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August 27, 2015

European Governments Should Protect Vulnerable Minorities

By Christina Miliou

Refugees are pouring into Europe at historic records, many fleeing conflict in the Middle East. But their struggles don’t end when they reach Europe; besides the difficult quest for asylum status, many refugees face threats, discrimination, and violence. European governments should enact policies to protect them.

Denmark, like other European countries, is seeing an increase of violence perpetrated by a determined minority that feels threatened by the new arrivals, especially Muslims. A violent minority has attacked Muslims and vandalized Muslim buildings and institutions with the intention of making them feel unsafe and unwelcome.

One such episode took place on August 19 at the Islamic Center in Copenhagen. The attacker set fire to the center while at least 40 people were inside. Police quickly controlled the fire, and there were no reports of injuries. A suspect has been committed to a psychiatric hospital and is under court order to be held there until he is mentally stable enough to be tried.

Unfortunately, animus toward Muslim immigrants is widespread. A 2015 survey found that half of Danes wish to cap the number of Muslim Danish residents.

But some are taking a stand against discriminatory and xenophobic attacks against Muslims and other vulnerable minorities. On August 23, more than 1,500 citizens held a peaceful demonstration to show solidarity with their neighbors. They came together to hold hands and encircle the Mosque, which adjoins the building targeted in the attack. This demonstration was organized by Niddal El-Jabri, a young activist and community leader focused on combating discrimination and xenophobia.

Niddal organized a similar demonstration in March, where citizens formed a chain of solidarity around a synagogue in Copenhagen where a deadly antisemitic attack had recently taken place. Niddal brings people of diverse backgrounds together to oppose bigotry and discrimination.

By showing solidarity in such a peaceful and organized manner, these Danes are demonstrating acceptance for cultural diversity and religious freedom in a powerful and effective way. They are also sending a message to their government, urging it to protect vulnerable minorities.