The decision by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Lib) to set up a commission to study his Conservative minority coalition partner’s proposal to introduce a ban on the Muslim burka and niqab, has caused dismay within his own Liberal Party.
“More than50,000 people have lost their jobs in the past six months and we may be seeing a further 100,000 in the next nine months. We have an economic crisis that has to be handled, we have a climate conference, we have people who cannot be treated due to waiting lists, we have children with psychological problems who can’t be treated, we have a gang war in which people are shooting at each other – an officer was shot last night - and people are wasting time talking about burkas. It’s out of all proportion,” says former Liberal integration spokesman and current Environment Spokesman Eyvind Vesselbo.
Another senior Liberal politician, Former Home Affairs and Agriculture Minister Britta Schall Holberg, says ‘we’ve reached rock bottom’.
“While hundreds of people are losing their jobs. While many farmers and other companies are at their knees and battling each day to survive. While young people are unable to get traineeships and too few get an education. While the government is gearing up for a budget that for the first time shows a deficit – almost of the size that toppled Anker Jørgensen’s (Soc. Dem.) government in 1982, the government sets up a burka commission,” Schall Holberg says in an e-mail to Ritzau.
At the same time, what was billed as Conservative parliamentary group unity on the ban issue was broken today when the party’s Ecclesiastical and Education Spokeswoman Charlotte Dyremose turned her back on the proposal, which appears to have been fostered by the party’s newcomer and newly-appointed Integration Spokesman Naser Khader.
Dyremose tells Berlingske Tidende that she fears that a burka ban will do more harm than good for the relatively small number of women who wear the burka or niqab, adding that some of the most important Danish rights are those of the freedom of religion and speech.
Conservative Parliamentary Group Chairwoman Henriette Kjær, says she is surprised at Dyremose’s statement.
“I don’t understand it. After a longer debate during our group meeting (last) Friday I concluded as Group Chair that as a group we supported a ban on the burka. And no-one objected. Hers is a strange attitude. But she’ll have to take it alone,” Kjær tells Berlingske Tidende.
Dyremose says she made her views clear to the party leadership prior to its announcement of the ban proposal.
Edited by Julian Isherwood