Important interview with a Danish psychologist.
"… seven out of ten teenagers in the average Danish youth prisons have a Muslim background"
Among Criminal Muslims
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Nicolai Sennels, a Danish psychologist who worked for several years with young criminal Muslims in a Copenhagen prison. He is the author of Among Criminal Muslims. A Psychologist’s Experience from the Copenhagen Municipality. The book will be out in English later this year.
FP: Nicolai Sennels, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today about your experience working with young criminal Muslims in a Copenhagen prison. Let’s begin by talking about how you got into your line of work.
Sennels: Thank Jamie.
Well., many people think that I took the prison job because I wanted to get a closer look at Muslim mentality, failed integration and Islam. But I did not. I was just looking for a job and having worked as a social worker taking care of teenagers for several years part time while studying at Copenhagen University to become a psychologist, it was natural for me to apply for a job involving juvenile offenders. I had no idea that seven out of ten teenagers in the average Danish youth prisons have a Muslim background. Since I was the first psychologist at the institution I was very free to develop my position as psychologist.
The main job was to find out the young peoples’ pedagogical and therapeutic needs and develop therapeutic methods fitted for those needs. And this I did and this is what my book is about. The unusual thing about my work is that I found out that my Muslim clients had certain psychological characteristics that my non-Muslim – mostly Danish – clients did not have. They were all between 15 and 17 years old, most of them showed antisocial behaviour and a big part of both groups came from homes with a certain lack of emotional support. I guess nine out of ten were boys and though the main part came from less well functioning homes I also had many Muslim and Danish clients who’s parents and elder siblings were well educated, had normal jobs and so on.
I worked in the prison for a bit less than three years and had around 150 Muslim clients and 100 Danish clients. I conducted group therapies and individual therapies and with such a large amount of both Muslim and non-Muslim clients I had a relatively large background material for understanding and comparing their psychological development and the underlying conditions influencing this development. Normal “real” research projects of this kind – consisting of long and several qualitative interviews – most often only have 20-30 subjects as background material.
FP: Ok, so some of your conclusions?
Sennels: Well, one significant conclusion was that having been raised in a Muslim environment – with Muslim parents and traditions – includes the risk of developing certain antisocial patterns.
About two thirds of all teenagers accused for criminal actions in Copenhagen have a Muslim background. For years the explanation for this phenomenon has been that Muslims are discriminated against by Danish employers and are thus unable to find a job. The consequence is that Muslims are poor – and this poverty then gets the blame for the high crime rate among young Muslim men.
As a humanist and psychologist I have to expose and oppose this faulty explanation. Explaining psychological development and complicated human mental and behavioural patterns by pointing on the amount of kroner, Euros or dollars rolling in to a person’s bank account every first bank day of the month is a very materialistic and two-dimensional view on the human being. What is first of all deciding our actions is our own free will and motivation – which are first of all influenced by the emotional, cultural and in some cases religious frame that we grew up in.
It is easy to establish a statistical connection between poverty and criminal behaviour – but what comes first? I saw a lot of young teenagers sowing the seeds for their own future unemployment by not going to school, staining their criminal records and developing unattractive social habits such as aggressiveness, insecurity and lack of respect for authorities.
FP: Did you find any real differences between Muslims coming from different parts of the Muslim world? …
*snip* Go to the original article for the rest of the interview.