Islam in Denmark

The Great Mosque of Copenhagen in Copenhagen is one of the largest mosques in Denmark.

Islam in Denmark being the country's largest minority religion plays an important role in shaping its social and religious landscape.[1] According to the U.S. Department of State, approximately 3.7% of the population in Denmark is Muslim.[2] Other sources, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, cite lower percentages.[3][4][5] However, according to figures reported by the BBC,[6] about 270 thousand Muslims live in Denmark (4.8% out of a population of 5.6 million[7]).[8]

Majority of Muslims in Denmark are Sunni, with a sizeable Shia minority.[9] Other Islamic denominations represented in Denmark include Ahmadiyya. In the 1970s Muslims arrived from Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco and the former Yugoslavia to work. In the 1980s and 90s the majority of Muslim arrivals were refugees and asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Bosnia.[8] In addition, some ethnic Danes have converted to Islam; an estimated 2,800 Danes have converted and about seventy Danes convert every year.[10]

History and background

Religious freedom is guaranteed by law in Denmark, and as of 2005, nineteen different Muslim religious communities had status as officially recognized religious societies, which gives them certain tax benefits. However, unlike the majority of countries in the West, Denmark lacks separation of church and state, resulting in economic advantages for the Church of Denmark not shared by Muslim or other minority communities,[11] although they are compensated by tax benefit.

During the 1980s and 1990s a number of Muslim asylum seekers came to Denmark. In the 1980s mostly from Iran, Iraq, Gaza and the West Bank and in the 1990s mostly from Somalia and Bosnia.

The asylum seekers comprise about 40% of the Danish Muslim population.[3]

Previously, the majority of Muslims who immigrated to Denmark did so as part of family reunification. The Danish parliament has passed a law in 2002 making family reunification harder. It was also implemented to counter forced marriages by ensuring that both parties are at least 24 years old and so considered old enough to enter a marriage without being forced to do so. The new law requires the couple to both be above the age of 24 and requires the resident spouse to show capacity to support both persons of the couple.

Religious issues

In 1967 the Nusrat Jahan Mosque[12] was built in Hvidovre, a Copenhagen suburb. This mosque is used by adherents of the Ahmadiyya faith.

Other mosques exist but are not built for the explicit purpose. It is not forbidden to build mosques or any other religious buildings in Denmark but there are very strict zoning laws. One piece of land has been reserved for a grand mosque at Amager (near Copenhagen), but financing is not settled. Danish Muslims have not succeeded in cooperating on the financing of the project and do not agree on whether it should be financed with outside sources, such as Saudi money.[13] Advertisements by the Danish People's Party, which promote anti-mosque legislation, contend that Iran and Saudi Arabia are sources of funding. These are considered despotic regimes by the DPP.[14]

Seven Danish cemeteries have separate sections for Muslims. Most of the Danish Muslims are buried in those cemeteries, with about 70 being flown abroad for burial in their countries of origin. A separate Muslim cemetery was opened in Brøndby near Copenhagen in September 2006.[15]

In 2009, the U.S. Department of State released a report on religious freedom in Denmark. One finding was that there were a few isolated incidents of discrimination against immigrants, which included desecration of graves:

There were isolated incidents of anti-immigrant sentiment, including graffiti, low-level assaults, denial of service, and employment discrimination on racial grounds. Societal discrimination against religious minorities was difficult to distinguish from discrimination against ethnic minorities. The Government criticized the incidents and investigated several, but it brought few cases to trial specifically on charges of racial discrimination or hate crimes. Reports continued of incidents of desecration of ethnic and religious minority gravesites.[2]


The first Muslim private school was founded in 1978 - the Islamic Arabic School (Danish: Islamisk Arabiske Skole) in Helsingør and accepted students from any country. Today there are about 20 Muslim schools, most of which are located in the major cities. The Muslim schools are big enough today to enable catering to students according to their country of origin. In the 1980s, schools for Pakistanis, Turks and Arabic speakers were founded. Furthermore, Somali, Palestinian and Iraqi schools were founded in the 1990s. Today 6 or 7 nationalities dominate the Muslim schools.

The biggest school is Dia Privatskole in Nørrebro with about 410 students. Two Pakistani schools teach in Urdu as mother tongue and several Turkish schools have Turkish instruction. Most other schools cater to Arabic-speaking students.[16]

Cartoons controversy

A Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten printed 12 caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in September 2005. These cartoons sparked an international controversy, ultimately resulting in the scorching of two Danish diplomatic missions, a boycott of Danish goods in several countries, and a large number of protests around the world.[17] The number of protests caused an increase in support for the anti-immigration Danish People's Party.[18]

In August 2013 Ahmed Akkari, who had taken a major role in the affair and was the spokesman for a tour of Imams to the Middle East to protest the cartoons, expressed his regret for his role in the Imams' tour of the Middle East, stating that "I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong. At that time, I was so fascinated with this logical force in the Islamic mindset that I could not see the greater picture. I was convinced it was a fight for my faith, Islam." Still a practising Muslim, he said that printing the cartoons was ok and he personally apologised to the cartoonist Westergaard. Westergaard responded by saying "I met a man who has converted from being an Islamist to become a humanist who understands the values of our society. To me, he is really sincere, convincing and strong in his views." A spokesman for the Islamic Society of Denmark said "It is still not OK to publish drawings of Muhammad. We have not changed our position."[19]


Noted Danish Muslims

See also


  1. "2010 Report on International Religious Freedom - Denmark". United States Department of State. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  2. 1 2
  3. 1 2 "Visiting Denmark". Retrieved 24 August 2009.
  4. "Denmark at CIA – The World Factbook". The World Factbook. Retrieved 2012-02-01.
  5. Other sources show some variation on these figures. For example, the 2010 Report on International Religious Freedom - Denmark gives a figure of about 200,000. See: A report at the UNHCR website
  6. "Population in Denmark". Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  7. 1 2 "Muslims in Europe: Country guide". BBC News. 23 December 2005. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  9. "An increasing number of Danes are converting to Islam". Euro-Islam: News and Analysis on Islam in Europe and North America. 21 February 2010.
  10. "Denmark : International Religious Freedom Report 2005". U.S. Department of State. 2005. Retrieved 24 August 2009.
  11. "Kirker i Danmark - en billeddatabase". Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  12. Making a Mosque, Realizing a Community, Helene Hemme Goldberg and Abigail Krasner (PDF)
  14. After 15 years of wrangling, Muslims get their own burial grounds in Brøndby, Copenhagen Post.
  15. Historien om de muslimske friskoler, Danmarks Radio.
  16. Browne, Anthony (31 January 2006). "Denmark faces international boycott over Muslim cartoons". TimesOnline.
  17. Nærland, Mina Hauge (9 March 2006). "Kraftig høyrebølge i Skandinavia". Dagbladet.
  18. "Ahmad Akkari, Danish Muslim: I was wrong to damn Muhammad cartoons". The Guardian. 9 August 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  19. Muslimer i Dialog
  20. "Salam - Foreningen for unge muslimske kvinder". Retrieved 2008-03-18.
  21. "unge muslimer gruppens officielle hjemmeside". Retrieved 2008-03-18.
  22. "Wilayah Organisationens hjemmeside". Retrieved 2008-03-18.
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