1 Centre for Contemporary Middle East Studies, Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, SDU2 Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, SDU3 Centre for Contemporary Middle East Studies, Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, SDU
A Deafening Silence There are certain issues concerning ethnic minorities in Denmark, which a number of scholars and public figures wish to pass over in silence. They appear to believe that scientific investigations, and open public debate on controversial topics risk throwing a negative light on ethnic minorities. In this article, I take up two of these topics: the overrepresentation of ethnic minorities in criminal statistics, and so-called honor killing among some ethnic communities. The article builds on a critical reading of the arguments and views of the researchers and public figures in question, which are put forward in scientific articles and in the media. In presenting my critique, I also draw on data from official Danish statistics. Regarding the possible overrepresentation of ethnic minorities in criminality, the silence is about ignoring the scientific debate about the different methods of correcting raw data, and about avoiding the question of whether the overrepresentation in criminality has to do with the cultural backgrounds of ethnic groups. In this context, the major differences among ethnic groups are overlooked. With regard to the phenomenon of honor killing, the scholars and public figures in question claim that explanations which include culture as a main element are essentialising and culturalising; instead, they present psychologizing and particularistic or generalizing and universalistic interpretations. For instance, it has been claimed that there are no fundamental differences between honor killings and “crimes of passion”. Finally, I present some possible explanations why the concept of culture is avoided as an explanatory factor, and argue that, a scholar does not become a cultural fundamentalist or determinist, merely because s/he uses culture as an explanatory element in relation to a social and cultural phenomenon. Rather, culture as an explanatory concept permits a process-orientated approach, which encompasses both continuity and change.