Outrage as Danish MP calls for Muslims to worship in warehouses

Danish People's Party leader Kristian Thulesen pictured at the Danish Parliament Building in Copenhagen in December, 2015. A party spokesman said Muslim worship was “fine” if the praying ritual takes place in “normal buildings without minarets”, such as “offices or warehouses.” (Reuters)
Updated 05 January 2018
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Outrage as Danish MP calls for Muslims to worship in warehouses

LONDON: The Danish People’s Party (DPP) has sparked outrage by calling for Muslims to move their worship to “unmarked” buildings.
The right-wing party’s spokesperson, Martin Henriksen, told Arab News, Muslim worship is “fine” if the praying ritual takes place in “normal buildings without minarets”, such as “offices or warehouses.”
“We take a stand against the divisive symbolism of traditional mosques,” Henriksen said. “We stand against those who try to divide themselves from society,” the MP added.
Henriksen said he was “not against Muslims or Islam” and that individuals should be free to practice their faith as long as they abide by the rules of the “Danish constitution.”
The populist, anti immigration DPP on Thursday called for a ban on the construction of new mosques, as part of a plan to tackle “ghettos” in the country. Other measures unveiled in the package include an 8 p.m. curfew for young people.
Henriksen confirmed that the DPP, which is the second largest party in the Danish parliament, aims to ban the construction of mosques in cities where there are “social problems.”
The Danish MP’s rhetoric is redolent of the 2009 Swiss minaret referendum, the federal popular initiative in Switzerland, which successfully prevented the construction of Mosque minarets in the country.
The Swiss government opposed the ban, saying it would harm the nation’s image, particularly in the eyes of Muslims.
But Martin Baltisser, the Swiss People’s Party general secretary, told the BBC at the time: “This was a vote against minarets as symbols of Islamic power.”
Chris Doyle, director of CAABU, Council for Arab British Understanding, told Arab News: “This is a lop-sided view. What about churches or Hindu temples? All these can also been as symbols of different religions living peacefully and cohabiting and assimilating well. It’s wrong to point out mosques and make Muslims feel like they are third class citizens. A minaret is something that shouldn’t be seen as wrong or divisive in any way shape or form.”
He continued: “As if not building mosques would in any way resolve the problem. This problem is not about mosques … and this rhetoric is pandering to a populist ethos which is anti-Muslim. (The DPP’s proposal is) completely counterproductive and wrong at every level.”
Doyle added: “It will only exacerbate hate crime and bigotry which is growing in Europe. There are concerns about mass immigration into the EU and legitimate worries about extremist attacks in Europe, but none of that warrants the stopping of building mosques.”
Shaista Aziz, a journalist and founder of the Everyday Bigotry Project, told Arab News: “Why should mosques not look like mosques? Freedom to worship is a basic human right and should be afforded to all citizens including Muslims. It appears Denmark wants to go down the same road as France and push Muslims into unmarked buildings – the only thing this does is create further alienation of a marginalized community and create further hostility at a time of rising open racism and anti Muslim sentiment in Europe.”
The DPP is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament, which includes center-right parties like the UK’s ruling Conservative Party.
Doyle added that the Conservatives should “seriously question” being allies in the European Parliament with a party which has such extremist views.
Benjamin Martill, Dahrendorf Fellow in Europe after Brexit at LSE, told Arab News: “The sources of these policies are not difficult to discern. Communities across Europe, reeling from years of wage stagnation and austerity-induced cuts to public services, are looking for someone to blame. Blaming immigrants, Muslims and other nations for society’s problems is scapegoating, pure and simple.”
Martill said the implications for the Conservative party are ‘interesting.'
The LSE fellow said that to suggest the Conservative party would endorse any such policy is “clearly very far fetched.”
He said: “Whilst the statements of some Conservative backbenchers do express nationalist and sometimes Islamophobic sentiments, these are generally in the minority, and tend to be quite indirect. Amongst all her bluster about a “great global Britain,” Theresa May’s statements … have been very supportive of Britain’s multicultural heritage.”
 


Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

Updated 1 min 5 sec ago
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Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

  • The governing alliance, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, sweeps back to power after a bitter campaign

NEW DELHI: India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday scored a landslide election victory, increasing its seats in Parliament after a bitter and divisive campaign.

The results amount to a massive blow for the 133-year-old Congress Party, which dominated India’s political life for more than 50 years after the country gained independence in 1947. Narendra Modi has made history by becoming India’s first prime minister in the last 40 years to be re-elected with a parliamentary majority.

The BJP on its own is expected to have a little over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house), more than it had in the outgoing chamber. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which the BJP is a part, will have nearly 350 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress Party is expected to finish with just 55 seats, albeit 11 more than its 2014 election tally. By most projections, the Congress-led opposition alliance will not even have 100 seats. Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi suffered a major personal setback in the family borough, the constituency of Amethi in northern India, where he lost to a Modi Cabinet minister. But Gandhi won his second seat in Wayanad in the south by a big margin. 

“I concede defeat and congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for winning the elections,” Gandhi said on Thursday. He has offered to resign from his post in his party’s most powerful organizational body, the Congress Working Committee, but political analysts say it is highly unlikely that his resignation will be accepted.

The margin of the BJP’s victory has come as a surprise to many, with the party not only retaining its seats in the battleground states of northern and western India, but also expanding its footprint in two eastern states: West Bengal and Odisha. “Together, we’ll build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!” Modi tweeted after the results showed the BJP sweeping to victory.

Shashi Shekhar, a New Delhi-based political analyst, told Arab News: “This is a phenomenal election victory that has stumped all the pollsters. The BJP was expected to face a big challenge from the opposition alliance in some of the crucial states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which together account for 128 seats. But it seems the narrative of muscular nationalism propagated by the BJP overcame all challenges. There’s a now a genuine fear that if the BJP continues with its old policy of marginalizing religious minorities, India might turn into a majoritarian state. However, I hope Modi’s second term turns out to be more inclusive.”

Modi’s India can do its bit for Middle East and Gulf stability

Sudheendra Kulkarni, a Mumbai-based political commentator, said: “The Congress Party failed to capture the imagination of the people. The party’s slogans didn’t click with voters the way the BJP’s did.”

Against this backdrop of an imminent decisive win, Modi began to receive messages of congratulations from world leaders on Thursday. Among them was Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Khan tweeted.

In his second term, in addition to addressing economic problems at home, Modi will need to keep a close eye on relations with neighboring Pakistan. Bilateral relations remain tense months after they came close to war following a deadly attack in Indian-administered Kashmir on paramilitary soldiers, and an Indian air raid deep inside Pakistan.

“There’s no alternative to dialogue,” said Kulkarni. “We should expect that with a renewed mandate (for Modi’s government), there should be a fresh attempt to engage with Islamabad.”