While we in the Western world stand ready to fight radical Islam from the comfort of our armchairs,feeling repulsed by salafists and calling them cowardly dogs, we might be overlooking smaller matters that could have bigger consequences closer to home.
The famously well-functioning Danish social system has allotted money to special institutions to prevent young Danish Muslims from becoming "radicalized". It is an agenda big enough to be easily supported by most political parties–however it's also one that's not too popular with the very segment of the population that it is supposed to help. Teenagers, regardless of their religion, are notoriously known for getting into trouble for a variety of reasons, very few of which are related to a higher purpose. According to Subhi Hassan, former leader of the successful youth club U-Turn, Danish Muslim teenagers who fall on the wrong side of the law fail to get the help they need unless they accept the "radicalization" label from the Danish social authorities. Subhi believes, that young Muslims are not only failing to receive this help, but that Muslims in general are not being spoken for. Therefore he is on a mission to convince Muslims not to vote in the upcoming election.
We met Subhi Hassan at his childhood home in Gadehavegård, the notorious ghetto in Høje Taastrup, to hear his story. How he turned from prisoner to role model, back to prisoner, and finally to his present state as a self-proclaimed activist for peace between Danish Muslims and non-Muslims. He feels the only way to do this is to point out serious flaws in Danish politics and society. For the past year and a half he's been making controversial videos and Facebook posts, gaining a following in the thousands.
VICE: How did all of this start?
Subhi Hassan: Everything started about five years ago. Crime was very high in my community of Høje Taastrup. Young people were angry, gangs were trying to control the community, and I was in prison. As I sat there, I thought, what am I doing here? I'm wasting everything, every opportunity that's been given to me in Denmark. I promised myself that when I got out I would be different, I would help young people appreciate Denmark, strive for an education, work, and do things the Danish way. When I came out, I started U-Turn, a club for the boys in the neighborhood, and it was a huge success.
Can you tell us more about your experience with U-Turn?
I had already worked with the municipality with a similar project years ago, in 2003-2004. It was an integration project, and it was one of Denmark's most successful projects. This time around when they offered me a club I was hesitant. I didn't want us to be isolated. I told them that I would continue to help the young people as a volunteer, but I wanted it to be both non-Muslims and Muslims. It should be about opening doors for everyone, not about religion and segregation. At that point all I was thinking was that I wanted to give something back to this country. I wanted to put these troubled kids on the right track towards education, work, and a harmonious community.
So that's what I did, and I did my best. Throughout the years I've had many obstacles and negative experiences with the system, which have changed me as a person, but I still have the same values. I love Denmark, I'm happy to live here, I want to give something back, but there are many things that are more important to talk about right now.
So, what happened?
I saw things over the past couple of years that I hadn't seen before – within the system, within the Danish community, within politics. It all started during the time when U-Turn was at its peak. The municipality was very happy about its success but of course when I needed help and extra hands, I got nothing. We had over 120 kids at this point doing everything from Thai boxing and football to community outreach... it was a lot to manage. I wanted to focus on the younger kids because I found out many of them weren't in school. I had over 20 boys aged 10-15, some whom hadn't been in school for years. Apparently, they had been kicked out for acting up, and nobody ever checked on them again.
Listen, this is one of the worst things I have ever experienced in my life. I've been to prison, I've lost everything, but this is the worst thing. I went down to the municipality and told them that these kids needed to be in school, that it was illegal, but they didn't care. They just kept tossing me around from one department to another.
" I've never seen a kid come back from 'forced removal' and be normal [...]"
Was that when you started making your videos?
Not quite, but it was then that I started to question everything. I started to take more notice. Kids are getting kicked out of school and never followed up on, and young people who come out of juvenile prison are supposed to get rehabilitation help which they never get. I've never seen a kid come back from "forced removal" and be normal, "mentors" are a joke, and everything is just being blamed on Islam. Is it Islam's fault that these kids aren't getting the help they're promised by law? Is it Islam's fault that they are becoming disappointed with Danish society? It's not.
I didn't start making the videos until after I was released from prison the second time. I had been trying to do too much on my own, and I was being threatened by the local gangs because I was taking away their members. One night I was attacked, and my brother and I responded in self defence. We came out in better shape than the other guys, so we ended up in prison. After that, I started making videos.
So what's the goal of your videos?
To point out the ways that Islam is being blamed, and to be an eye opener to Danish society and politicians. If we want a harmonious community, things can't continue the way they are. Stop using "radicalization" as a way to blame Islam and Muslims. Stop just talking about "integration" and give Muhammed the same jobs you would give Rasmus.
As "moderate" Muslims, we're in the middle. On the one hand you have the Danish system, on the other hand you have radical Islamists. We just want peace, but when you go to the system and it turns its back on you repeatedly, and then you have the radicals whispering in your ear telling you how Danes don't care about you because you're Muslim, well, I understand how they get swayed. If I wasn't a stronger person maybe I would have been swayed after all of the things I've seen.
"When Danes threaten mosques and Muslims, it's suddenly not 'terrorism' anymore but 'vandalism.'"
You've called for Muslims to boycott the vote. Do you still feel this way?
Yes, absolutely. I made those videos because I believed that politicians don't have our best interests at heart, and I still believe that. Ever since I was invited to Christiansborg to speak with them personally, I've thought even less of them. They are simply ignorant. There are so many things they talk about that they have absolutely no clue about. Many new politicians simply take on the campaigns of older ones who have been in politics for a long time, and use their words without having any idea of the meaning behind them: "integration," "anti radicalization" etc.
They don't know what's going on in the community and they don't know what's going on inside the homes of Muslim families, so they just use hollow words. They say one thing, and they do another. But if they did the right thing in the right way, they could fix this whole problem in two months.
What do you mean they say one thing and do another?
They say that we all need to respect each other and respect all religions while still respecting Danish values. Yet it's very clear that this only works when it doesn't have anything to do with Islam. Young Muslims can see that when it comes to Jews, Catholics, or whatever else, they get nothing but respect, but when it comes to Islam... well, non-Muslims aren't congregating in honor of Islam like they do for the Jewish community. They say they want free speech - yet when Muslims write something "inappropriate" it's terrorism. When Danes threaten mosques and Muslims, it's suddenly not "terrorism" anymore but "vandalism."
If everything I'm saying is true, isn't that enough to answer why there's an increase in radicalization? They're getting kicked out of school at 11 years old and never going back. The kids come and ask for help to get back in school, and they are turned away by the system. Isn't that an answer as to why there's so many criminal Muslims?
What do you think should be done instead?
There's only a couple of prominent media outlets in Denmark. If people are constantly hearing about anti-radicalization, Muslims, radical Islam and integration issues, it's not helping. I've talked to politicians myself and they just give me the same statements again and again. They tell us not to give up too early, they tell us to still fight for the Danish way, but they don't address specifically the issues I've brought up. If they just made a campaign that was more about love and respect than those stupid "Stop Nazi Islamisme" campaigns, they could fix everything in a few months. Look around: there are no positive messages about Muslims.
How would you feel if Muslims didn't vote and DF won?
I say good! I hope they win. At least they say what they mean and mean what they say. If they win, I'm sure everything will go to shit between Muslims and non-Muslims very quickly, and maybe that's exactly the wake up call we need. If Dansk Folkeparti wins there will be more racism, more hate, and far more radicalized Muslims. Maybe only when that happens will politicians finally wake up and realize that something has to be done.
All right, thanks Subhi.
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