The ‘assimilation’ minister speaks out

Denmark should be proud of its cultural values and principles, and should expect those wishing to become Danish to adopt them, writes the immigration minister

In articles published earlier this week, the new immigration minister, Søren Pind, stood by his belief that foreigners in Denmark should assimilate rather than integrate, despite widespread condemnation.

The scandal stems from an opinion voiced in Jyllands-Posten newspaper in February 2008 about the influence of integration on Danish culture.

“Unfortunately integration has become an expression for the relativisation of the relationship, where both parties must bow. The Danish culture surrenders,” he said in 2008.

“If they are persecuted in their homeland and if they want to contribute actively, people are whole-heartedly welcome. But only on the condition that they recognise that it is Denmark that they have come to – that until they are citizens they are guests. To contribute actively means to work with the Danish culture. “Assimilation must be the word.”

Pind’s views are not widely shared, however, particularly by the left-wing. Nick Haekkerup, a Social Democrat MP, commented that: “Assimilation is basically a totalitarian idea: There is only one way to live life. And this is determined by a small elite with the right opinions.”

The media have also been less than sympathetic. Ekstra Bladet editor Poul Madsen offered: “Assimilation strikes me as being a coercive measure. The word brings back memories of a not so distant past. Of course a comparison with Hitler’s Germany is unreasonable. But is it reasonable to want to force people to give up everything to become 100 percent Danish?”

Information’s George Metz chimed in too, stating that: “In rejecting the concept of integration in favour of assimilation, Pind has moved the government towards the People’s Party and revered ethnically exclusive regimes.”

But Pind, writing in Berlingske newspaper on Monday, defended his use of the term and accused the left-wing of self-hatred.

“What do I mean by the word? I believe that we include into our society those who want to be a part of the Danish community in Denmark. And there is a natural expectation that people who want to be a part of the community agree with this. We must seek an ‘us’ instead of us having, as we do now, an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.

“They key point in all of this is: what about Denmark? Have we become so modern, progressive and multicultural that Denmark means nothing any more? Do we not care that in fact we have succeeded in creating a country where there is a place for diversity, equality for women, freedom of expression and community that make us the happiest people in the world?”

The article comes shortly after another piece published on Saturday night for the same paper, in which he wrote: “If people do not become Danish when they establish themselves in Denmark, what else should they be?”

He added: “Danish culture exists. And there are certain parts of it that should be permanent. Freedom of expression. Equality. Democracy. Personal freedom. Acceptance of diversity. Freedom of religion and the separation of religion and politics.”

Despite repeated requests, Immigration Minister Søren Pind has refused to speak with The Copenhagen Post to introduce himself and explain his views about immigration, integration and assimilation.