Sunday, April 06, 2014

Börgen Episode 23 "The Right Shade of Brown" and the Issue of "Integration"

I watch Börgen on Link TV. In season 3, the series's protagonist Birgitte Nyborg decides to leave her party, The Moderates, because it agreed to support a law which would allow the government to deport immigrants for minor offenses. In episode 23, "The Right Shade of Brown," the founders of her new party, The New Democrats, are discussing who should represent The New Democrats in a TV forum on immigration. They decide they want an actual immigrant to represent them. The first condition they place is that the immigrant must be a Muslim, not an Inuit from Greenland, since Muslims are the problem in immigration/integration. Then they decide it can't be an Indonesian or an Ugandan, because they don't look "Muslim."


So they begin interviewing Arab/Iranian/Pakistani-Indian Muslims. The first is a former gang member who now works to help youth integrate into Danish society. They ask him if he is a practicing Muslim. They ask him about an Arabic script tattoo on his neck. Eventually they decide that the tattoo and his criminal record disqualify him.

The next person they discuss is an Iranian Ph.D. candidate, but they dismiss her without even talking to her because she wears a hijab.

They choose a Pakistani female economist, but, hours before the TV appearance, they ask her about her opinions on immigration/integration and her views are similar to those of the government's to which The New Democrats are ostensibly opposed.

In the end, they finally choose one of the party's members of parliament, a white woman. She performs well in the forum, and they all congratulate themselves on the victory The New Democrats achieved. And remember, this paternalism is coming from the people who are nominally advocating for immigrants.

I don't think this series is ironic or self-critical. I could be wrong because I'm relying on subtitles. But on the assumption that the producers expect the series's audience to believe Nyborg is an honest, laudable politician, this episode shows the extremely limited space Muslims in Denmark have in which to operate. It also makes the United States, whatever its limitations, seem like a wonderfully suitable place for Muslims. I believe this to be the case, primarily because of how black Americans' struggles have transformed the United States.

I am also not sure why what we in the United States call the "immigration" debate was framed in the episode as "integration." Is there a substantial difference, or is it an issue of translation from Danish into English?

I invite people who are familiar with Denmark and Börgen to comment here and enlighten the readers of this blog!

Maane Khatchatourian wrote a recap of this episode October 18, 2013.

The British East Asian Artists Facebook page also noted this paternalism.

Updated 2014-Apr-15: Pork is the latest front in Europe's culture wars by  (Twitter). Note that this article references Arun Kundnani's book The Muslims are Coming!, which I reviewed.

Updated 2014-Apr-16: I also wrote about an episode in Season 2 where Nyborg's Moderates decided to escalate Denmark's military intervention in Afghanistan.

Updated 2014-May-25: If you think Danes should freak out about immigrants/Muslims, read Europe's Homegrown Terrorists by Gary Younge.