Denmark: 'Muslim culture plays role in criminality'

Denmark: 'Muslim culture plays role in criminality'

Psychologist  Nicolai Sennels concludes from talks with young suspects of light-crimes that young Muslims see themselves as victims and lack respect for society.

According to Nicolai Sennels there it too much talk and victimization of the individual and too little focus on cultural problems, when the Copenhagen Municipality deals with youth of Muslim background.

Until last year he worked as a psychologist in Sønderbro, Copenhagen Municipality's closed institution for young crime suspects.  Next week he will publish his book "Among Criminal Muslims" (Blandt kriminelle muslimer), which is based on talks he's had with up to 200 youth in the institution.

The book is published by Trykkefrihedsselskabets Forlag (Freedom Press Publishing), which is known for it's Islam-critical attitude, and it already caused newspaper headlines such as "Islam makes youth into criminals".

"I would have preferred a different headline.  But my point is that culture plays a role. When you speak with youth of Muslim background, it's striking that they have difficulties with understanding and respecting Danish society and the soft educational policy that the Copenhagen Municipality is in charge of," says Nicolai Sennels, who developed a method to pressure youth into taking more responsibility for their actions.

He says that 70% of the youth in Sønderbro have a background of Muslim culture, which roughly corresponds to this group's share among all youth crimes in Copenhagen.

"The vast majority know little of the Koran, and they don't live by the dictates of Islam.  At the same time, there's a number of attitudes they take from Islam," says the psychologist, who emphasizes that "Islam" has more of a cultural than a religious meaning here.

Though he conducted talks with crime suspects, he thinks he can conclude for young Muslims in general that their cultural background causes discipline problems.

"Many of those I talked with, are just suspects which didn't appear criminal or in any case couldn't be sentenced.  It's wrong to see them as a group which is completely outside the rest of Muslim culture," he says.

Gorm Sauer Jensen, head of the Integration Council in Copenhagen thinks on the contrary, that Nicolai Sennels' assessments are only applicable to the limited group he spoke with.

"How you handle criminals, he probably knows more than me.  But it's very dangerous to conclude that all young Muslims think the same way as those for whom things have gone so wrong that they're suspected of crime.  In the Integration Council, we think that we keep nuanced on the subject.  Individuals should be able to prove themselves, before we begin lambasting," says Gorm Sauer Jensen

Nicolai Sennels not only made his mark as a psychologist, he was also elected for the Østerbro local council for the Danish People's Party.  The question is whether his book should be seen as an objective rendition of a psychologist's practical experience or as a political appeal.  He insists that it's the first.

"We are many from the industry who vote for the Danish People's Party, but it has no influence on us working professionally in the area.  If people read my book, they will see it as sober and having a lot of love for working with the youth."

Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)

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