COPENHAGEN: A majority of Danes fear Islam is an obstacle for social cohesion, despite one in two believing that immigration is positive for Danish society, according to a study published Tuesday.
In a survey by the Ramboell institute, some 54.9 percent believe that Islam hinders social harmony, while 39.9 percent disagree and 5.2 percent did not comment.
Yet 49.7 percent of respondents believe that immigration since the 1960s — and the integration of immigrants, refugees and their offspring — have been generally positive for Danish society. Some 42.4 percent believe immigrants have been negative for society and 5.9 percent abstained from comment.
"People find it difficult to discern between culture and religion and see honor crimes, forced marriages as a part of Islam," Imran Shah, spokesman for the Danish Islamic community told the conservative Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which published the results of the survey.
He said this attitude means Islam is therefore seen as a problem for Denmark’s liberal society.
The results of the study, which interviewed 970 people from August 9-12, were published in Jyllands-Posten as part of a long series on immigration.
Notably, it exposes that people aged 26 and over are more skeptical of Islam, compared to those aged between 18-25.
The ruling conservative-liberal coalition, which came into power in November 2001, backed by the extreme right Danish People’s Party, has built a restrictive immigration policy to limit the influx of refugees and immigrants.
According to the survey, 42 percent of Danes are satisfied with this policy, while 29.2 percent deemed it too rigid and 21.4 percent said it is too flexible.
The small Scandinavian nation provoked the ire of the Muslim world in September 2005 when Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons parodying the prophet Mohammed, and exposing the apprehension of Danes toward Islam.
As of July nearly 334,000 people or six percent of Denmark’s population were foreign and of this, 180,706 came from non-western countries, according to the National Institute of Statistics.
With some 200,000 followers, Islam is the second largest religion in Denmark after the Evangelical Lutheran church.