Denmark: Proposal to forbid special consideration for Muslim students

Denmark: Proposal to forbid special consideration for Muslim students

The Danish People's Party (DPP) is proposing a law which will forbid schools to give special consideration to Muslim students.  The DPP thinks it will encourage integration.  Several principals disagree.

There should be no more special consideration for Muslim students in public schools, as far as the DPP is concerned.  Before Christmas they will propose a law which will forbid Muslim students from taking time off for Ramadan and showering behind a curtain after sports class.

"We have shown too much consideration.  In many cases it can maybe work reasonably that we be considerate, but suddenly there's much consideration, and at one point or another we must also say stop," says DPP's education spokesperson Martin Henriksen, who thinks that the proposal will strengthen integration.

School principals around the country disagree, according to a phone poll, that Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten conducted.

Ålholm Skole in Valby, Rådmandsgade Skole in Nørrebro, Humlehaveskolen in Odense and Tovshøjskolen in Århus all give vacation in connection with Ramadan, serve halal-slaughtered meat and drop pork, and allow the children to shower with underwear or behind a curtain, if they don't want to do it with others.

None of the schools see it as a problem.

"It gives us no problems nor causes extra work to be considerate, so why should we stop?  For us it's inconsequential if we buy the meat by a Dane or by a Muslim butcher," says Dorthe Boe Nielsen, vice school inspector at Humlehaveskolen, which has 98% immigrant students.

But according to Martin Henriksen, that isn't the point.

"We've reached a point where we should decide which way our public schools are going, when we speak of cultural integration," he says.

But if an eventual law will pass, that will mean more bureaucracy, more conflicts and a flight of students from public school to Muslim private schools, several school principals think.

"We will use endless time and energy to implement the rules, explain them to students and parents, and ensure that they are enforced.  That is time that we would rather use for education and pedagogical work," says principal Jesper Lund Madsen from Tovshøjskolen, which has 100% students of non-Danish background.

Several principals point out that in practice it will be impossible to implement.

"How could we deny a Muslim students a vacation day in connection with Ramadan, when we so quickly give Danish students permitting for a free day if they go on a ski vacation or to their grandmother's 60th birthday?  It is and continues to be a responsibility of the parents, when the students will have vacation and it's not a problem, as long as the students generally come and do well," says school principal Mari-Ann Togsverd from Engdalskolen in Århus.

"If we can't be considerate and give vacation for Ramadan, more parents will transfer their children to a Muslim private school and that will cause serious damage to integration," thinks Lise Egholm from Rådmandsgade Skole. Several other school principals agree.

Martin Henriksen says that he doesn't want to push Muslim children out of schools or society.

"On the contrary, parallel societies developed, also because the schools hadn't been insistent enough in the efforts to teach Muslim children about Danish society," he says.

The Liberal Party, Conservatives and Social Democrats reject the proposal in the meantime.  Both the education spokesperson for the Conservatives Charlotte Dyremose and the education minister (Liberals) (K) state the every school should decide the rules on their own.

And even if Haarder shares the DPP's concern about the children who fast in Ramadan, it isn't possible to legistlate it out, he thinks.

"If I could push a button and thereby get the Muslim children to stop fasting, I would have pushed it the most.  But we can't force-feed the children," says the education minister.

Even if the school principals aren't enthusiastic about the DPP's proposal, they agree that there are limits to religious consideration.

"Our limits are that the consideration should not limit the personal freedom of others.  Therefore we can not and will not install special showers because some parents to Muslim students don't want their children to see naked people.  In the same manner, we have several students who say that they shouldn't draw god in art class, even if it's part of an assignment.  They are naturally told that they will," says principal Michael Olesen of Ålholm Skole.

At Rådmandsgade Skole they prepared guidelines 10 years ago for what consideration will be given.  Today Lise Egholm would rather see guidelines from the Education Minstry rather than legistlation.

"But we won't give too much consideration.  I could for example never think of installing a shower.  People should do that after school time.  We don't build mini-churches for Christian children either," says Lise Egholm.

Source: JP (Danish)


joe six-pack said...

Hopefully, this new law will pass. The demands will never cease. Sooner or later a point is reached when people say: "Enough"! Hopefully, it is not too late when this point is reached.

Joachim Martillo said...
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