the size of a small desert roaming around the countryside unchecked, destroying farmhouses, churches, roads and anything else that gets in its way.
Randers, Denmark – If the King had lived, he would have been 80 on Thursday. And for Henrik Knudsen, this year brings another significant anniversary worth celebrating. Twenty-five years ago, he decided to quit his job selling power tools to become Denmark’s only professional Elvis Presley fan.
“I was a sales agent for a long time and I decided I didn’t want to be that anymore. I thought, imagine if I could be a full-time Elvis fan,” he says. “I knew it was a big leap but I felt like I just had to do it. And a few years later I was.”
Aarhus, Denmark – Muslims living in one of Denmark’s most deprived housing projects say they are being marginalised and made to feel unwelcome in their own community amid fears that their 14-year fight for a mosque could be derailed by political wrangling over an ambitious regeneration plan for the area.
Residents in Gellerup, a suburb of Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, have been campaigning since 2000 for the right to build a mosque in their neighbourhood. They say it would serve not only the needs of a growing Muslim population but also as a “beacon of hope”, a bulwark against extremism and a symbol of their acceptance as Danish citizens.
But their aspirations have been repeatedly stalled by political opposition to the project. Now those behind the latest proposal say that promises made by politicians and city officials that a fresh application to buy land for a mosque would be treated favourably have been broken following objections by right-wing parties on the local council.
I was invited to appear on HuffPost Live’s World Briefing programme on Tuesday to discuss my latest story for Al Jazeera about a scheme in Aarhus, Denmark, that aims to rehabilitate Danish Muslims returning from Syria. Here’s the video:
Aarhus, Denmark – An innovative rehabilitation programme is offering Danish Muslims in Syria an escape route from the conflict zone and help getting their lives back on track without the threat of prosecution.
The programme, a collaboration between welfare services and police in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, offers treatment for shrapnel and gunshot wounds and psychological trauma to returning fighters and humanitarian volunteers as well as assisting them with finding work or resuming their education.
The programme also provides support to the families of those already in Syria, ranging from helping them stay in touch via Skype to liaising with government officials, consulates and intelligence agencies to help get their relatives home when they decide they want to leave.
Copenhagen, Denmark – Perched on top of a tall column at a road junction in the Norrebro neighbourhood of Copenhagen, an enormous American-style ringed doughnut demands to be noticed.
“De Angelis. Delightfully different DONUTS,” reads the sign. Further down the street, a mock lighthouse advertises a self-storage warehouse, vying for attention on the busy skyline with the branded flags of car showrooms and industrial chimneys.
Next to the lighthouse is the latest vertical addition to this mundane urban landscape that is currently stoking controversy in the Danish capital. A slender minaret topped with a small crescent marks the site of Denmark’s first purpose-built mosque.