Yes, I ought to do a serious post about the latest head-scarf case. The short version: It all began when the Court Administration, a semi-autonomous agency under the Justice Ministry, for whatever reason decided to discuss if a female judge1 wearing a head-scarf would breach the neutral appearance of courts. The Administrations typically judicial take was that present legislation did not allow a ban on judges wearing head-scarves or other religious symbols.
This, of cause, was water on the Danish People’s Party’s mill: The party put its propaganda machine into full overdrive with a poster campaign raising the image of Burqa-dressed judges bringing
evil sharia on decent unsuspecting Danes.
Not that there was a real issue – nobody has complained about the appearance of judges in recent years and to the best of my knowledge no judge has wanted to chair a court wearing a head-scarf, a turban or the like.
Anyway, the Liberals and Conservatives decided to follow the flow, if only because the Social Democrats flip-flopped and managed to present something like three different positions in two days. Anything related to immigration and integration policy still creates huge problems for the Social Democrats.
Then the integration minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech – frequently criticised by journalists for being invisible in the public debate – published an essay in yesterday’s Politiken which didn’t really take sides in the argument. On the other hand, the essay didn’t recommend changes in Danish legislation to ban religious symbols in courts and in this way it could be seen as breaching the government line. The publication, apparently, wasn’t cleared with the prime minister’s office.
The latest round included the Liberals’ hatchet men Inger Støjberg and Søren Pind as well as the justice minister calling for a total ban of head-scarves – which in practice equalled a public humiliation of the integration minister and according to the inside dope a private blasting of her. Birthe Rønn Hornbech was a surprise as integration minister in November and the question is how long she will be able to stay on the post. And of cause the Danish People’s Party is raising the odds and calling for a complete ban on head-scarves for all public sector employees as well as happily accepting the description anti-Muslim.2 Not that that is a surprise in any way.
The real issues here? Well, beside noting the interesting question of integration policy as inclusion or exclusion and the relationship between state and religious symbols and that the officials at the Court Administration lack anything remotely reminiscent of political fingerspitzengefühl, the Danish People’s Party and the Liberals have a big interest in making this a major issue as immigration and integration policy issues – as mentioned above – hurt the Social Democrats.
And in case you ever doubted that the Danish People’s Party’s ultimate goal is to bring Denmark back to the 1950s – or rather the kind of idealised 1950s you will see in popular films – look no further than this.
Update: I had hardly put this post on the net before Karen Jespersen,
left socialist social democrat liberal welfare minister and one half of the feared Jespersen-Pittelkow pack published an essay blasting head-scarves in Berlingske Tidende, while the president of the first-instance court on Frederiksberg wrote a piece accusing Pia Kjærsgaard and the Danish People’s Party for lying and misrepresenting the courts’ position. Enjoy.