Inger Stoejberg received backlash after suggesting Muslims spend the month of Ramadan away from work. Experts and businesses fired back that there was no evidence of fasting affecting work safety.
Denmark’s Immigration and Integration Minister Inger Stoejberg has stirred controversy after claiming late on Monday that the celebration of Ramadan was incompatible with the modern labor market.
The minister, who has a reputation for hardline immigration policies, wrote a blog post for the Danish tabloid BT that the month-long Muslim celebration, which includes fasting during daylight hours, was “dangerous for us all.”
In her post, Stoejberg:
Questioned the idea of “commanding observance to a 1,400-year-old pillar of Islam.”
Suggested that, if Muslims were going to fast, they should take a month off from work “to avoid negative consequences for the rest of Danish society.”
Singled out bus drivers and hospital workers as specific examples of who could be negatively affected by fasting.
Reaction in Denmark
Many experts came to the defense of Ramadan, saying there was no evidence there had ever been any workplace hazards because of fasting. The head of a Danish bus company told BT they had never had any accidents or complaints related to fasting.
Denmark’s Muslim Union posted on social media that Muslims were capable of looking after themselves and society “even when we fast.”
Government spokeswoman Keren Ellmann said on Tuesday that while Stoejberg’s comments do not reflect the opinion of the ruling coalition, she “had the right to start this debate.”
A member of the conservative Liberal Party, which has ruled a minority government since 2015, Stoejberg has become known for her nationalistic rhetoric. In March 2017, she said that ordinary Danes should report their local pizzeria employeesfor illegal labor if they were “not speaking Danish at all.”
Legislative action: Stoejberg has overseen dozens of statutes tightening immigration laws under her tenure, such as requirements for learning Danish, tougher citizenship tests and financial independence. Stoejberg has limited the amount of social services available to asylum seekers and promoted a lawthat obligates refugees to give up their valuables – prompting many comparisons to Nazi Germany.
Courting controversy: Last year, she was criticized for posting a picture of herself besides a cake bearing the Danish flag and the number 50 after passing the 50th new immigration law of her tenure. She caused another social media uproar in September after she re-published a 2005 caricature of the Prophet Muhammad that originally appeared in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which caused an international outcry amidst claims of racism