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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)
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.”