‘What is Danish?’ asks comedian Ellie Jokar. Born in Iran, now a Dane, Ellie struggles to understand why her once friendly country has pulled up the welcome mat. Hamish Macdonald explores a nation with an identity crisis.
It’s one of the most open and equal countries in the world. Denmark has long had a reputation for welcoming migrants and protecting its minorities. But these days there are fractures in this once cohesive society. Its mood of tolerance has shifted and now migrants feel on the outer.
‘When do you feel Danish? What is Danish?’, asks actress and comedian Ellie Jokar, who arrived in Denmark from Iran with her family when she was four. Now she feels she lives in a no man’s land.
“I define myself as a grey zone kid because people like me are not accepted the Danes and not accepted the Muslims.”
In recent years, the government has passed a hundred laws which place strict controls on immigrants: they’ve frozen the intake of refugees, banned the burqa in public and made it mandatory for children of migrants to attend Danish cultural training from the age of one.
The laws are some of the most draconian in Europe and have the backing of both sides of politics. Some areas with large immigrant populations have been designated as ‘ghettos’, where you get double the punishment for a crime.
Foreign Correspondent reporter Hamish Macdonald travels through Denmark in midsummer and takes the temperature of a country in the middle of an identity crisis.
He meets a far-right politician whose provocative stunts include throwing around the Koran and who often needs a police entourage when he appears in public. He wants all Muslims deported.
Hamish visits a young Muslim woman who’s been driven indoors the burqa ban, and he has lunch with the local councillor who’s making pork compulsory on the menu at restaurants and schools in his area.
“If you want to be integrated and accepted, they must also accept the way we live”, he says.
Hamish also takes a ride in Ellie’s pink taxi – made famous in her hit YouTube show – where she interviews Danes from all sides of the political fence, using humour to navigate and explore the cultural divide.
“I meet people that are different than me…and I try to get to the bottom of, how did they become extreme Muslims? Extremist right wing?”, she says. But Ellie is increasingly worried about the growing divisions in her country and longs for strong leaders who can build bridges.
‘So the Danes are over here. The Muslims are over here and…they don’t really know how to communicate’.
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About Foreign Correspondent:
Foreign Correspondent is the prime-time international public affairs program on Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC-TV. We produce half-hour duration in-depth reports for broadcast across the ABC’s television channels and digital platforms. Since 1992, our teams have journeyed to more than 170 countries to report on war, natural calamity and social and political upheaval – through the eyes of the people at the heart of it all.
Originally published at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9A1LtmxkAYk
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