In Denmark, government ministers, influenced by the far-right, have approved a raft of laws that aim to purify Europe of the influence of “others”, especially Muslims.
The laws target low income neighbourhoods, referred to as “ghettos”. Officials and media use this term to victimise: an adult is a “ghetto parent” while a youth is a “ghetto child”. So far, nobody seems humane or conscious enough to question these designations.
Beside this language of colonisation and racism, the laws themselves are an example of how in Europe – and even in Britain – the “muscular liberalism” heralded by the likes of David Cameron in his 2011 Munich Speech, and enforced through PREVENT and its global counterpart, CVE, is taken to its truthful end.
Denmark’s laws serve as a warning to us all. In the midst of the broad shift to the far-right across Europe – driven in large part by Islamophobia – the paths taken by Denmark and the UK share similarities that demand our attention.
How the welfare state has morphed into a neoconservative weapon
Both the UK and Denmark have a strong welfare state tradition, and both have found that tradition destabilised in the wake of the financial downturn of the last decade.
A hard right-wing element of the state – the ruling Conservatives in the UK, and the populist Danish People’s Party in Denmark – have taken that opportunity to undermine the welfare tradition further, twisting their systems from being safety nets, into ones of conditional welfare.
This has opened these sectors to securitisation and even social engineering. Be they ‘integration’ proposals in Denmark or Prevent in the UK, this development is sold through a lens of national values – with the notion of ‘British Values’ serving as a litmus test for extremism in Britain.
Through this lens, migrants, and especially Muslims, are framed at best as people who don’t belong, at worst criminals – this opens them up to alienation, sanctions and punishment. Bending a welfare state tradition to hard neoconservative aims has securitised the social sector and facilitated policies of social engineering.
Right here in the UK, the cutback of public funding under austerity and its re-emergence under the banner of Prevent means Muslim community organisations, many operating out of the most deprived communities in Britain, can only exist provided they help combat ‘extremism’ and engineer Muslim communities in line with ‘British Values’.
In both Denmark and the UK, this hard right assault was made possible through the complicity of liberal parties and the silence of the population at large, and scaffolded by the twin arms of War on Terror-era Islamophobia and anti-migrant xenophobia.
So while the forced removal of children under these integration proposals is obviously a policy in Denmark, we must be vigilant against similar state actions in the UK, which are prone to appear under a more pleasing disguise.
The use of Eurocentric “values” to hide the intent to take children away
To understand the social engineering aspect of Denmark’s laws – and those that facilitate Britain’s PREVENT policy – they must be seen against the backdrop of a history of failed and cruel attempts to assimilate immigrants in countries like the Netherlands and those of Scandinavia.
Since the early 20th century, whole government departments have been dedicated to “re-educating”, by force if necessary, errant brown people to white middle-class norms. A key tactic of this is to remove and “re-educate” children. These norms and values are seen – ironically one might point out given this violent paradigm – as respectable.
But it is not only Muslims that can be affected by these laws. They harken towards a dystopia, where freedoms like privacy and culture, and the right to raise and nurture children, is taken out of the hands of the parents and placed firmly in the hands of the state.
As one left-liberal admitted to the New York Times, somewhat euphemistically: “There is always a strong sense of authoritarian risk.”
The courts as tools of institutionalised racism
To understand just how authoritarian and scary these laws are, here they are at a glance:
- laws ensuring that “ghetto children” are separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time. This is so they can undergo mandatory instruction in “Danish values,” including the traditions of Christmas and Easter (even though the vast majority of Danes are not practising Christians), and the Danish language. Noncompliance could result in a stoppage of welfare payments.
- Punishments for citizens who live in one of the 25 targeted “ghetto neighbourhoods” are doubled for certain crimes, and based on residents’ income, employment status, education level, number of criminal convictions and “non-Western background”.
- Immigrant parents who allow their children to make “extended” visits to their countries of origin can face a four-year prison sentence
What is obvious from this, is that the Danish government seeks to preserve white European society even, and exceptionally, at the cost of erasing the cultural, religious and racial identity of those that look different from them, but who nonetheless must seek shelter at its shores from wars that these self-same European governments support.
In other words, by disrupting the bonds between generations and disintegrating families, Danes hope to preserve themselves.
We saw the likeness of this cowardly behaviour of US border police under the orders of Donald Trump at the US-Mexican border, also under the guise of immigration “policy”.
We hear echoes of it in the stories of families who have lost children unjustly through PREVENT.
A veneer of respectability to gloss over the intent
The Danish Justice minister’s dismissive retort that ‘increased penalties would affect only people who break the law’ exemplifies how policing policies in the War on Terror-era hide behind a veil of neutrality while in truth they abuse the rule of law and target children.
The pattern is such: against a backdrop of alarmist rhetoric, the net is cast wider to criminalise more behaviours, and suspect communities are arbitrarily subject to heavier and heavier policing.
This exceptional state of policing is then expanded to the rest of society – and unjust crime and punishment will not end in the Danish ghettos, just like it will not end with Muslims under PREVENT.
Though the Danish laws target immigrants, counter-terrorism laws in the UK appear to target would-be criminals, whose potential for crime is determined by the state.
It is the state that evaluates the would-be criminals’ future behaviour on malleable definitions such as “extremism” (another term that nobody has really agreed upon or challenged). But they do so not, as they claim, to “safeguard”, but to crack down on belief and dissent.
Unlike the obviousness of the Danes, PREVENT and CVE employ a number of disguises. By employing a scientifically invalid method for determining “radicalisation”, which is dressed up as fact, children are being removed from families.
The overall result is not only trauma and alienation – which has far-reaching consequences for society – but the enforcement of a racial hierarchy that is frankly past its sell-by date. We must be vigilant against these efforts, whether they are obvious or disguised.
Given the serious implication if these laws, our calls must be followed by urgent civil action, resistance and then, if this fails and we must do so, disobedience.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)