Salaam and Goddag: Denmark for Muslims


There’s a new mosque opening down the street from me this spring, a big one. It will be the first mosque with minarets in Denmark, although the minarets are legally prohibited from calling to prayer.

The people behind the mosque are doing everything they can to blend in with the local neighborhood – they even went to observe at a local church service a couple of Sundays ago. They were probably the only ones there.

There are a lot of Muslims in Denmark, about 250,000 out of a Danish population of 5-and-a-half million, most of who have arrived here in the past 40 years, or their descendants.

And contrary to what the Danish right-wing parties might say, they’ve brought a a lot of good things to Denmark, and not just Shwarma shops.

The corner kiosk
Just the fact that corner kiosks exist was a Muslim innovation in Denmark. When I first visited Denmark in 1984, all the shops closed at 5:30 on weekdays and 2pm on Saturdays, and they were closed all day Sunday. If you ran out of milk on a Sunday, you had to borrow from a neighbor or just drink beer until Monday morning. The kiosks run by Muslim immigrants changed all that.

These days, Muslim women in particular have a lot to offer a lot to Danish culture. If you go into any pharmacy in Denmark, you will probably find at least one female pharmacist wearing a headscarf.

I had a similar experience when I did a tour of the Rigshospitalet, Denmark’s largest and most prestigious hospital, where all the royal babies are born. In the bloodwork division, where they test blood, almost all the workers were Muslim women wearing headscarves.

These jobs are a way for devout Muslim women to enter the medical field without having to touch men, or see men unclothed. I thought that was great.

As a matter of fact, the statistics show girls from second generation and third generation immigrant backgrounds in Denmark now attain higher educational credentials than ethnic Danes. Now, all those girls are not Muslims, but a lot of them are.

Muslims ask if this is a good place to live
At How To Live in Denmark.com, I get a fair amount of email from Muslims who have write to me, asking if Denmark is a good place for them to live.

It is a good place. All the things that are good about Denmark for other people – that it’s a peaceful country, a safe country, a country where you can earn a good living and still have time for your family – are also good for Muslims.

I also tell the people who write to me that, in a multicultural world, it’s fair enough to ask the Danes to adapt to and accept different ways of living, but you have to adapt and accept, too.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Wied March 17, 2014 at 9:30 am


    “As a matter of fact, the statistics show girls from second generation and third generation immigrant backgrounds in Denmark now attain higher educational credentials than ethnic Danes. Now, all those girls are not Muslims, but a lot of them are.”

    They attend education in high numbers, but they dont finish them. Muslims are as unpopular in Denmark as large surveys have shown in france, England and Germany, unfortunately.

    • Avatar
      Reply Kay Xander Mellish March 18, 2014 at 9:52 am

      Hi Wied. I’m not sure where you’re getting your stats from re: attending education but not finishing it. Here’s the latest report from Danmark Statistik, the official government statistical organ. It notes that 35% of non Western immigrant women or immigrant descendants do not finish their bachelors degree, which suggests that 65% of them do. The dropout total is slightly higher than that of women of ethnic Danish origin, which is about 28%, but not shockingly higher. Furthermore, the report states that “Frafaldet for kvindelige efterkommere, der i perioden 2005-2008 startede på en mellemlang eller lang videregående uddannelse, er på samme niveau som kvinder med dansk oprindelse.”

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