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Muslims in Denmark

Below you will find factual information about Muslims in Denmark. As the Danish Authorities do not register individual religious beliefs the information is in part based on estimates from open sources.

The Danish Authorities do not register individual religious beliefs. Muslims citizens enjoy full civil and political rights in the Danish democracy. Several Muslims are members of parliament and hold seats in municipal councils.

The total number of Muslims in Denmark is based on an estimate. An estimated 4.0% of Danes - some 221,800 are Muslims in 2009. The first Muslims were registered in a Danish census in 1880.

The origin of Denmark’s Muslims varies. Research suggests that 24.7 % are of Turkish origin, 12 % are of Iraqi origin, 10,8% Lebanese, 8,2% of Pakistani origin  and 7.6 % of Somali origin. There are an estimated 2-5,000 Danish converts. This estimate does not take account of internal religious differences within Islam. A survey from 2007 indicated that Muslims in Denmark were 49% Sunni, 13% Shi’i, 19% ‘Islam, other’ (which may include Ahmadis, Alevis and Sufis). The rest said they belonged to other religions or no religion

Freedom of religion
Denmark has a Lutheran state church financed via taxes, but there is freedom of religion in Denmark. Everyone can manifest his or her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

Danish law includes a detailed set of rules that prohibits discrimination.

People are free to wear religious symbols and attire, including Hijab and the like, in the public sphere, including in Parliament, public schools and services. The Supreme Court, in a verdict in 2005, upheld the right of retailers and others to insist on uniform codes for employees dealing with the public. In 2009 a law was introduced which forbids judges from wearing clothes that might indicate religious affiliation or political opinion in court. The law does not apply in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Religious communities
There are 22 approved Islamic communities in Denmark. The same regulations apply to all approved religious communities. Members of approved religious communities may obtain the right to deduct their financial contributions to a religious community from their taxable income.

All foreign religious workers (missionaries, imams, etc.) are requested to pass a Danish language test within six months of entering the country.

An estimated 20%-25% of Muslims in Denmark (roughly 44,400-55,400 persons) are affiliated with a mosque association. According to a study conducted in 2006, there are around 115 mosques in Denmark.

Halal food
Halal slaughter is permitted in Denmark. Halal food is widely available and Denmark is a major exporter of Halal meat to the Arab world.

Burial and cemeteries
Sections within fifteen existing municipal cemeteries (all Christian consecrated) have been reserved for Muslim use since 1975. Religious groups also have the right to acquire land for the purpose of establishing a burial site. In 2006 a Muslim cemetery owned by the Danish Islamic Burial Fund was established near Copenhagen. An estimated 200 Muslims die each year in Denmark. About half of them are buried in their country of origin. In 2008, the municipalities of Herning and Roskilde both agreed to the establishment of Muslim cemeteries.
Marriage and family law
Imams of approved religious communities may be authorized to conclude marriages with the same legal effect as marriages concluded by the civil authorities.

Danish courts can only refer indirectly to Islamic family law through the rules of International Private Law. There is only limited scope for the courts to take variations in cultural customs into account in individual cases.

Primary education is compulsory for all children and education including higher education is free for all in Denmark in the public education system. The majority of Muslim children in Denmark get their primary education in the public school system. Furthermore the public system allows for groups of parents to establish ‘independent schools’ which are entitled to state subsidies to cover most of their budget (up to 80%). The first Muslim independent school was established in 1978. In 2006-2007, there were 22 independent Muslim primary schools with a total of approximately 3,600 pupils, all with Muslim backgrounds. Many of the independent schools offer Arabic and Islamic studies. A study carried out by the Ministry of Education in 2006 found that a high percentage (41%) of the pupils in Muslim independent schools progressed into upper secondary school, against a national average of 26%.

Religious education in public primary and secondary schools in Denmark is focused on ‘Christian studies’, and the subject has traditionally been taught on an Evangelical Lutheran basis, with the addition of elements about other religions including Islam. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from Christian studies on religious grounds, and some Muslim parents do so. Most mosques and Muslim associations provide some form of Islamic instruction outside school hours.

Islamic studies are offered as part of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies programmes and at the departments of religious studies at the universities of Aarhus, Copenhagen and Southern Denmark.