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INTEGRATION

Danish minister: Muslims shouldn’t work during Ramadan, it’s dangerous for society

A Danish minister known for her strong anti-immigration views on Monday May 21st called for Muslims to take time off work during the fasting period of Ramadan, saying the practice is "dangerous for all of us".

Danish minister: Muslims shouldn't work during Ramadan, it's dangerous for society
Danish politician Inger Støjberg displays the Danish flag on the back of her mobile phone. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP.

The comments from immigration and integration minister Inger Støjberg, a member of the centre-right Liberal Party, come after Ramadan, Islam's revered month in which Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk, began last week.

“I want to call on Muslims to take leave from work during the month of Ramadan to avoid negative consequences for the rest of Danish society,” Støjberg wrote in a column for the BT tabloid. 

“I wonder if a religious order commanding observance to a 1,400-year-old pillar of Islam is compatible with the society and labour market that we have in Denmark in 2018.”

She also said she feared the fasting could affect “safety and productivity,” giving as an example bus drivers who have “neither had a drink nor eaten for more than 10 hours”.

“This can be dangerous for all of us,” she said.

READ ALSO: Ramadan: The challenges of fasting for a month in France

Støjberg previously stoked controversy last year when she posted to Facebook a photo of her smiling and holding a cake to celebrate Denmark's 50th measure for toughening immigration laws. 

One of the strongest measures came into force in 2016, allowing police to seize valuables from refugees, although the government's guidelines exempted wedding and engagement rings after critics likened the plans to the confiscation of gold from Jews by the Nazis during World War II.

Over the last 15 years, the country has tightened its immigration policies, insisting that migrants must learn the country's customs and language in order to adapt to the labour market.

READ MORE: Unsurprising that stricter Danish rules give fewer Muslims citizenship: immigration minister

EDUCATION

Why Copenhagen has taken steps to increase diversity in its classrooms

Copenhagen has since 2010 sought a more even distribution at its schools between children with Danish and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Why Copenhagen has taken steps to increase diversity in its classrooms
File photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

In 2010, 16 schools in the capital – 1 in 4 – had a ratio of over 50 percent for children termed ‘bilingual’ (Danish: tosprogede), meaning a language other than Danish is spoken in their home environments.

That number has now been reduced to 9 schools in the city, newspaper Politiken reports. As such, demographics are now spread more evenly between schools in Copenhagen.

According to Copenhagen Municipality, the composition of schoolgoers’ backgrounds is important because 'bilingual' children fare worse at school than ethnically Danish children, on average.

“This is a pleasing development. We want Copenhagen to be a city in which the places where we live and go to school and daycare is mixed. We think this has a big impact with respect to integration and opportunity,” Social Democrat councillor Jesper Christensen, who heads the municipality’s children and youth committee, told Politiken.

The municipality has given greater flexibility in allowing children, particularly those from minority ethnic backgrounds, to attend schools other than their local district school.

That has, for example, enabled children from underprivileged areas in parts of Nørrebro to go to school in Østerbro, a neighbouring and more affluent area.

Nationally, Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye has previously (when in opposition) said that school classes should have no more than 30 percent ‘bilingual’ children.

The Ministry for Children and Education told Politiken that “it is still (our) ambition that distribution of school students should better reflect that of the general population,” the newspaper reports.

Although little research into the topic exists, a Danish study from 2011 found that the average grades of children in a class is negatively affected when the proportion of ‘bilingual’ children in that class exceeds 50 percent.

Pisa, the OECD's programme for international student assessment, has previously found that children with non-immigration backgrounds who attend schools with over 40 percent ‘bilingual’ students fare worse than equivalents at schools where the proportion is less than 10 percent.

READ ALSO: How do Denmark's Pisa school results compare to other countries?

Mikkel Høst Gandil, an assistant professor at the University of Oslo’s Economics institute, noted in comments to Politiken that the figures should not necessarily “be interpreted as the effect of going to school with many bilingual children”.

“The study cannot tell whether a specific child would fare better if the number of immigrant-background children in her school fell,” he told the newspaper.

The difference in results does not occur if differences in social conditions between students at the same schools are taken into account, he said.

A 2018 University of Copenhagen PhD project co-authored by Gandil and partly financed by Danish think tank the Economic Council of the Labour Movement found that weaker students benefited from attending stronger schools. Meanwhile, stronger pupils were not negatively affected by attending a school with a high proportion of students with weaker backgrounds, Politiken writes.

The project analysed school trends amongst 580,000 children.

READ ALSO: Why Copenhagen is the cheapest city in Europe for international schools

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