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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

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REFERENDUMS

Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

A new poll indicates a majority of Danes is in favour of scrapping the country’s EU defence opt-out in an upcoming referendum.

Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

The poll, conducted by Epinion on behalf of broadcaster DR, shows 38 percent of voters in favour of revoking the opt-out, compared with 27 percent who want to retain it.

28 percent said they do not know how they will vote, meaning there is still plenty of potential for both a “yes” and “no” outcome in the June 1st vote.

An earlier poll, conducted in March, put the two sides closer, with 38 percent of eligible voters then saying they would vote ‘yes’ to scrapping the opt-out, with 31 percent saying they would vote ‘no’ and 31 percent saying they didn’t know.

The government announced in March a June 1st referendum in which citizens will decide whether to overturn Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy. The referendum was called following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Denmark’s opt-out – retsforbehold in Danish – is one of four EU special arrangements negotiated by the Scandinavian country, and has seen it abstain from participation in EU military operations and from providing support or supplies to EU-led defence efforts.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark have four EU ‘opt-outs’ and what do they mean?

In April, the wording of the question on voting ballots for the referendum was changed, following objections from politicians opposed to scrapping the opt-out.

According to a breakdown of the new poll, younger voters and women are the most undecided groups. 20 percent of men said they were unsure how to vote compared to 38 percent of women.

Among 18-34 year-olds, 39 percent were unsure how they would vote compared to 22 percent of voters over the age of 56 who have yet to decide how to cast their votes.

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