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Efforts to ‘assimilate’ Muslims are rising in global North; this time, in Denmark

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Denmark has passed a series of laws that that subjects certain families—namely, those who live in the heavily Muslim neighborhoods the government has classified as “ghettos”—to new rules and restrictions intended to compel “assimilation” into Danish society. The new laws, which were reported by The New York Times on Sunday, effectively create a secondary legal status for “ghetto” residents by forcing them to comply with requirements not demanded of their wealthier and whiter neighbors.

The changes come into force amid an increasingly Islamophobic atmosphere across Europe and the United States. As the Muslim Ban is upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court, and Angela Merkel agrees to impose additional restrictions on migration into Germany, it appears that the legal landscape for Muslim residents, citizens and, migrants living in the global North is only getting worse. And “assimilation” has become an issue beyond Denmark: In September 2017, President Donald Trump issued a directive saying he may now consider “certain criteria that enhance a refugee’s likelihood of successful assimilation and contribution in the United States,” in addition to humanitarian criteria that have long been the standard for refugees, Foreign Policy reported.

The so-called Danish “ghetto package” includes at least 22 different proposals that were presented by the government in early March. Most of these proposals have already been passed by a parliamentary majority, according to the Times, while others will be voted on in the fall.

One of the most controversial measures basically requires parents to place their infants and toddlers in a re-education program, what Jezebel has termed “mandatory sessions in whiteness.” From the age of 1, “ghetto children” will be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week to receive instruction in “Danish values,” including learning about Christian holidays. Parents who refuse to let their children participate in the program risk losing welfare payments.

The “Danish values” schooling regulations are just the latest set of laws to restrict Muslim life in the country. In May, Denmark joined Austria, France, and Belgium in passing a “burqa ban”—legislation that fines individuals for covering their face in public, effectively targeting Muslim women who opt to wear face veils.

“All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs,” Amnesty International’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik told The Guardian in May. The law is set to come into force on August 1.

Denmark is not alone in passing or enshrining legislation that essentially targets Muslims. In addition to the U.S. affirmation of the Muslim Ban, on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel—who had previously been Europe’s primary champion of open borders and welcoming refugees—succumbed to political pressure on this front. Faced with the possible fracture of her coalition government, Merkel agreed to establish migrant camps at the Austrian border and turn back asylees who had registered elsewhere in the European Union.

Back in Denmark, Muslim women interviewed by the Times expressed vocal opposition to the new “ghetto children” policy. “Maybe this is what they always thought, and now it’s out in the open,” said Sara, 32. “Danish politics is just about Muslims now. They want us to get more assimilated or get out. I don’t know when they will be satisfied with us.”  

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