I recently came across a article by Copenhagen Expats Facebook group.that was posted to the
Published less than a week after the terrorist murders in Copenhagen, the article titled “These People Should Just Leave Denmark” takes a swipe at the supposed hypocrisy of Danes (and their media) at time when one would expect the expatriate and immigrant communities to shows their support for their host nation.
I found the piece irritating at several levels. The unfair aspersions cast on Danes and Denmark, the schmaltzy PC claptrap , the logical fallacies, the hypocrisy decrying bigotry with bigotry and the raw snideness of a kicking his host country at a time when it is recovering from a terror attack.
As a fellow immigrant I want to respond .
(who is Icelandic) starts off by painting a portrait of “a cultural diaspora”, later revealed to be Icelanders in Denmark. He lists typical immigrant and expatriate behaviours the world over: People migrate because the new host country is often a better place to live. Some cynically take advantage of state benefits. People seek out their own kind (a human given), which includes passing their cultural heritage, language and traditions on to their children. Some fail, or refuse, to adapt and integrate. Some are criminals who embarrass their people when they commit crimes in their new host country. His point? This group is guilty of all the stereotypical things we hear about immigrants, but he does not read about their wrongdoings in the Danish media.
This is the point where Elias leaves camp reality and suffers oxygen starvation in the thin air of the moral high ground.
Now I’m certain most of you thought I was talking about Muslims, Eastern Europeans or other groups often discussed in the media as “undesirables” for committing crimes and assaulting people in the streets. You know, people with radically different cultures and ideas about the world. The others.
But after almost seven years in Denmark, I know of only one person to be brutally assaulted in the streets of Copenhagen. The perpetrator was Icelandic. The incident didn’t incite an eruption of vile hatred and calls for the construction of an Atlantic Wall to keep these dangerous foreign elements out. To the best of my knowledge there are no Facebook groups called “Stop the Icelandisation of Denmark”, or “Fuck your dried fish, I want flæskesvær.”
Hardly. Rather, me and my fellow Icelanders with our blonde hair and blue eyes manage to blend in pretty well. When someone from this group commits a horrible crime, it’s excused as merely a bad apple, rather than proof that these uncivilised barbarians streaming in from the north have no place in the country.
This is so convoluted and full of exaggeration that it is is actually hard to unpick what, exactly, Elias is trying to say. It is something like this:
You, dear reader, have a predictable bias. You will associate these negative immigrant behaviours (like benefit cheating and violent crime) not with blonde Icelanders, but only with “the others”, groups who are portrayed as “undesirables” and are targeted for an “eruption of vile hatred” when one of them commits wrongdoings e.g. Muslims and Eastern Europeans.
The implication here is that Icelanders are at least as bad as these other groups, both in terms of criminality and failure to integrate, but racist Danes excuse Icelanders whilst unfairly targeting other immigrants with vile hatred.
Is this true? Are Icelanders as criminal as other groups? Is the Danish media biased in their treatment of Muslims and Eastern Europeans? What evidence does Elias provide to support these serious claims?
He gives us a personal anecdote. The only person Elias knows who was beaten up on the streets of Copenhagen was…you guessed it….beaten up by an Icelander! This is obviously an example of the biased sample fallacy. The people Elias knows are not an accurate reflection Danish society nor is a single incident a big enough sample of street crime to infer that the Danish press and its readership are biased against non-Nordic immigrants. So this far his claims are completely unsupported.
So what are the facts? Are the Danish media showing a bias by reporting more on Muslim and Eastern European criminals instead of Icelanders?
No. The fact is that immigrants as a whole are heavily overrepresented in the Danish crime statistics. Some immigrant communities, however, are on average 2.5x more criminal than Danes (who are slightly under-represented). Some immigrant groups – mostly EU, US and east Asian – are under-represented. Icelanders are so low on this index that they are not even on the list.
According to a 2014 Danish government report on immigrants in Denmark [PDF], of the top 10 most criminal nationalities in Denmark, 8 are majority Muslim countries, one is south Eastern European, and one is south Asian. High rates of criminality amongst Muslim immigrants has been a topic of discussion and concern in Denmark since at least 2009 1
Here is the Criminal Index for the top 10 immigrant communities (100 being average). These are adjusted for age and socio-economic factors.
Former Yugoslavia 192
With only 18,000 Icelanders in Denmark and 270,000 Muslims, one would expect Muslims to be in the news significantly more than Icelanders, even if they were equally as criminal (which they are not). Given the crime statistics and the fact that Icelanders are legendary for their low criminality it is fully expected that they are hardly mentioned. Elias’ core claim about Icelandic exceptionalism is rubbish.
So there is no real evidence in his article that the Danish media unfairly portrays immigrants. The raw facts of the crime statistics shows that Danes are absolutely right to be concerned about immigrant crime (and yes, I am an immigrant). It is a matter of national concern and it is in the public interest for the media to report on it and for us all to debate the problem. Danes and non-Danes alike need to be able to discuss how, as a society, we handle newcomers who are not meeting our standards, breaking our laws and or otherwise causing problems. We need an open discussion on what the right is to immigrants who are not integrating, or threatening us or opposed to national values of democracy and free speech. This is not about defeating or harming or hating picking on them, but rather about figuring out how to live together peacefully in a pluralistic society.
Elias finishes of with a command: If you are going to “hate”, then hate everyone.
“So, all I ask is that if you are going to hate groups for being terrible citizens, for not conforming to society, for not blending in or swearing allegiance to Dannebrog and Dronningen, then be even handed – hate everyone equally.”
This implies that the Danes hate and yet they don’t. I think you will find your average Dane is extremely tolerant of immigrants, and would never dream of hating an entire group no matter how criminal or anti-social they are. Yes there are bigots, but in the scheme of things the Nordics are amongst the least racist and most tolerant places on earth.
I am sure there will be plenty who will probably be angry with Elias for taking an unfair dig at Denmark, especially at a time of national mourning for the murder of innocent people. I think he was trying to make some fair points: avoid stereotypes, remember the media accentuates the negative, don’t be hypocrite – but I think he let his own “ingrained historic suspicion towards Denmark and the Danes” ruin his article.
Postscript: The title is a play on “The Irish Question”. In a follow-up post I will discuss what the Irish immigrants in Britain and America in the 19th century can teach us about how to handle immigration in Europe today.