Do Danish conservative parties support refusal of carers who wear the hijab?

Election debate in Denmark has turned to whether conservative parties think elderly residents should be able to decline home carers who wear the Muslim headscarf, but only one party is specifically pushing the policy.

Do Danish conservative parties support refusal of carers who wear the hijab?
Danish 'blue bloc' party leaders during a joint election briefing on Tuesday. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix

During Tuesday’s joint press briefing with leaders of conservative or ‘blue bloc’ parties, the Liberal (Venstre) party leader, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, was asked whether his party supports allowing elderly care patients to refuse help from care staff if the carer wears the Muslim headscarf, hijab.

The far-right Danish People’s Party (DF) has previously voiced its support for this and Ellemann-Jensen was asked by a journalist from newspaper Ekstra Bladet to say whether he agreed.

Ellemann-Jensen responded that he was more concerned with “the welfare of the individual” than the “reasoning of the argument”.

Pushed to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, he then said “it’s a yes.”

“If a citizen says, here’s someone who I, for one reason or another, ‘don’t feel good about’. If you as a citizen are to invite another person into your home, that’s very, very personal for many people,” he said.

DF leader Morten Messerschmidt then tweeted that Ellemann-Jensen supported the idea.

However, the Liberal leader later said in a written comment reported by news wire Rizau that his position was “not about religion or anything else”.

“My concern is with the individual being able to freely choose their home care and that they can choose a different provider if they are not satisfied with the service. It is not about religion or anything else,” he stated.

READ ALSO: ‘Bloc politics’: A guide to understanding parliamentary elections in Denmark

The leader of the libertarian party Liberal Alliance appeared to make a similar adjustment after voicing support for the policy on Tuesday.

“I want to give the elderly the right to say no to a home carer if they are not comfortable with them. But I will not problematise someone wearing a headscarf,” the party’s leader Alex Vanopslagh told newspaper Politiken.

He subsequently told the same publication he had “chewed over the problem”.

“I believe in general that you should be able to choose not to have a carer you are uncomfortable with but this should of course be based on reasonable criteria, and the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that religious reasons are not strong enough justification,” he said on Wednesday morning.

Conservative party leader Søren Pape Poulsen did not state during the briefing whether or not he supported the DF proposal.

In comments to broadcaster DR, Poulsen said free choice of home care should focus on service and care quality.

“I feel that if you are to decline someone, it should be based on working differences or because things aren’t working out. It should not be because of appearance or religion. That’s the point of view I’m coming from,” he said.

The Nye Borgerlige (New Right) party – the only party considered to be as critical of Islam as the Danish People’s Party – does not want a change to current rules on the area.

“There’s nothing new in this. The rules are already such that it’s the free choice of the individual, firstly whether they want home care, and secondly who they want to provide that care,” party leader Pernille Vermund said.

“This isn’t something we’re proposing,” Vermund said, calling the issue a “strange discussion” and “something that came up based on a question from a journalist”.

DF first raised the idea of refusing home care from women who wear the hijab at its party conference in September, when Messerschmidt said seniors should “have the right to say no to the Muslim headscarf in their own homes”.

Current rules already allow people who receive care services at home to change their provider without having to give a reason, the national organisation for local authorities, Kommunernes Landsforening (KL), confirmed to DR.

A spokesperson for trade union FOA, which represents many social care sector personnel, told DR she was disappointed by the debate.

“We’re talking here about staff who are professionally educated to provide professional assistance in people’s homes, headscarf or not,” FOA chairperson Mona Striib said.

The joint conservative briefing revolved around a theme of boosting “individual choice”.

In addition to discussing elderly care, the party leaders presented policies including free choice of upper secondary school (gymnasium) for young people; and expanding options for private care for fertility treatment and childbirth through increased state payment in these areas.

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Far-right Danish party to get new leader next month

Member of Parliament Lars Boje Mathiesen looks set to become leader of the far-right Nye Borgerlige (New Right) party in an uncontested leadership contest.

Far-right Danish party to get new leader next month

The deadline to register as a candidate in the party’s leadership contest expired on Tuesday prior to an extraordinary general meeting on February 7th.

The contest was triggered after party co-founder Pernille Vermund announced earlier in January her intention to step down as leader and eventually quit politics.

Mathiesen was the only member of the party to enter the leadership contest, Nye Borgerlige confirmed on Wednesday.

He is expected to officially replace Vermund as party leader at an extraordinary general meeting in the town of Fredericia next month.

A new deputy leader of the party must be elected at the same event after incumbent Peter Seier Christensen, like Vermund, decided to step down.

Christensen and Vermund co-founded the party, which runs on a libertarian and anti-immigration platform, in 2015.

In contrast to the leadership, there will be a contest to decide who will be the party’s new deputy leader.

Six candidates are running to replace Christensen. The only member of parliament to have put their name forward, Kim Edberg Andersen, has already withdrawn from the contest. Four of the remaining candidates are municipal councillors.

The leadership change reflects ongoing turbulence in the far-right party, which has seen its number of MPs drop from six to four since the general election in November after two of its lawmakers quit the party.

Mikkel Bjørn, the leader of parliament’s citizenship committee, this week defected from Nye Borgerlige to the national conservative Danish People’s Party, citing differences with Mathiesen.

READ ALSO: Leader of far-right Danish party to step down and quit politics