Denmark: Girls supervise each other

Denmark: Girls supervise each other

Religious bullying and the mutual social control among young Muslim women in Danish educational institutions appears extensive.

Muslim boys are also particularly active in the supervision, it appeares from a new qualitative study, prepared by the Welfare Ministry, about being a Muslim woman in Denmark.

One of the teachers in the study says that social monitoring is an appalling problem.  It's so dominating, that people think it's lies, the gossip and the talk, the monitoring of these young people who can't allow themselves anything.

The Equality Department in the  Welfare Ministry had Phd Tina Magaard from the Theology Institute at Aarhus University prepare an in-depth interview of 34 Muslim girls and women, as well as 11 non-Muslim women teachers  in educational institutes with Muslim students.

The goal was to map how Muslim women themselves experience the problems of equality between the sexes, when it comes to education, marriage, laws of life, punishment, etc.

Tina Magaard stresses that to the study of 220 pages don't give a complete picture of reality, and she warns politicians of using the women's and teachers' statements as bullets for a political battles and unuanced debate.

"In the report, both sides can surely find something they can hit the other over the head with.  I focused on letting the women and teachers express themselves, without me coming with a proposal of a solution," says Tina Magaard.

The report shows that traditions, norms and a conservative family structure, together with Islam, are controlling factors in the existence of the interviewed women.  Some of the women are pressured and strained, impeding their development, for others it's a system and answer, which gives them a safe and regulated life.

Equality minister Karen Jespersen says in a press release that this report gives good insight into how a segment of young Muslim women see their situation.  It can hopefully help Muslim women who wants to enjoy more of what Danish society offers them.  And she also thinks it can be useful for those who support and guide this group of women.

Martin Henriksen, education spokesperson for the Danish People's Party (DPP) and member of the Integration Committee, is shocked about the expamples in the report of religious bullying and oppression and wants to ban Muslim prayer houses and headscarfs in education institutions.

Martin Henriksen says that cultural and religious special consideration encourages parallel societies and rewards the wrong ones by charging those who want to integrate.  Henriksen says that we must recognize that dialogue won't get us far with very orthodox Muslims and fundamentalists but that banning Muslim prayer houses and headscarves will automatically remove an essential part of the means used for social control.

Martin Henriksen adds that there should be better support options for the Muslim girls who are being bullied.  He says he expects a real proposal for a solution from both the government and the opposition for this problem. If they won't support the repeated proposal of the DPP for a serious handling of religious bullying in the schools, they would have to come up with soemthing better.   As we can see from the Aarhus University report, it's needed urgently.

From the report:

A girl who doesn't wear a headscarf says that there are spies, and no such thing as privacy.  Everything is dictated.  'where are you going?  and when will be get back home?  10 minutes before the hour or ten minutes after?'  There are many who think that she's a very open and liberal girl, but regardless of how liberal one is, there's always something which pulls one back.

A girl with a headscarf says that they grew up with religion and so don't think much about whether it's herself, her parents or her religion which plays a role.  It's just part of her and she acts by it.  But she always has religion in mind, when she has to choose; for example, being alone with a man at work - it's something one thinks about, not just at work, also when you visit somebody, you're not allowed to be alone with a man in a room.

Another girl without a headscarf: "The very religious women and some of my friends from before, they try to give a frightening image of God.  But they also try to impress on her that she should be ashamed.  Ashamed of not going with a headscarf, of not being so religious, of going with pants, for dressing so that men can see her figure.


A Danish convert in her early 20s says in the report that she the second wife of an Arab man.  She says he has permission from God to take up to four wives.

R. says it's obviously diffuclt when feelings come into it.  It's then a little hard, but she's surprised that it's actually working as good as it does.  Asked what would happen her husband would tell her he married a third wife, she smiles, but says that if her husband does it properly, she wouldn't be able to say anything.

A Turk without a headscarf says that there's a growing group of women who marry a man who's already married.  They get an imam to marry them since they're then accepted into society.  They have no open alternative.  It's deplorable, she says, that it's happening in Denmark.  She think that if one would tally it all up, which is very difficult, it might be higher than we think.

Sources: Berlingske 1, 2 (Danish)

The report can be downloaded from the Equality Ministry's website (Danish)

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