Islam & Democracy


Fall in Denmark seemed darker than usual this year, even before the Scandinavian autumn fully gave up its light. In September, street riots broke out between motorcycle and immigrant gangs. On September 14, bullets struck two nonethnic Danes in the Nørrebro quarter of Copenhagen. Within minutes, a battle developed with more than fifty people summoned to the scene by text message. The next day, two moped riders fired three shots at a Hell’s Angels shop.

When the media reported the events, nonethnic Danes were invariably described as Indvandrer. But this Danish word does not conventionally refer to Canadian, American, Dutch, or other white immigrants. It is code for Muslim.

The recent gang wars suggest that Denmark might be on the edge of an ethnic race war. “Absolutely not,” says Adel Sadek, a board member of Democratic Muslims, a group of self-described moderate Danish Muslims. “This street violence is among criminals. They’ve been around for a long time, and this is just another turf war. It has nothing to do with religion.”

It was three years ago that Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s largest daily newspaper, published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that resulted in Denmark’s most serious foreign-policy crisis since World War II. By the following March, 139 people had died in riots around the world and Danes were routinely described in Muslim...

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About the Author

Nancy Graham Holm, who lives in Denmark, is writing a book about Islamic feminism.