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  • October 2020 : Legislative Agenda of the Social Democrat Minority Government

On October 6, 2020, with the opening of the new parliamentary year 2020-2021, the Social Democrat minority government announced its legislative agenda for the coming year. This new agenda includes three important legal changes, which have been underway for a while.
First, the Ministry of Aliens and Integration aims to criminalise donations from foreign donors included on a list of undemocratic organisations. (See ”Denmark to criminalise foreign funding for mosques in effort to ’counter extremism’”, Middle East Monitor, 27 October 2020). This initiative is not a new thing. A broad political agreement to prevent financial contributions from Gulf States has already been proposed in 2016 after the documentary Mosques behind the veil, showing hidden camera footage from a number of Danish mosques, created intense debate. See Sinclair, Kirstine, “What Goes on in the Mosque ? Or : A Tale of Two Tongued Imams,” Center for Mellemøststudier News Analysis, April 2016.) The specific drafting of the bill was troublesome, because it is difficult to target contributions to mosques perceived to be extremist, while not affecting contributions to for instance the Catholic churches, which are generally perceived as unproblematic. Different models were thoroughly treated in a 2017 report of the Ministry of Immigration and Integration Affairs, Åbenhed om udenlandske donationer til trossamfund og religiøse foreninger. Rapport fra arbejdsgruppe om større gennemsigtighed med udenlandske donationer til trossamfund m.v., but when the bill was presented in Parliament in 2019/2020, in the midst of a number of media stories about mosques receiving funding from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the political treatment of the bill was discontinued due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The bill does not specify whether mosques receiving imams salaried by the Turkish Diyanet would be included. This will be an administrative decision.
Another bill with the political intention to regulate the Muslim field was presented by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs as a proposal for an ‘Act on sermons in languages other than Danish.’ The purpose of the bill, which would require all sermons to be translated to Danish, is to create greater openness of religious preachers in Denmark speaking in languages other than Danish. The bill has not yet been presented, but from what has been argued by the Minister and the Social Democrat spokesperson, it has already led to controversy because of the consequence it may have for some Christian churches, for instance the German-speaking Lutheran congregations within the Church of Denmark.
Finally, the Ministry of Aliens and Integration also presented an ‘Amendment of the Penal Code, the Passport Act and the Aliens Act’ in order to strengthen the efforts against negative social control. The Ministry suggests adding an explicit reference to negative social control in the provision of the Penal Code on psychological violence, and to make negative social control explicit in the form of retention in a marriage by means of religious divorce contracts. Also, it proposes to ban religious marriages of minors and tighten penalties and deportation rules against those who try to detain a person in a forced marriage. This bill is also part of a longer-running strategy to prevent negative or honour-related social control, amidst media debates on religious marriages and divorces.
One of the most controversial initiatives, the introduction of an age limit of 18 years for male circumcision, has, however, not been presented by the government but is the result of a citizen’s initiative (B 7 Forslag til folketingsbeslutning om indførelse af 18-årsmindstealder for omskæring af raske børn (borgerforslag). On the basis of 50,000 signatures, the parliament must take up a discussion. The bill has, however, not been adopted as it is not supported by either the Social Democratic minority government or by the largest opposition party, the Liberal Party.

  • March 2020 : Religion and Covid-19 in Denmark

As in many other countries lock-downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic have massively affected religious communities in Denmark. Because the majority Lutheran church is considered part of the public sector, churches were closed and personnel sent home on 11 March, when all non-essential public buildings were closed down. Religious communities were strongly encouraged to do the same (see Politi) until a decree imposed from March 18 also formally closed the buildings belonging to religious minorities. The measures had a massive impact on religious life in Denmark. All Easter celebrations were cancelled, as were Friday prayers and activities during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark also decided to postpone all confirmation ceremonies until after Pentecost Monday (1 June 2020, see Politi).

As of May 18, the Church of Denmark and religious communities are allowed to re-open their buildings, but must still respect the March 18 policy of social distancing which in general sets a maximum to crowds of 10 people, but allows for more people under specific circumstances, including in religious buildings (1 person per 4 m², see here).

A controversy took place in the second-largest city Aarhus, when a mosque was given a stand-alone to broadcast the call to prayer and did this following the sound of church bells from the local church. The local branch of the organization Generation Identitær held a protest action the following day, leading a group of about 30 Muslims to break the social distancing clause by commuting to prayer the day after. The police arrived too late to catch any of the praying offenders, while the members of Generation Identitær face fines. The organization has also protested at a Zoom Ramadan dinner showing signs saying ‘Stop Islamization’. The dinner was in addition interrupted by unknown activists who managed to air Child molestation of a sexual character for a few seconds.

Precautions taken due to the pandemic led to a temporary suspension of the requirement to shake hand to accept Danish citizenship through nationalization (see The New York Times).

D 10 décembre 2020    ALene Kühle

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