'Religious apartheid': Leading Danish politician calls for ban on Muslim refugees

Deputy leader of the country's second biggest party, Soren Espersen, is accused of trying to create a 'religious apartheid' and threatening to destroy Denmark's 'free, open and tolerant society'

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The Independent Online

A leading Danish politician has called for a ban on all Muslim refugees entering the country for up to six years. 

The deputy leader of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, Soeren Espersen, said Muslim asylum seekers should be barred from Europe because it needed “a respite after recent terrorist attacks”.

He was accused of attempting to create a system of "religious apartheid" by the main opposition party, while another politician pointed out the existence of Islamist terrorists does not mean all Muslims are "guilty".

In an opinion piece for Danish newspaper, Berlingske, Mr Espersen claimed Westerners needed to “stop being naive” and telling themselves that Islam was a religion of peace. 

He suggested the existing 270,000 Muslims in Denmark already posed a serious risk as they could be harbouring Isis sympathisers.

His party’s immigration spokesman, Martin Henriksen, said it would not pass a law explicitly banning Muslims if they were in government but would aim to reduce the number coming into the country to zero

He said they wanted a “religion neutral” crackdown on immigration, but added: "Islam is a belligerent religion. 

“One should not be blind that many who commit terror find inspiration in Islam. 

“That is why there is a connection between the number of Muslims in a country and the general security risk.” 

The party is Denmark’s second largest and supports the ruling Liberal Party in the Danish parliament but does not have an actual role in government.

The country’s main opposition party, the Social Democrats, condemned the comments, comparing them to the controversial rhetoric of Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Social Democrat MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen, whose father is Muslim, said the position amounted to “religious discrimination or religious apartheid”.

Anders Samuelsen, the president of the Liberal Alliance, a centre-right minority party, told the Politiko website: "It makes no sense and is very un-Danish. Just because there are problems with some Muslims, does not mean they are all guilty."

The director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Jonas Chrstoffersen, called the proposal "discriminatory" and pointed out the UN Convention on Human Rights said every person had the right to "enjoy asylum from persecution".


Soren Espersen believes Europe 'needs a respite' from terror (AFP/Getty Images)

A spokesman for the Radical party, Rasmus Nordqvist, said: "The Danish People's Party's latest proposal undermines not only human rights and conventions, but will destroy Denmark as a free, open and tolerant society." 

It came as a poll for the state broadcaster, TV2, found that a third of respondents believed the country was at war with Islam

Denmark, which has a population of 5.5 million, received 21,000 asylum applications during 2015, up from 14,815 in 2014 and 7,557 in 2013 as refugees escaping Syria and Iraq flee across the Mediterranean

It has suffered comparatively little Islamist extremist violence with its most recent attack in February 2015 when a Danish gunman of Palestinian descent killed a filmmaker and a guard at a synagogue and wounded five police officers before killing himself.

Additional reporting by AP