Is Denmark Really Xenophobic?

Let me be honest. I have no doubt in my mind that Denmark these days is one of the most xenophobic countries in western Europe; one of the worst xenophobic parties in the western world, Danish People’s Party (which I’ve talked about before) is the third largest party in Denmark; the Danish government has cut down on immigration; Denmark is currently involved in a major political and diplomatic crisis because of satirical cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, etc., etc. (however, this situation is of course not directly related to the fact that xenophobia appears to be widespread in Denmark as well as in other European countries and the Danish population is not in any way responsible for this foolish publication of some cartoons – more comments about this below).

But can the relative xenophobia in the European countries be measured?

If there is one place where you – in principle – always can find the answer, its Google. So, I tried to search for the word “xenophobia” together with the name of certain countries. Here is how many hits Google returned:

1. 569.000 for xenophobia And france (60,7 million)
2. 558.000 for xenophobia And germany (82,4 million)
3. 352.000 for xenophobia And italy (58,1 million)
4. 341.000 for xenophobia And england (60,4)
5. 242.000 for xenophobia And austria (8,2 million)
6. 228.000 for xenophobia And sweden (9,0 million)
7. 206.000 for xenophobia And belgium (10,4 million)
8. 198.000 for xenophobia And portugal (10,6 million)
9. 180.000 for xenophobia And norway (4,6 million)
10. 169.000 for xenophobia And denmark (5,4 million)

The number in the parentheses is the population of the country in question. Maybe not so surprisingly, France and Germany top the list with Norway and Denmark taking last places, which actually surprised me. We all know about the problems with attitudes towards foreigners in France and Germany (and we should not forget the riots in the suburbs of Paris last month).

What if we look a relative index, which I more or less randomly define as the number of hits in thousands divided by the population in millions? Then we observe something completely different: Norway and Denmark top the list with Austria coming in at third place (which might not be too surprising for obvious historical reasons):

1. Norway 39.1
2. Denmark 31.3
3. Austria 29.5
4. Sweden 25.3
5. Belgium 19.8
6. Portugal 18.7
7. France 9.4
8. Germany 6.8
9. Italy 6.0
10. England 5.6

It is a strange historical fact that Norway also published the satirical drawings of Muhammad from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. To conclude, in my mind, Denmark is not only xenophobic but also relatively xenophobic…

However, I also want to make the following completely clear: Liberty of expression is fundamental to our society. And I resent fanaticism in any form.

Concerning the cartoons mentioned earlier (and which are not really directly related to the question of how xenophobic Denmark is), there is a large amount of stupidity on both sides (for example has Prophet Muhammad been depicted several times earlier in history, both in the Western and the Arab world, see here, and therefore the question can not just be about depicting Prophet Muhammad; my guess is that it is much more about frustration and internal political conflicts). The question is not about the Prime Minister acting against freedom of expression. And the question should not, I think, be about politics (I don’t like mixing up religion with politics even though that might be impossible in principle). The question is about respecting other peoples beliefs – even though maybe only 0.0001% of the people demonstrating against Denmark have actually seen those satirical drawings…

Update: The origins of xenophobia in Denmark are analyzed by a Danish historian at Random Platitudes (this is, by the way, an excellent blog).


28 Responses to Is Denmark Really Xenophobic?

  1. libertarian says:

    what has to do a satirical cartoon of Prophet Muhammad with xenophobia? Do you want to resucite the Inquisition?

    In Europe we have liberty of expression!!

  2. invcit says:

    The France and Germany scores are probably deflated due to the search being in English.

    • mike says:

      i cant understand why england/uk is so far down the list. there is more xenophobia in the UK than there is in Denmark. In fact France and UK should be tied in 1st position

  3. Kasper Olsen says:

    Certainly not! Liberty of expression is fundamental to our society. (Try reading my previous post). So, directly nothing. But indirectly, many things. You should know that Denmark is now almost “world-famous” for its treatment of foreigners (mostly Muslims), for its completely obnoxious media-coverage of problems with foreigners (again mostly Muslims), for its very strict immigration laws, for public statements by members of the Danish People’s Party – for example comparing Muslims to c*ncer cells etc etc…

    Best, Kasper

  4. Kasper Olsen says:

    @ Invcit: Sure, this is not – in any way – a scientific study. But MAYBE it reflects some trends in the GLOBAL discussion about xenophobia in different European countries…

    Best, Kasper

  5. D.D. says:

    Today I learned that muslim rebels in Iraq have issued a Fatwa against the Danish troops who are there as Denmark’s contribution to the Coalition. This shouldn’t really surprise anyone, as the issuing of Fatwas seems to be the standard answer to anything the muslims don’t like.

    In honour of this latest Fatwa I have taken it upon myself to issue a Fatwa of my own.

    I hereby decree that due to my blatantly apparent moral and ethical superiority to the Islamic extremists the following orders shall be carried out.

    All Danish companies shall hire muslims only to carry out the most demeaning and trivial of tasks, and only if such tasks are rewarded with a low salary.

    All Danish Universities and places of higher learning shall only accept one in a hundred muslims, and let even fewer graduate.

    The Danish Police and Danish Courts shall arrest and convict muslims in such a number as to make them disproportionately represented in the various crime statistics (Sometimes by a ratio so disproportionate that they will be more than 1000 times more likely to commit certain crimes than native Danes)

    The Danish Population shall treat muslims with contempt wherever they encounter them, leaving them to feel isolated both socially and economically.

    So let it be written, so let it be done. My every command shall be carried out.

    Wow, my Fatwa is already working….

    Xenophobia – Bite me! Nobody has the right to limit the freedom of expression granted by the Constitution, regardless of how much their precious feelings have been hurt. Grow up, dry your eyes and move on.

  6. Steve Stander says:

    I am not updated on the treatment by the Danish against Islam, but will be sure to read up on it further and return with informed finds. Nonetheless what are the historical reasons for this stance/anti-semitism (yes thats what it says – check the defoinition) from Denmark.

    Kasper I am not sure I understand what you mean by juxtiposing xenophobia and the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression surely accommodates the fact that one is entitled to express a xenophobic attitude. It is not so black and white.

  7. RP says:

    Interesting (if superficial) study of the popular view of the status of xenophobia in Europe. Worth remarking, of course, that this only reflects the views of the English-speaking, net-using population, and that it fails to take into account that not everybody who writes about the subject uses “high-falutin’ words” like “xenophobia”. All the same, an interesting read. For my view on the origins of the Danish xenophobic tendencies, see Origins of Xenophobia in Denmark at my blog.

  8. Kasper Olsen says:

    RP, sure it is superficial. It was more or less just thought as an experiment 😉 However, the result is not so much different from what I would have anticipated.

    And BTW: it was quite interesting to read your historical account of xenophobia in Denmark.

    Regards, Kasper

  9. Niels Bang says:

    I can’t agree this is a scientific analysis.
    Is Denmark really xenophobic?
    The author equate xenophobia with Islamic critical – it’s two different topics.
    If the author ever been travelling in Islamic countries, he would know, and if the author use his human sense, he also will recall, we have adopted many refugees and immigrants from different countries with Christian culture, but only had problems with integration in connection with Moslems.
    Just take a phonebook and look up surnames in the register, and see how many alien names can be found, that have their origin from countries all over the world.
    It’s a universal fact, that if we want settle in a new country, it might be because we find something in origin country we don’t like – why then bring it with us to a new country.
    Also it’s universal fact, that if we settle in a new country, it must be on the conditions that is valid in this country.
    It’s also universal fact – Moslem or Christian.

  10. Jes says:

    I think the british figures are hugely understated. I have been in alot of other parts of the EU and am quite taken aback by Britain’s xenophobia. Despite Denmark’s backlash from the cartoon issue, I found it still to be a very socially advanced country compared to britain. I labour the point of Britain because they always seem to push the poit of them being the most tolerant society in Europe to foreigners.

    • Noname says:

      I’ve been living and working in Denmark for several years now, and I’m from originally from the UK.

      Denmark is “more” xenophobic than Britain, and the fact that the Danish Peoples Party is the third biggest political party, with 25% of the votes, in Denmark proves it.

      What about the fact that the Dansih Government often relies on the Danish Peoples Party to get a majority when it comes to voting on parliamentary bills in the Danish parliament? As a consequence, the Danish Government, and Denmark, has a xenophobic immigration policy (similar to that of the Danish Peoples Party) in order to maintain the support of the Danish Peoples Party. There is a price for everything, you know.

      The equivalent party to the Danish Peoples Party is the British Nationals Party (BNP), and they are NOT the third biggest party in the Britain. According to, the BNP received 0.7% of the popular vote, the eighth largest share. Also, the British Government does not need to rely on the support of the BNP.

      An interesting point is that the BNP say exactly what they mean (they believe in a whites only Britain). So you know what you are voting for when you vote BNP or any other party that relies on the BNP.

      The Danish Peoples Party seem to be “hiding” what they “really” want (they want what the BNP want, but for Denmark); or is that the Danish people have difficulty in seeing it. It not that difficult, you know. What about the Danish Peoples Party’s candidate for EU parliament: Morten messerschmidt? Do we need to going into his singing of Nazi songs?

      Often the Dansih Peoples Party are compared to a bunch of Nazis. Does that then mean that any government that relies on a bunch Nazis, are a bunch Nazi sympathizers? What does that make the Governments supports? I’m just asking.

      Also, since significantly more people (and tourist) in the wolrd speak English rather than Danish, a tourist to Britain is more likey to get a “truer” picture of Britain than Denmark. This seems rational.

      There are nice people in both Denmark and Britain, and let’s hope that they increase in number, and that WE ALL refuse to let political parties like the Danish Peoples Party, or the British Nationals Party narrowly define what it means to Danish or British.

      Peace, love, and unity

  11. Jan K says:

    Danes can be subjected to xenophobia too when they leave their country:

    I guess that every country subjects foreigners to some degree of xenophobia. Denmark is not special.

  12. Hello says:

    I think that most rich countries are xenophobic. In this however, the USA would score as the less xenophobic. Countries that are very xenophobic are those that have very strict rules of immigration. If I may make a list from 1(the moste xenophobic) to 20 it would be 1. New-Zeeland, 2. Australia, 3. Canada, 4. Denmark, 5. Sweden, 6.Russia, 7.Germany, 8.The Netherlands, 9.France, 10.Italy, 11. Austria, 12 Luxembourg, 13. Lichtenstein, 14 Andorra, 15. Finland, 16. Norway, 17. Belgium, 18. Greenland, 19. Great Britain and although not rich 20. Bhutan.

    • Noname says:

      Nicely put 🙂

    • keithalva says:

      how do you figure usa is less xenophobia? the anti muslim thing pretty much started there and gave the dutch, danish, french, and most other europeans an excuse to hate muslims. on top of promoting hatred towards muslims, americans also have a deep hatred towards mexicans. they are regularly subjected to cruel behaviour in the usa. there is a jewish american comedian on youtube that films himself trying to hire mexican labourers and then dropping them off at the immigration dept as a joke. alot of americans find this to be funny. america is also home to the kkk and many other neo nazi groups. take a look at the racist websites, and you will find that most of them are webmastered by americans. not only is america xenophobic, but it tries very hard to convince others to be xenophobic as well. america constantly tries to label iran, afganistan, iraq, venezuela, sudan, north korea, china, and russia as threats. come to think of it, i dont know if america ever says anyone isnt a threat, other than dictators that they support such as pinochet, and suharto. in that respect, america takes the cake. you tried to make a corelation between immigration rules, and xenophobia, but that directly contradicts what you are saying. its much easier to immigrate to nz than britain. im not saying canada isnt xenophobic because it is, but canada is one of the easiest countries to migrate to. xenophobic australia is also easy, although not as easy as canada, and nz. why is britain on the bottom of your list? they just changed their immigration laws, creating all sorts of barriers for people to naturalise. sweden is also much easier to immigrate to than uk. china has very strict immigration laws, but if a european goes there, he’ll probably get treated better than the locals.

  13. Stella says:

    I have been living in Britain for nearly 20 years and am quite concerned by the level of open histility to immigrant, asylum seekers and just about any european person. There is little awareness of the fact that British people have settled abroad in large numbers. People in shops can be quite rude once they hear a foreign accent. Although in this country for 20 years, white and with virtually no foreign accent, I find myself incresingly threatened by hostile loooks or comments. In pubs, questions like: Have you come here at the back of a lorry? are not uncommon…And yes, it is very annoying to hear British people boasting of their supposed tolerant culture. Now it is more a question of being just about tolerated…

    • Noname says:

      Hey Stella,

      I’m a Brit living in Denmark. I posted last as “Noname on June 23, 2009”.

      Just to make sure you don’t get down about stuff I’d like to point out 2 things

      1)People who have not thought about their countries history tend to behave narcissisticly and ignorently

      2)People can be like crabs in a bucket. As soon as one crab gets the smart Idea to climb out, another crab pulls it back in.

      3)KEEP FOCUSED ON MAKING YOUR LIFE THEY WAY YOU WISH IT TO BE…this is said with refernce to point two above those noasty people are trying to hold you back as they don’t know how to improve their own lives positively so they try to take others down.


  14. […] Is Denmark Really Xenophobic? « Thoughts on science and life […]

  15. ion says:

    Denmark is the most racist country in europe. Keep this in mind, they aren’t racist against musli people. They are racist against anyone. Most of their jokes are based against nationality. They think that is funny, while in any other country that would be taken seriously. They “smile” in the first days and say everything is ok. But the more you know and learn about their society, the more you start to realize it’s racist.

  16. Joke says:

    Islam is not a race, any more than Scientology is a race. Criticism of Islam is not racism, any more than criticism of Scientology is racism.

  17. Riley says:

    It isn’t nice to generalize about a whole nation of people, but after living here for 10 years I have to agree that the Danes are a rather peculiar bunch. In mind it stems from the occupation of the Second World War and the humiliation suffered by the Danes when their sovereignty was violated by the Germans. In the years that followed, after it was restored, this gave rise to a stronger sense of nationalism that was later exploited by twits like Pia Kjaersgaard of the Danish National Party, and her cronies alike. Over the years little Pia has had a strong influence on Danish politics. Her piggy little eyes and xenophobic rantings have also struck a chord in mainstream Danish politics, resulting in a modern Danish society that is obsessed with protecting it’s puny ideologies. It’s true to say that basically, if you’re not a Dane, then most of them will try to look down their noses at you (God forbid you actually try talking Danish- don’t!). It’s part of the reason also that the Swedes hate them so much, probably. Being of British descent and naturally superior by birth, it doesn’t bother me, but it is funny looking at hoity toity idiots like Pia. It’s funny also to think that if you tried to explain to Pia (or most idiots that support the Danish National Party) the basic concept of continental drift and the movement of the Earth’s continents, and how little cozy Denmark with all its candles will one day disappear and evolutionary adjusted dark skinned people will occupy it- her head would just explode!

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  20. Appaloosa says:

    i’m danish…

    but i don’t think i’m xenophobic at all but…

    i WILL make jokes about: foreigners, dumb-asses, smart-asses, fucktarts, dimwits, jerks, racists, nazis, jews, muslims, christians, ordinary people, diabled people, my dog, my cat, my wife, my children, YOU and finally MYSELF.

    Why? Because i love laughing! Not because ‘it’ll hurt someones feelings’. Just because it’s the best thing i know!

    your “scientific” “research” stuff it!

    here’s a little clip:

    (it’s from a satirical show called: Den gode, den onde og den virklige sjove; The good, the mean and the really fun one)

    You decide to laugh: Good for you!
    You don’t laugh: too bad…
    You hate it: You didn’t get it!

    I’d recommend you to read “The xenophobes guide to the Danes”
    I really liked it

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