17:44 GMT17 May 2021
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    While the percentage of immigrants who consider themselves fully Danish keeps rising, the divide in the acceptance of religious criticism remains wide.

    A new Danish 2019 Citizenship Survey has highlighted marked differences in attitudes toward religion; it's been found that immigrants feel that criticism of religious convictions in unacceptable.

    Wholly 48 percent of second-generation immigrants believe that criticising religion should be banned outright, compared with 42 percent of first-generation immigrants and just under 20 percent of ethnic Danes, the Christian newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad reported.

    At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of immigrants and their descendants who 'feel' Danish. In 2011, only 58 percent of first-generation immigrants felt Danish, compared to 70 percent this year. For their descendants, the corresponding figure has risen from 71 percent to 82 percent.

    Halima El Abassi, the leader of the Ethnic Minorities Council, is not surprised that second-generation immigrants are less tolerant of religious criticism. According to her, they often become more religious than their parents, which she interprets as a token of not feeling part of Danish society.

    “When you stand outside of community, religion can become pillar of support to gain identity and a sense of belonging. That in itself is not a problem, the problem arises if it's one's only affiliation,” Halima El Abassi said.

    Tarek Hussein, the author of the book “The Black Beard” about being a Muslim in Denmark, stressed that the feeling of exclusion plays a crucial role. According to him, the feeling of persecution based on one's religion and culture leads to rejecting any criticism, even when it's justified.

    “Many Muslims, myself included, have been in a defensive position long enough, to the point of having lost the tools to criticise religion. Basically, I think many of them find it difficult to distinguish between legitimate religious criticism and the daily baiting,” Hussein said, calling the study's result a fundamental problem that society needs to deal with.

    According to Karen Nielsen Breidahl, an associate professor at the Institute of Politics and Society at Aalborg University, the question of religious criticism has become an indicator of integration in general.

    “I don't think that this question in itself reflects whether you are against Danish or democratic values. When people are presented with such a question, few bring it back to the ideals of the Enlightenment. Instead, the answer reflects a current debate, where the divide is great,” Breidahl said.

    Yvonne Mørck, an associate professor at the Department of Social Sciences and Business at Roskilde University, believes that despite the great strides taken within integration, focus on critical thinking must be maintained.

    “In my own field work, I have seen how high school teachers can have anxiety when it comes to sensitive issues such as religion or, for example, the Israel-Palestine conflict. We must not. We need to be better at insisting that criticism, whether it is about religion or something else, is part of our general democratic foundation,” Mørck said.

    The share of immigrants and their descendants has increased over the past decades, amounting to 12.9 percent of the Danish population as of January 2017, corresponding to 742,000 people.

    Islam is Denmark's largest minority religion, with the share of Muslims estimated at over 5 percent of the Danish population.


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