The Danish government is about to present a bill that will make it more difficult for foreign countries to fund mosques in the country, Danish Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye wrote on Facebook, pledging to intensify work against negative social control and religious extremism.
The background to this step is that the national daily Berlingske earlier this year revealed that Saudi Arabia, through its embassy in Denmark, had funnelled nearly DKK 5 million ($790,000) to Taiba mosque in Copenhagen. This is the first documented instance of Saudi Arabia financially supporting a Danish mosque.
This revelation, followed by more of the same kind, sparked a debate about where the Danish mosques obtain their funding and what forces control them. Subsequently, the country's Social Democrat government presented a parliamentary settlement with the opposition to restrict the flow of money from dubious and “anti-democratic” donors abroad.
“I definitely distance myself from extreme forces in Danish mosques. It is a real problem if donations come from organisations that want to undermine basic democratic values,” Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said.
The law will make it a criminal offence to accept money from individuals, organisations and associations that “oppose or undermine democratic values and fundamental freedoms and human rights”. The idea is to conclude a blacklist of banned donors, and there is an ongoing debate as to whether states should be included in it or not.
One of the supporters of the cross-party agreement that features members of the right-of-the-centre “blue” bloc rather than the Social Democrats' traditional “red” bloc allies is the Danish People's Party. Its heavyweight and former leader Pia Kjærsgaard welcomed the agreement.
“Obviously, Middle Eastern regimes should not be allowed to send money to mosques or Quran schools in Denmark to undermine Danish values,” Kjærsgaard said. “We therefore welcome this measure and look forward to stopping the attacks on democracy that come from, among others, radicalised mosques."
The government has even come under criticism from “blue” bloc over the delay, but Tesfaye has assured that the long-awaited bill will be presented within weeks. Apart from stopping foreign donations to mosques, the new law will tighten the penalties for child marriage and forced marriage, Tesfaye pledged.
In recent months, Denmark has sharpened its tone against political Islam and religious leaders' involvement. In late September, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen issued a stern condemnation of Sharia law, calling it “wrong” and “not Danish” and stressing that it “doesn't belong here”. Subsequently, Denmark clamped down on instances of Sharia law, including imams who propagate divorce documents that are at odds with Danish law. At the same time, previous surveys indicated that four out of ten Danish Muslims would like to have laws at least partly based on Sharia law, whereas over 10 percent even said the nation's laws should be solely based on Sharia.
Islam is Denmark's largest minority religion with over 300,000 worshippers, or 5.4 percent of the total population of 5.8 million.