What to Know About Denmark’s Controversial Plan to Eradicate Immigrant “Ghettos”

No recognition that a significant part of integration lies with the host society, and too much emphasis on sticks rather than carrots:

Pupils in 24 Danish schools will be “guinea pigs” for a new policy aimed at integrating non-Western immigrants into Danish society. From 2019, it will become law for schools that take more than 30 percent of their students from “ghetto” areas to force their students to take language tests.

Denmark‘s government currently lists 22 areas as “ghettos,” areas with social problems where more than 50% of residents are non-Western immigrants.

According to the Copenhagen Post, Students from those 24 schools will undergo Danish tests in the coming months—making them some of the first to be affected by the Danish government’s new sweeping laws aimed at eradicating immigrant “ghettos” by 2030.

“There are a number of parents who come from the Middle East who have a totally different understanding of pedagogy, childhood and school than their Scandinavian counterparts,” said Merete Riisager, the Danish minister of education, according to the Post.

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen had previously announced in his New Year speech that the government intended to take measures to “end the existence of ghettos” completely. That was followed by an announcement in March that the government would pursue a new set of laws to will “deal with parallel societies.”

While it’s not the first time the government has tried to abolish “ghettos,” the latest raft of laws mean the government will specifically target these areas—proactively enforcing rulesaimed at integrating non-Western, predominantly Muslim immigrants into Danish society.

Many of the country’s 500,000 non-Western immigrants—largely from Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Somalia—live in these so-called ghettos. There, politicians say, “Danishness” is threatened by the prevalence of other languages and cultural traditions.

To many immigrants, the plans feel like a thinly-veiled way of telling them they are not welcome in Denmark. Hardline policy on immigration has become the new political consensus; even the typically pro-immigration Social Democrat party, Denmark’s largest opposition party, has supported the government’s anti-ghetto plans in an effort to win back voters deserting the party over immigration concerns.

Here, more on exactly what the new policies involve.

Obligatory daycare

One of the most contentious aspects of the plans is the forced enrolment of children from “ghetto” areas in classes from the age of 1 that teach “Danish values” and the Danish language. Such classes would run for a minimum of 30 hours per week, according to government plans.

While Danish parents are not obliged to enrol their own children, parents in “ghettos” who fail to do so could have their child benefit payments stopped by municipalities.

Demolition and redevelopment

The new laws allow the government to instruct certain ghettos be demolished. “For certain ghetto areas,” the plans say, “the challenges of parallel society, crime and insecurity are so massive that it is both practical and economical to [demolish] the ghetto area and start over again.” The government has set aside more than $1.8 billion for the demolition or conversion of ghetto areas until 2026.

The plans assert that part of the reason for social problems in ghettos is the prevalence of “family homes,” and that private investors should be allowed to construct “new housing types” in struggling areas to address this. The plans also make it easier for landlords to evict tenants, in order to speed up the government’s regeneration strategy.

Tougher criminal punishments in certain areas

Under the new plans, crimes such as vandalism or theft will be punished twice as harshly if they occur within ghetto boundaries as opposed to outside them. For crimes that already have high penalties, the punishment will be increased by one third. And if a crime is normally punished with a fine, imprisonment can be levied if it occurs inside a ghetto. The plans also state that more police will be deployed to the streets of the areas under most pressure.

Lowering benefits within ghettos

Immigrants who settle in Denmark can claim benefits with few strings attached. But one of the new laws states that immigrants who live within ghetto boundaries should receive lower benefits—thereby making it “economically less attractive” to live in ghetto areas.

Incentives for reducing unemployment

Unemployment is a serious problem in these areas; the government says a third of non-Western immigrants have been out of work or school for four of the last five years.

To tackle this, the government has announced that municipalities which succeed in getting immigrants into employment will be rewarded financially, to the tune of nearly $8,000 per worker.

Source: What to Know About Denmark’s Controversial Plan to Eradicate Immigrant “Ghettos”

Le Danemark déclare la guerre aux ghettos ethniques

Interesting reporting:

En ce matin de printemps, tout semble paisible à Mjolnerparken. Des pères accompagnent leur enfant à la garderie, des vieux discutent sur un banc et les coquelicots décorent l’ancienne voie ferrée devenue depuis longtemps un parc linéaire où s’ébrouent les enfants.

Comment imaginer qu’il y a un an, jour pour jour, un jeune homme de 22 ans a été abattu ici en pleine rue ?

« L’été dernier, pendant six mois, les fusillades se sont succédé. Les tireurs arrivaient en vespa et tiraient sur tout ce qui bougeait », dit Soren Wiborg, de la société Bo-Vita, qui loue ces appartements à loyer modique dans le quartier de Norrebro, à Copenhague.

Soren connaissait bien le jeune musulman tombé sous les balles des tueurs. « Il sortait de prison et essayait de s’en sortir. Il voulait se faire une nouvelle vie. Je l’aidais à chercher du travail, mais la guerre des gangs aura eu sa peau », dit cet ancien policier.

En six mois, la guerre entre les LTF venus des quartiers alentour et les Brothas de Mjolnerparken a fait trois morts et une vingtaine de blessés. Une trentaine de jeunes de cet ensemble qui compte 2000 habitants sont aujourd’hui en prison.

Dans son petit bureau, qui jouxte le Café Nora qui tente d’aider les femmes somaliennes à sortir de chez elles, Soren Wiborg a pour rôle d’aider les 300 chômeurs de ce groupe d’habitations à se trouver du travail.

« Et quand des parents me disent que leur jeune ne veut pas aller à l’école, je vais lui donner un petit coup de pied dans le derrière. Ça peut faire du bien parfois », dit-il en éclatant de rire.

C’est aussi Soren qui supervise les 15 jeunes du quartier engagés quatre heures par semaine pour nettoyer les parties communes. « Au Danemark, on n’a rien pour rien, dit-il. On a des services exceptionnels, mais il faut travailler pour ! »

La guerre aux ghettos

Avec sa population à 92 % étrangère (surtout somalienne, pakistanaise et arabe), Mjolnerparken est ce qui ressemble le plus à ce que le gouvernement a officiellement désigné comme des « ghettos ». En mars dernier, sans prévenir, huit ministres, dont le premier ministre libéral Lars Lokke Rasmussen, ont débarqué avec force police et mesures de sécurité dans la petite salle commune du quartier. Ils avaient choisi Mjolnerparken pour annoncer un vaste programme destiné à démanteler les 16 zones urbaines du Danemark que le gouvernement considère comme des « ghettos ».

« On doit pouvoir reconnaître notre pays. Il y a des endroits au Danemark où je ne reconnais pas ce que je vois », a déclaré le premier ministre. Au menu de ce vaste projet encore discuté au Parlement : la garderie obligatoire pour les enfants à partir d’un an, des cours obligatoires sur la culture et les valeurs danoises, un grand programme de rénovation urbaine, des aides majorées pour la recherche d’emploi et pour les étudiants étrangers ainsi qu’une peine qui pourrait aller jusqu’à quatre ans de prison pour les parents d’origine étrangère qui forceraient leur enfant à rentrer au pays, pour se marier par exemple.

Les demandeurs d’asile savent que le Danemark compte parmi les pays les plus généreux sur le plan social. Mais nous avons nous aussi des problèmes d’intégration. Il y a au Danemark des Somaliens qui vivent chez nous depuis 19 ans et qui ne parlent pas danois.

Intitulé Un Danemark sans sociétés parallèles, ce programme veut en finir avec les ghettos ethniques d’ici 2030. Afin de faciliter l’intégration, il veut notamment limiter à 30 % la proportion d’enfants étrangers dans les écoles. Parmi les mesures plus contestées, la ministre de l’Intégration, Inger Stojbert, surnommée « la Dame de fer danoise », a aussi proposé de pénaliser les bénéficiaires d’allocations sociales qui s’installent dans ces logements ainsi que des peines majorées pour les crimes commis dans ces zones sensibles. Il faut dire que la ministre n’en est pas à ses premiers coups d’éclat médiatiques. En 2016, c’est elle qui avait proposé de confisquer les biens des demandeurs d’asile qui dépassaient 2000 $ (excluant évidemment les bijoux et objets personnels). Plus récemment, à l’occasion du ramadan, elle s’est inquiétée de la sécurité dans les transports publics où certains employés pouvaient passer 16 heures sans boire ni manger.

« Tough love » à la danoise

Le porte-parole du gouvernement en matière d’immigration, Marcus Knuth, le reconnaît, la politique du Danemark en matière d’immigration ressemble un peu à ce que les psychologues des années 1980 appelaient « tough love ». L’amour vache, diraient les Français. Il faut dire qu’au Parlement de Christianborg, les libéraux gouvernent avec le soutien implicite du Parti du peuple danois, dont la plateforme est férocement opposée à l’immigration.

« Les demandeurs d’asile savent que le Danemark compte parmi les pays les plus généreux sur le plan social, dit Marcus Knuth. Mais nous avons nous aussi des problèmes d’intégration. Il y a au Danemark des Somaliens qui vivent chez nous depuis 19 ans et qui ne parlent pas danois. Nombre de problèmes de criminalité, dans les écoles et au travail sont liés à l’immigration. Nous ne voulons pas des immenses ghettos que l’on voit aujourd’hui en Suède. » Les 70 mesures votées par le Parlement depuis trois ans semblent porter leurs fruits. En deux ans, le nombre de demandeurs d’asile a chuté de 21 000 à 3500.

« Le gouvernement confond égalité et identité », estime Mohamed Aslam, qui habite Mjolnerparken depuis 1987 même s’il possède aujourd’hui une compagnie de taxis et emploie six chauffeurs. « J’aime vivre ici. Je ne partirais pour rien au monde », dit cet homme qui semble surgir d’une rue d’Islamabad. Arrivé du Pakistan avec ses parents, Aslam préside aujourd’hui l’association des locataires. Selon lui, il n’y a pas plus de criminalité à Mjolnerparken qu’ailleurs. « Il n’y a pas de ghettos au Danemark. Tout ça, ce sont des inventions pour stigmatiser les étrangers. Des mesures électoralistes », dit-il.

Un programme généreux

Il règne pourtant au Danemark un surprenant consensus sur l’immigration. Malgré des débats en Chambre, le programme est soutenu pour l’essentiel par les trois principaux partis de la Chambre : libéraux, sociaux-démocrates et le Parti du peuple. Selon Marcus Knuth, il est peut-être difficile d’immigrer au Danemark, mais le pays compte parmi les plus généreux lorsque vient le moment de faciliter l’intégration.

« Être réfugié au Danemark, c’est un emploi à temps plein », confirme Karen-Lise Karman, responsable des services municipaux d’intégration de Copenhague. Une fois admis, chaque réfugié reçoit une allocation de plus de 1000 $ par mois, la même que reçoivent les étudiants. Le nouvel arrivant s’engage ainsi à suivre des cours de danois obligatoires et à participer à une série de stages en entreprise de 12 semaines, chacun interrompu par six semaines de cours. Ce processus peut durer cinq ans, jusqu’à ce que le candidat trouve un emploi.

« Certes, il y a de la démagogie et de la stigmatisation dans les politiques de ce gouvernement, admet le politologue Jorgen Goul Andersen. Mais aussi beaucoup de générosité. » Selon lui, le Danemark annonce souvent ce qui s’en vient en Europe. « Nous avons été les premiers, par exemple, à créer un ministère de l’Intégration. Il y a 30 ans, lorsqu’on disait qu’il y avait des problèmes d’intégration, on nous traitait de racistes. Nos élites ont trop longtemps fermé les yeux. Le reconnaître ne nous a pas empêchés de demeurer une société très tolérante. » À ceux qui traitent le Danemark de raciste, le politologue rappelle que, pendant la dernière guerre, le pays a été un des seuls occupés par l’Allemagne à protéger sa population juive des déportations. Le Danemark demeure aussi un des cinq pays du monde à consacrer plus que 0,7 % de son PNB à l’aide internationale, alors que le Canada est en dessous de 0,3 %.

À Mjolnerparken, les changements sont déjà en cours. Une tour de 29 étages est sur le point d’être terminée. On y logera bientôt des étudiants et des familles de la classe moyenne. Dans deux ans, on ne reconnaîtra plus ce quartier, dit Hajji, un Ougandais de 53 ans. « C’est une bonne chose, dit-il. Ici, il y a trop de criminalité. Il faut plus de mixité. » Même s’il a quatre enfants au Danemark, il dit ne pas se sentir danois. « Le Danemark, c’est surtout pour les papiers, dit-il. Moi, je viens de l’Ouganda. D’ailleurs, j’y retournerai un jour… »

Source: Le Danemark déclare la guerre aux ghettos ethniques

Unsurprising that stricter Danish rules give fewer Muslims citizenship: immigration minister

Frank and direct:
Denmark’s minister for immigration Inger Støjberg says she is not surprised that fewer Muslims have been approved for Danish citizenship since the government introduced stricter rules in 2015.

According to research carried out by newspaper Politiken, 70 percent of new Danish citizenships in 2014 were to people from primarily Muslim countries. That figure has fallen drastically to 21 percent this year.

In the same period, Denmark has begun to allow double citizenship, increasingly the likelihood of nationalisation applications from Western countries.

Støjberg said the figures show that the curbs, which her ministry was responsible for implementing, have had the desired effect.

“There is no doubt that this is because the demands have been increased. For example, the language requirement, being able to provide for oneself, staying away from criminality and passing certain tests,” she said.

“In my view there is no doubt at all that it is much easier to integrate a Christian American than a Muslim Somali,” Støjberg said.

The citizenship rules introduced in 2015 by the then-Liberal government with the support of Denmark’s other right wing parties included more stringent language demands, financial autonomy, a higher score in the citizenship test and stricter rules relating to criminal records.

“It is clear that if you come from other parts of the world, you have to exert yourself somewhat harder to, for example, learn the language,” Støjberg said.

She added she would begin talks over potential further curbs in the coming week.

“I have tightened up [on citizenship] once, and a new set of curbs is now on its way. People that have committed gang crime must not be allowed citizenship,” she said.

“The aim of tough rules is to make Danish citizenship something to strive for,” she added.

Source: Unsurprising that stricter Danish rules give fewer Muslims citizenship: immigration minister

Refugees should be sent home even if they have jobs, says Danish immigration official | The Independent

Another example of xenophobia and “othering,” despite labour shortages:

A Danish MP has called for all refugees, even those with jobs, to be deported from the country once their home nations are deemed “safe”.

Marcus Knuth, an immigration spokesman for the governing Liberal (Venstre) party, said all people who have been granted asylum in Denmark should be made to go back to their country of origin regardless of whether they had already assimilated into Danish life.

The government, which is minority controlled by the Liberals with support from the Danish People’s Party, Liberal Alliance and the Conservative People’s Party, is currently negotiating what is being called a “paradigm change” in the country’s attitude to asylum.

The rule change is being demanded by the nationalist Danish People’s Party in return for supporting tax cuts. The new rules would see refugees granted temporary asylum, meaning they will be ordered to go back to their home country when the danger had past and are denied the right to family reunification.

These refugees will also be barred from accessing integration services such as language lessons and the “basic integration education programme” – an apprenticeship scheme introduced last year, The Local reported.

A similar scheme was introduced in Germany last year following a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy to refugees fearing violence in Iraq and Syria.

Over 1 million refugees arrived in Germany in 2016.

But the new rules are likely to create a big hole in the Danish jobs market as the arrival of refugees has made up for a reported decline in the number of people coming to the country from eastern Europe.

A report by the Danish newspaper Berlingske said that workers from outside the EU made up a larger share of foreign workers than EU citizens for the first time.

Meanwhile the Confederation of Danish Industry has repeatedly stressed the difficulty its members have had in filling its jobs – which it said was largely to do with the falling number of people arriving in the country to work.

Figures released by the body in November showed that the number of EU citizens coming to Denmark to work has fallen by 65 percent in the space of 15 months.

According to their analysis EU citizens took just 11 per cent of newly created jobs in Denmark in 2017 – compared with 87 per cent in 2013.

But Mr Knuth is adamant that “overall refugees are an economic burden for Denmark”.

He said: “The number of refugees on the labour market is fortunately increasing. But at the same time, they do not make up a big part of the jobs market”.

“If refugees can make a contribution, that can only be positive. But that does not change the fact that, as soon as there is peace in their home country, that have to go back”.

via Refugees should be sent home even if they have jobs, says Danish immigration official | The Independent

Commentary: Native US Virgin Islanders should be entitled to Danish citizenship | Caribbean News Now

A history I was never aware of, and an interesting debate over Danish citizenship:

US Virgin Islanders who officially reside in the islands and can trace their ancestry back to the Danish era (1671 – 1917) should be entitled to automatic Danish citizenship, whether they decide to renounce their United States citizenship or obtain dual citizenship of Denmark and the United States.

wayne_james2.jpg
Wayne A.G. James is a former Senator of the United States Virgin Islands and former Senate Liaison to the White House

The request of US Virgin Islanders for automatic Danish citizenship is separate and distinct from any claim for reparations or the redressing of past wrongs. To the contrary, the request is a claim for the redress of a present, ongoing wrong: Many US Virgin Islanders, in 2017, still feel part-Danish; many US Virgin Islanders are, by blood, part-Danish; and many US Virgin Islanders feel that they have earned the right to Danish citizenship because of the 246 years of service and contribution to the Danish nation. In essence, many US Virgin Islanders feel that Danish citizenship is their birthright.

But despite the undeniable connection between US Virgin Islanders and Denmark, islanders have never been offered, been deemed worthy of, or been declared entitled to Danish citizenship. And that deliberate disregard is fundamentally unfair and should be remedied. The world has changed. Long-held views about race, privilege, miscegenation, xenophobia, and colonialism, for example, have fallen by the wayside since the dawning of the new millennium. “Tolerance,” “multi-culturalism,” “political correctness,” and “inclusion” are the new order of the day. And Denmark should act accordingly vis-à-vis US Virgin Islanders.

Unlike people from many other nationalities who arrive upon Danish shores, oftentimes with no historical connection to the kingdom of Denmark, the people of the United States Virgin Islands do not need Danish citizenship in order to improve their lives. US Virgin Islanders are not seeking Danish citizenship in order to avoid political or religious persecution in their homeland or to improve their economic condition, further their education, or obtain better living conditions.

Americans have not historically been known for seeking asylum and refugee status in foreign lands. US Virgin Islanders are Americans. And as such, they are, by birth, citizens of the wealthiest country on Earth; the United States Constitution entitles them to the coveted civil rights of freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and movement; many of the world’s foremost universities and institutions of higher learning are situated in the United States; the separation of church and state as well as religious freedom and tolerance are hallmarks of American culture; the United States is one of the most industrially and technologically advanced nations on the planet; and Americans generally do not emigrate to other countries in search of opportunity.

To the contrary, Americans, because of their individual wealth, generally invest in foreign lands. And their pension plans and social security system are the envy of many nations. Furthermore, it is irrefutable that American talent has shaped the cultural arts and sports the world over. Americans tend to enhance, rather than detract from, the cultures they embrace. And the proverbial “American Dream” remains a beacon for people all over the world seeking success. But the fact that US Virgin Islanders are fortunate to be Americans should not negate their fundamental right to also be Danish.

Historical Overview

The US Virgin Islands was owned by the kingdom of Denmark for just shy of 250 years. And it is just 100 years ago that the islands lost their official connection to Denmark. Consequently, there are still a few people alive in the islands who were born in the Danish era. And Denmark is ever-present in the islands: Most of the written recorded history of the US Virgin Islands begins with Danish colonization in the 17th century; the towns of Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, and Frederiksted are all named in honor of Danish monarchs; the US Virgin Islands telephone directory is punctuated with Danish surnames such as Petersen, Larsen, Hansen, Ovesen, Jeppesen, Jensen, Rasmussen, Christensen, Fredriksen, and Johansen, all people who are today classified as black; street names in the three historic towns end in “gade”; Danish-inspired foods comprise and partly define the traditional local cuisine; Danish West Indies colonial furniture is considered one of the great US Virgin Islands contributions to the decorative arts of the world; the historic documents that connect present-day US Virgin Islanders to the sometimes-elusive ancestors are written in Danish hand upon Danish parchment oftentimes in the Danish language. Danish-era buildings are found throughout the islands and remain the foremost architectural monuments of the islands; Danish flags still fly atop flagstaffs.

Despite the passage of time and the international dominance of American culture, the Virgin Islands and many Virgin Islanders, in many ways, still feel as much Danish as American.

Source: Commentary: Native US Virgin Islanders should be entitled to Danish citizenship | Caribbean News Now

Denmark’s Right Wing Peddles Anti-Migrant Spray – The Daily Beast

Nasty:

There has never been any question about how some Danes really feel when it comes to refugees and migrants. After all, Denmark is a country where the parliament actually voted to seize certain high-value items from them to help offset the costs of their housing and health care. It is also a country where it is legal to bounce migrants and refugees out of nightclubs just for being migrants and refugees.

Now some Danes have taken things a step further by handing out a special pepper spray that is meant to keep refugees away. The refugee-repellent product, Asyl Spray (presumably playing on the word asylum), was distributed in the southeast port city of Haderslev last weekend by the right-wing Danskernes Parti political group.

The purse-size spray can features the promise to “repel refugees” in a “legal” and “effective” way.

 Party leader Daniel Carlsen, who says he came up with the idea, rebuffed outrage by claiming that most pepper spray is illegal in Denmark, and the anti-refugee spray provided a legal alternative.

“I cannot see how it is racist,” he told CNN. “Pepper spray is illegal here so we wanted to figure out a way for Danish people, in particular women, to protect themselves. It’s obviously not the ideal situation.”

He said he knew that while the spray could not stop migrants and refugees from trying to reach Denmark, it might act as a deterrent for those that have arrived. “In the long run we want to repatriate the migrants, we want to repatriate non-Westerners in general, that is in the long run,” he said. “In the short run we want to provide solutions to make life better and safer for the Danish people.”

Not surprisingly, the Danish approach to migration has raised eyebrows among those concerned about the tens of thousands attempting to reach Europe. The United Nations agency on refugees issued a statement of sheer disgust about the produce, stating that it “strongly regrets that this kind of incident is taking place in Denmark against asylum seekers and refugees, people who have already suffered so much.”

Source: Denmark’s Right Wing Peddles Anti-Migrant Spray – The Daily Beast

A Danish school now separates children by ethnicity – The Washington Post

Unlikely to help integration and reflective of a broader trend in Denmark:

Nearly a year after the influx of migrants into Europe reached its peak, the repercussions can now be felt in thousands of classrooms across the continent as a new school year begins.

Whereas most other schools are focused on assimilating migrant children, one Danish school in the city of Aarhus has decided to separate them. The idea has drawn criticism from human rights advocates who question the legality of segregating children based on their ethnicity.

The Danish school’s approach, however, is somewhat different because it was not originally designed to integrate migrant children better. Instead, it seeks to allow children to avoid classes with more migrants than ethnic Danes, according to the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which first reported the story. There are now four classes for migrant children and three mixed classes in which the ratio between migrants and ethnic Danes is equal. The policy does not only apply to refugees or children born abroad, but also to pupils who grew up in Denmark but have parents who migrated from abroad.

The case of the Aarhus school is considered isolated. About 25 percent of the school’s pupils were either migrants or the children of migrant parents in 2007, but that number has since risen to 80 percent.

Some critics of the plan say it reflects a deeper trend within a society that has grown opposed to more immigration. Denmark made headlines last year with a law that allowed police officers to seize valuables from refugees as a way to help defray the costs of hosting the new arrivals — many from war-ravaged countries such as Syria and Iraq. Opponents of such policies say that Denmark is increasingly isolating itself and portraying the country as unwelcoming to refugees and others. The number of refugees coming to the country has decreased significantly as a result.

 “It is pure discrimination when you sort people according to whether they are white or brown Danes,” Jette Møller, the president of the nongovernmental organization SOS Against Racism, was quoted as saying by Jyllands-Posten. The school headmaster has rebutted such criticism, saying the measures were necessary to prevent ethnic Danes from leaving the institution.

Source: A Danish school now separates children by ethnicity – The Washington Post

Denmark: How Flipping The Script Helped Keep Young Muslims From Joining ISIS

Good example of a counter radicalization strategy:

One day in 2012 a group of policemen in a Danish town was sitting around in the office when an unusual call came in. This town, called Aarhus, is a clean, orderly place with very little crime. So what the callers were saying really held the cops’ attention. They were parents, and they were “just hysterical,” recalled Thorleif Link, one of the officers. Their son was missing. They woke up one day and he was gone.

The officers put together whatever clues they had about the missing person: He was a teenager who went to a local high school, and he lived in a largely Muslim immigrant neighborhood just outside town. But before they got any further with their investigation, they got another call, from another set of parents. Their son was missing too.

“Why is this going on?” asked Allan Aarslev, a police superintendent.

After talking to the parents and snooping around the neighborhood the police figured it out: These young men and women had gone to Syria. They were among the exodus of thousands of European citizens who were drawn to the call put out by ISIS, the Islamist terrorist group, for Muslims worldwide to help build the new Islamic state.

 

Link and Aarslev are crime prevention officers. They usually deal with locals who are drawn to right-wing extremism, or gangs. The landscape of global terrorism was completely new to them. But they decided to take it on. And once they did, they wound up creating an unusual — and unusually successful — approach to combating radicalization.

The rest of Europe came down hard on citizens who had traveled to Syria. France shut down mosques it suspected of harboring radicals. The U.K. declared citizens who had gone to help ISIS enemies of the state. Several countries threatened to take away their passports — a move formerly reserved for convicted traitors.

But the Danish police officers took a different approach: They made it clear to citizens of Denmark who had traveled to Syria that they were welcome to come home, and when they did, they would receive help with going back to school, finding an apartment, meeting with a psychiatrist or a mentor, or whatever they needed to fully integrate back into society.

Their program came to be known as the “Aarhus model.” It’s been called the “hug a terrorist” model in the press, but this description never sits well with the cops. They see themselves as making an entirely practical decision designed to keep their city safe.

As they see it, coming down hard on young, radicalized Muslims will only make them angrier and more of a danger to society. Helping them is the only chance to keep an eye on them and also to keep the peace in their town.

Link and Aarslev were intuiting what scientists who study radicalization are coming to see.

“The original response was to fight [extremism] through military and policing efforts, and they didn’t fare too well,” says Arie Kruglanski, a social psychologist at the University of Maryland who studies violent extremism. “That kind of response that puts them as suspects and constrains them and promotes discrimination — that is only likely to exacerbate the problem. It’s only likely to inflame the sense there’s discrimination and motivate young people to act against society.”

Their approach has a basis in research on interpersonal relations as well.

Christopher Hopwood, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, studies something called noncomplementary behavior. Complementary behavior is the norm. It means when you act warmly, the person you are with is likely to act warm back. The same is true with hostility. But noncomplementary behavior means doing the unexpected. Someone acts with hostility and you respond warmly. It’s an unnatural reaction, and it’s a proven way to shake up the dynamic and produce a different outcome than the usual one.

The nonviolent resistance movements of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are the most well-known examples of this tactic. The Aarhus model is another. How did it unfold in real time? Consider the case study of a young man we call “Jamal.” Jamal is not his real name, and we don’t usually use pseudonyms, but he asked us to not use his name. He doesn’t want to be known as a person who almost became a terrorist. He wants a job and a life now. But that didn’t seem possible for a while.

Jamal was born in Somalia; his family moved to Denmark because Somalia was in the middle of a civil war. His was the only black family in the neighborhood and the only Muslim family, and his childhood wasn’t easy. Kids called him names, asked him if he had the same blood as they did, and teased him. For a long time he just would fight back, but he knew he was disappointing his father.

When he was a little older Jamal decided to take a different tack. He tried to be the good kid. He studied and made jokes in class, and his stress eased. The teachers liked him, his classmates liked him, and he began to make Danish friends and even to feel more Danish.

Then one day in high school his teacher organized a debate about Islam. Jamal had just been on the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, with his family, and he was infused with a newfound religious identity. And during the debate one of the girls started saying to the class that Muslims “terrorize” the West, and kill people and stone women. Jamal argued with her and eventually lost his temper, saying, “People like you should never exist.”

After that moment, Jamal’s life went off the rails. The teacher told the principal, who told the police, who questioned Jamal about being a terrorist. Jamal had to stay home from school and miss his final exams. The police cleared him, but it was too late for him to redo his exams so he had to redo some of high school. He was furious about it. Soon after the investigation his mother died, and he blamed her death on the stress caused by the investigation. He began to feel rejected by the West.

During that year he ran into a group of fellow Muslims who had experienced some of the same discrimination. One of them had an apartment, and the group spent a lot of time there talking, praying and watching videos of Anwar al-Awlaki, a famous English-speaking imam. The friends talked a lot about jihad and making the trip to Syria. Two of the guys in the apartment began planning their trip.

While he was living in that apartment, Jamal got a call from Link, who had heard about his case. Jamal cursed him out and tried to hang up the phone, but then Link did something Jamal didn’t expect: He apologized, for the ordeal his fellow officers had put Jamal through. Hearing a policeman take responsibility for his life getting derailed really moved Jamal. He agreed to come into Link’s office.

When Jamal got there, Link introduced him to Erhan Kilic, one of the first official mentors hired by the program. Kilic was a fellow Muslim who had also faced discrimination in Denmark as a child. But he had taken a very different path. He had decided to embrace Denmark as his country. He now had a wife and two daughters and a successful practice as a lawyer. Kilic relayed to Jamal the main message of the Aarhus program: If he chose to, Jamal could also find his place in Denmark.

This is what sets the Aarhus program apart. It didn’t use force to stop people from going to Syria but instead fought the roots of radicalization, Kruglanski says. “There are strong correlations between humiliation and the search for an extremist ideology,” he says. Organizations like ISIS take advantage of people who, because of racism or religious or political discrimination, have been pushed to the margins of society.

Link and Aarslev’s program showed people like Jamal that there was a place for them.

“Aarhus is the first, to my knowledge, to grapple with [extremism] based on sound social psychology evidence and principles,” Kruglanski says. What Link and Aarslev were doing was so unexpected that it created an opening for people to think differently about their ideology. “They expect to be treated harshly,” Kruglanski says. Instead, they got the opposite. “That kind of shock opens people’s minds to maybe they were wrong about their society that they perceived as their enemy. It opens a possible window into rethinking and re-evaluating.”

Starting in 2012, 34 people went from Aarhus to Syria. As far as the police know, six were killed and 10 are still over there. Of the 18 who came back home, all showed up in Aarslev and Link’s office, as did hundreds of other potential radicals in Aarhus — about 330 in total.

But the program is admired for another accomplishment: Since the initial exodus of young people, very few have left from Aarhus for Syria, even when traffic from the rest of Europe was spiking. Last year, in 2015, it was just one person.

The program is still precarious, though. One terrorist attack in Aarhus could undo much of the work that has been done. But the officers are willing to keep trying. As Link put it, there are still “strong forces” out there tempting young Muslims to leave their lives in the West and join the battle.

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Europe’s citizenship tests are so hard not even citizens can pass – The Washington Post

Some great examples of European citizenship tests, which appear designed to keep people from becoming citizens rather than ensuring good basic knowledge and integration:

Critics of Europe’s citizenship tests have pointed out that they do not follow a common pattern or they are based on little research as to what questions are needed to distinguish migrants who are willing to assimilate from those who are not. And yet, they have the potential to determine the fate of thousands. Particularly amid the recent influx of migrants into Europe, there has been a renewed focus on a contentious question: How should a test that will help determine whether an individual can acquire citizenship look?

Source: Europe’s citizenship tests are so hard not even citizens can pass – The Washington Post

Two-thirds failed new Danish citizenship test – Al Jazeera

Appears deliberately designed to encourage a high failure rate rather than encouraging knowledge of Danish history, government and society, let alone integration:

Compared to the test in place under the previous government, the new exam focuses more on Danish history. The earlier test required 22 correct answers out of 30, and a much larger share of test takers passed that exam.

Five of the 40 questions are related to Danish current affairs. For the rest of the questions, some 200 pages of study materials in Danish language are provided for free – ranging from the history of the vikings to Danish architecture and holidays.

Mattias Tesfaye, an MP of the opposition Social Democrats, attended a meeting about the test with the integration minister on Tuesday. In his opinion, the answer options provided are too similar.

For example, the alternatives to answer the question about the lifespan of Danish composer Carl Nielsen are 1865-1931, 1870-1940 and 1892-1965.

“This doesn’t test their ability to understand Danish culture, but only if they are able to remember precise years,” Tesfaye told Al Jazeera.

His party supports a test for citizenship, but is asking that the style of questions be reconsidered.

Another question included in the June test asked which year the first movie about the Olsen Gang, a fictional criminal gang, premiered.

When Danish Radio put the question to one of the lead actors in the film, Morten Grunwald, he replied: “That I can’t even answer myself.”

However, when given the three alternatives – 1968, 1970 and 1971 – he did remember.

The test also asked which Danish restaurant has three Michelin stars.

Other questions test respondents’ knowledge of the Danish laws and political system; for example, the requirements to change the constitution and to participate in elections.

Stojberg of the Liberal party defended the test on Tuesday.

“There are simply too many who haven’t studied enough or followed news in Denmark,” she told Danish Radio.

About 2,400 people took the new test in June. Those who failed will get a new chance to take a test with a new set of questions in December.

Source: Two-thirds failed new Danish citizenship test – News from Al Jazeera