New integration minister Sareen causes early stir

S mayors worried about Manu Sareen’s stand on integration

With his background as a social worker and his previous comments on integration, it may not have come as a big surprise that Manu Sareen (R) was picked as the new integration minister as part of the latest government shake-up. But the Indian-born politician has already proven to be a controversial choice.

He is not only meeting criticism from opposition parties Venstre and Dansk Folkeparti. Various Socialdemokraterne mayors are concerned about the direction of Sareen's policy. 

Open to pork ban
Sareen had just taken over his new ministry when he made his first controversial remark by wading into last year's 'meatball wars'. He told Politiken newspaper that it should be up to every council, daycare institution and hospital to decide whether to ban pork for the sake of the Muslim minority.

This statement stands in direct contrast to the opinion of Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (S), who is against institutions dropping traditional Danish pork dishes like frikadeller (meatballs) in deference to Muslim children.

Policy of Radikale should be dead
The S mayor of Ishøj, Ole Bjørstop, said that his party disagrees with Sareen on basic issues within integration. He said he will be following Sareen's moves closely.

“The government policy, which is quite tight, needs to be followed,” Bjørstop said.

In Herlev, Mayor Thomas Gyldal (S) also called on Sareen to put the policies of Radikale aside and concentrate on the government line.

“Much has happened in Danish integration policy since the time when Radikale had a crucial influence in the area," he told DR Nyheder. "They have now accepted a more realistic approach and the expectation therefore is that the old policy of Radikale is dead." 

Against family-reunion law
To what extent Sareen will follow the government approach is yet to be seen. Previously though, he has not been shy in going against the opinions of Socialdemokraterne. Sareen has been a vocal critic of the government’s controversial '24-year-rule', which prevents marriage in family reunification cases if one of the parties is under the age of 24.

He also created a stir by supporting the decision of a housing committee dominated by Muslims to not have a Christmas tree in 2012. 

In his previous position as church minister, Sareen also carried out decisions that many in the church community did not approve of. 

The new minister was open about the challenges lying ahead of him but he did not offer any explicit policy proposals.

“The most important thing for me is to solve these challenges. And they obviously exist in many areas,” he said to DR Nyheder. 

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