“Stranger in Copenhagen” – The Friday Times

By Amineh Hoti

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Denmark, proclaimed the “happiest country in the world”, is known for its social mobility, transparency and progress, with the highest ranking in the world despite its population of a little more than 5 million people. Its capital Copenhagen aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. Its true acclaims lie in being a city where you can borrow books from the library free for a month; where the Queen is like an ordinary person and goes about the city on a cycle; where there is very little “VIP culture”, and schools and hospitals are free. There is a lot to learn here as Pakistanis, but as anthropologists not tourists. Digging deeper under the skin, we have found that there is also another story – that of immigrants’, mainly Pakistani, to Denmark.

Recently, Denmark became known in the world, especially to Muslims, for its cartoon controversy – negative cartoons of the Prophet (PBUH) were published widely, causing protest and fury. Denmark has a widely cited code of behaviour called “Jaunteloven” which sits uneasily with the immigrants’ own needs and identity. Its law No 9 states, “You’re not to think anyone cares about you”- this cultural law has implications for both the Christian majority and the Muslim minorities as both religions emphasize love and care for the other. The stories of Muslims in Denmark (who are at the heart of controversy in its media and popular imagination) is worth exploring in order to find paths to peace in the world.

It is this that brought the “Journey into Europe” team led by my father, Professor Akbar S Ahmed to travel here from different parts of the world. Similar to our previous excursions last summer to the UK, Spain, Germany, Bosnia and Greece to look at minorities, especially Muslims, in Europe and to explore how we can build bridges between different communities and give voice to so many different people who are otherwise not heard. Professor Ahmed flew from DC with his trusted and well-travelled team: Zeenat Ahmed, Frankie Martin and Harrison Akins. I left my home in Pakistan at 2am through the dark and cold path that the bus took to the airport. I deeply feel the pain of what my fellow-people are going through, with all the unease and turmoil they face on a day-to-day basis, and as we flew off from South Asia, I prayed for peace and deeper understanding in the region and in our world…

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