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Outrage in Denmark after EU-funded report brands it 'Islamophobic'

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Outrage in Denmark after EU-funded report brands it 'Islamophobic'
Activists protest against the burqa ban in Copenhagen in December 2018. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Scanpix
12:02 CET+01:00
An EU-funded report from a Turkish thinktank has caused outrage in Denmark after it accused the country of widespread Islamophobia, with "exclusionary" political campaigns, and "a normalisation of everyday discrimination of Muslims".
The "European Islamophobia Report 2018" was put together by the Turkey's Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (Seta), with funding from the European Union. 
 
It cites a law on daycare, the burqa ban, and Denmark's anti-ghetto legislation, as "discriminatory laws" which have come about as a result of "widespread rhetoric on the supposed incompatibility of Islam to 'Danishness'". 
 
Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper that he was "really angry" about the report.
 
"Of course, EU funds should not be used to finance a Turkish NGO's report on Islamophobia in Europe, including Denmark," he told the paper in a statement. 
 
European Parliamentarian Niels Fuglsang, who represents the ruling Social Democrats, has said that he will demand an explanation from the European Commission. 
 
"I don't think our taxpayer money should go to such a propaganda business for Erdogan. It is a scandal that EU money has gone to this and it must stop immediately," he told the paper. 
 
Peter Kofod, from the anti-immigration Danish People's Party, went further, calling the report "a scandal". 
 
"It's a scandal that the EU system finances this kind of completely insane stuff with the money that Turkey is getting formally ready to become a member state."
 
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The report's authors, Sibel Özcan and Zeynep Bangert, both ethnic Turks educated and now working in Denmark, argue that with several recent laws clearly targeted to discriminate against Muslims, Denmark had become an "ethnocracy" as “in democracy, all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law, while in ethnocracy the power is placed in the hands of one particular group.” 
 
They cite egregious recent examples of anti-Muslim political rhetoric, such as the slogan "Drop your headscarf and become a member of Denmark", from the Danish People's Party's 2018 election campaign. 
 
They also describe how Inger Støjberg, the former Danish Minister for Immigration and Integration, created fear among the population when she wrote a blog post in summer 2018 claiming the Danish population was at risk when the Muslim minority was fasting during Ramadan. 
 
They also quote Erik Høgh-Sørensen, regional council member in North Jutland and parliamentary candidate for the Danish People’s Party.
 
In a debate article on plans for the since-scrapped Lindholm island facility, Høgh-Sørensen wrote that “at Lindholm, pig should be on the menu. Every day. Morning, noon, evening. And for late night snack”. 
 
The facility was intended to accommodate rejected asylum seekers who have committed crimes and other foreign nationals awaiting deportation due to criminal convictions or because they are considered a national security risk.
 
In comments provided in writing to The Local, Høgh-Sørensen rejected the report’s assessment of his comments as Islamophobic.
 
"My remarks cannot be labelled as 'Islamophobic' as the EU/Erdogan report claims. Nowhere in my writings on the topic do I mention any religion," Høgh-Sørensen wrote.
 
He also said he had previously stated his comments were meant "as a joke", but that the report didn't account for this.
 
The EU money for the report comes from the pre-accession aid category which Turkey is eligible to receive because it is a candidate to join the Union.
 
Seta is controversial because, although nominally independent, it is considered to have close links with the AKP party led by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 
 
This article was updated on November 7th, 2019 to include comments by Erik Høgh-Sørensen.
 
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