Denmark: Immigrants aren't represented by imams or politicians

Immigrants in Denmark don't feel they are represented by prominent imams and politicians, according to Catinéts IntegrationsStatus 2007.

Catinét has questioned 1,002 immigrants who represents their interests best in the public debate. Possibilities were imams Fatih Alev, Mostafa Chendid, Abdul Wahid Pedersen [ed. the last two being extremely radical imams]; and politicians Naser Khader, Kamal Qureshi and Asmaa Abdol-Hamid.

48% answered 'none'. Naser Khader scored highest, with 10%. Just 5% of respondents thought Kamal Qureshi, Abdul Wahid Pedersen and Asmaa Abdol-Hamid represented them best. Fatih Alev and Mostafa Chendid got 1%.

Integration consultant Manu Sareen thinks this shows that the political spectrum of immigrants is as spread out as that of Danes. Votes are cast according to opinions, not according to ethnicity, and so he sees it as very positive.

Tina Magaard, Islam researcher at Aarhus University, points out that the results correspond to similar trends in other European countries. An English study showed that 51% of British Muslims didn't feel that any Muslim group or spokesperson represented them. A French study showed that a majority of French Muslims felt their French identity was more important then their Muslim identity.

She says both the media and politicians tend to let imams act on behalf of Danish Muslims, but as the study shows, even the most well known imams represent just a few Muslims. It's therefore problematic to place them between the Muslim citizens and the rest of society. By doing so one gives them the power to form regulations that other Muslims are expected to follow, and that do not follow a liberal interpretation of Islam.

There's a risk of encouraging radicalization. it's more expedient to view Muslims first and foremost as citizens, with the same rights and obligations as all others. They don't need imams to represent them, since just like anybody else, they can take part in democratic elections and vote for the politicians who would best represent their opinions and interests.

Source: Berlingske (Danish)

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