Islamophobia widespread

A new book about the nation's attitude towards Muslims reveals a general feeling of distrust

Danes believe that Muslims pose a threat to democracy, argues Professor Jens Frølund Thomsen in his new book about immigrants from Islamic countries.

Thomsen conducted a study for the book which was based on a questionnaire, asking Danes their attitudes and opinions about ethnic minorities.

'There is a near hostility from many people toward immigrants and refugees who practice Islam,' said Thomsen to daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. 'Forty percent believe that Islam is a threat to our democracy.'

The questionnaire was distributed to 1500 people in 2002 and shows, according to Thomsen, a common attitude based on cultural differences and prejudices. It also shows that the issue has become a political dividing-line between the right and left wings.

'There is an opinion gap and it's stable. I've compared my study results with the 2005 election polls and it shows the attitudes haven't changed,' he said.

Views about religion in general are also to blame for the distrust, Thomsen said. Danes generally believe that religion is an individual, private matter, while Muslims make religion a part of their everyday life.

Another of the book's messages is that personal and direct contact between Danes and immigrants creates goodwill.

'Many people invent images of Muslims and consider them as one large group where all think alike,' says Thomsen. 'But Islam is a very multifaceted religion.'

Thomsen believes that the Danish community has to accept that Islam is now a part of it, and that politicians must work to that end.

'The immigrant issue has been the most important for several years and will continue to be for a long time yet,' stated Thomsen. 'It is a researcher's duty ... to point out problems and then others can determine what can be done about them.'

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