What are Denmark’s racism and antisemitism ‘action plans’?

Denmark has this week announced what it terms ‘plans of action’ against racism and antisemitism. What changes could the plans bring about?

Danish officials and chairman of the Jewish Community in Denmark Henri Goldstein present the government's action plan against antisemitism in Copenhagen on January 25th 2022.
Danish officials and chairman of the Jewish Community in Denmark Henri Goldstein present the government's action plan against antisemitism in Copenhagen on January 25th 2022. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

On Monday, the government, along with left wing parties and the Christian Democrats, announced that spending from the 2022 budget would be set aside for a “plan of action” (handlingsplan in Danish) aimed at tackling racism.

The plan of action will “fight racism broadly in society, and its initiatives will stretch from the labour market and education to culture and hate crimes,” a Justice Ministry press statement read.

“But first and foremost, the extent and character of racism must be established,” it added.

Money set aside to fight hate crime in the 2022 budget will be partially spent on the action plan. The budget includes 8.2 billion kroner in 2022 and 8.1 billion kroner annually from 2023-25 for prevention of hate crimes.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: How could Denmark’s 2022 budget affect foreign residents?

The government and other signatory parties to the budget want to “make a plan of action that fights racism in all its ugly manifestations,” Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup said in the statement.

“It’s not befitting of Denmark that we have people in this country who experience hate crimes and being turned away from nightlife, jobs and housing solely because of their ethnic heritage. Nobody should be subjected to racism and discrimination. A plan of action against racism will contribute to a more safe and secure society for everyone in Denmark,” Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) spokesperson Samira Nawa said in the statement.

The racism action plan will begin with a report on the known extent and character of racism in Denmark with further political discussion to take place in the second half of this year, according to the press statement.

The government on Tuesday announced a separate action plan against antisemitism.

The antisemitism action plan was formed in dialogue with community organisation the Jewish Community in Denmark (Det Jødiske Samfund), which provided the setting for a briefing at which the plan was presented by officials on Tuesday.

Included in the plan are 15 initiatives aimed at broadly tackling antisemitism in Denmark.

These include mandatory teaching about the Holocaust at schools, lessons on Danish-Jewish history and police training to prevent radicalisation. It will also promote interfaith dialogue between young people.

More targeted research into antisemitism will also be funded, including on areas of society in which antisemitism is prevalent.

In a statement, the government said that a directive to put together an antisemitism plan was issued in response to incidents of vandalism at Jewish graveyards in several locations in Denmark.

The aim of the plan is to “prevent antisemitism putting down roots in Denmark,” the Justice Ministry statement said.

“Antisemitism has sadly become a bigger problem in Denmark in recent years. We know from European studies that some Danish Jews avoid wearing items that can identify them as Jews and that some are harassed at school or work because they are Jewish,” Hækkerup said in the statement.

“We can and will not accept that,” he added.

The chairman of the Jewish Community in Denmark Henri Goldstein praised the plan at Tuesday’s briefing.

“I think to the highest possible degree that this plan is good. It’s thorough. But we will have to wait for 5 to 10 years to see whether it has had the effect it needs to,” Goldstein said according to broadcaster DR’s report.

The antisemitism action plan can be read in full (in Danish) on the ministry’s website.

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Racism in Denmark: Video of abuse sparks debate over political tone

A video of a racist verbal attack on a family with two small children spread virally on Danish social media over the long weekend, giving rise to debate about the effect of political discourse on public behaviour and attitudes.

Racism in Denmark: Video of abuse sparks debate over political tone
An illustration photo showing people in Copenhagen. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

In the video, recorded at Kastrup Harbour near Copenhagen, a man shouts at the family “why don’t you piss off to your own country” and “look at your skin colour, you’re yellow, you don’t belong here”, amongst other things. It can be viewed here on broadcaster DR’s website and has also been shared many times on Facebook and Twitter. The identity of the man has not been made public.

Politicians from all mainstream parties have condemned the incident, including representatives of the anti-immigration, populist right wing Danish People’s Party.

In a statement issued on social media, immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye said he was “sad” to hear about the video.

“But it was also great to hear how passers-by and the police dealt with the situation. Stop racism. Together for Denmark,” he added.

Social media commenters argued that Tesfaye’s party is amongst those to have fuelled racial tension with its strident rhetoric against immigration, often specifically from Middle Eastern countries. The tweet linked below, posted by Social Democratic immigration spokesperson Rasmus Stoklund, contains numerous such comments.

Stoklund, who expresses his sympathy for the family in the tweet and condemns the incident, is himself a divisive figure and was most recently criticised for including a picture of garden weeds in a Facebook post about foreigners in Denmark who have committed crimes, and whom the country wants to deport.

The Social Democratic citizenship spokesperson, Lars Aslan Rasmussen, called the incident “clearly racist” in comments to DR, but said that Denmark was generally a tolerant country and denied Muslims were targeted by his party’s rhetoric.

“I don’t think we have a general problem with racism in Denmark,” he claimed.

That view was not shared by Pernille Skipper of the left wing Red-Green Alliance.

“All the politicians who don’t think we have a problem with racism but who also ‘sympathise with the family’ have simply not grasped how normal this actually is,” Skipper said according to DR.

“This is not an outlier – it was just captured on video,” she also said.

The mother from the family targeted in the video, Kodes Hamdi, told DR she was “tired of turning the other cheek and saying ‘never mind’ and moving on”.

“Because this isn’t the first time (it’s happened),” she added.

“I just needed my network to know how I’m being treated along with my children just because we have a different skin colour and because I wear a headscarf,” she said in reference to her decision to post the video on social media.

Copenhagen Police confirmed to the broadcaster that officers were present at Kastrup Harbour on Saturday.

READ ALSO: Plan for new ‘expulsion centre’ reignites debate over Denmark’s treatment of unwanted foreigners