Danish right-wing party says doctors with ‘Muslim beard’ don't belong in hospitals

Danish right-wing party says doctors with ‘Muslim beard’ don't belong in hospitals
Doctors sporting full beards should not be allowed to practice in Danish hospitals, the right-wing Danish People's Party has said, arguing voluminous facial hair is a clear manifestation of Islamic faith. The comments caused a huge social media backlash.

The idea was recently floated by Henrik Thorup, a top Danish People’s Party (DF) candidate in the upcoming Danish municipal elections. Unveiling the controversial proposal, Thorup said that enforcing the ban should “put an end to this kneeling before Muslim traditions,”speaking to Berlingske last week.

"When you have a beard this size, you are likely to have a certain religion I don't really care about. It’s the same with the headscarf," Thorup said.

Brushing off criticism that by imposing restrictions on how people should look Denmark would infringe on personal freedom, Thorup argued that growing a large beard is not merely a fashion statement but a religious one and a hospital is not the right place to express it.

“They only do that to mark, 'I'm Muslim,” Thorup argued, adding that, in principle, he would like to see the same rules apply to all public employees. Speaking about what prompted him to come up with this particular bizarre idea, Thorup recounted his “shocking” experience at the emergency room at a local hospital, where he was treated by a doctor with a poorly groomed lengthy beard.

“I do not know if he is Iranian, Iraqi, Islamic or Muslim, but at least he has a huge black beard… You do not see Danish doctors with huge beards, you do not. I do not mind the man, but I still do not think that a beard of that size belongs to a hospital,” Thorup said, arguing that voluminous facial hair on doctors carries risks to patients’ safety.

“I do not understand when a hospital hires a man and allows him to walk around with such a giant beard when he is going to treat patients who come in with everything,” he said.

According to Thorup, his proposal is not about discrimination of fashion policing, and is a part of showing respect for Denmark’s culture and healthcare standards.

“It's quite logical that you have to follow the standards that are in the country you are in,” he said.

Thorup has received backing from the party’s parliamentary leader, Peter Skaarup, who said that the Danish People’s Party is not opposed to beards in general, only to “a religious beard.” He argued that it is always clear when a beard is worn by a fashion victim and when it is an outright symbol of one’s religious beliefs.

Twitter, meanwhile, exploded with pictures of Santa Claus, Hippocrates, Plato and other famous bearded personalities who have no relation to the Muslim faith.

Among those outed as a beardie was Danish People’s Party member Knud N. Mathiesen.

While perhaps a bit on the extreme side, the proposed ban on beards as a religion statement could be seen as a follow-up to laws banning Muslim face veils, already in place in a few European countries, some have said. The Danish People's Party itself has proposed to restrict the burqa and niqab, and was supported in this by the Liberal Party, the largest party in the ruling coalition government, as well as the main opposition Social Democrats.

“There will come a masking ban in Denmark. That’s how it is,” Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Facebook at the time. While the parties have not yet agreed on the details of the ban, Denmark seems to be set to soon follow in the footsteps of nations such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the German state of Bavaria.